Common Hand Conditions in Musicians


Repetitive motion can give musicians hand and wrist injuries, which may require physical therapy.
Athletes aren’t the only professionals who have to contend with injuries — any musician knows the aches and pains of their craft. Unlike athletes, however, musicians are often reluctant to treat injuries. Any musician should know how to recognize the chronic hand and wrist injuries that can result from musicianship, and how to deal with them before they get worse.
Making a commitment to music can mean grueling hours in rehearsal, but gritting your teeth through pain can permanently harm the nerves, tendons, and muscles in your hands and wrists. Avoiding treatment for a music-related injury can cause permanent damage, and it can keep you from reaching your full potential.
Common music-related injuries
Whether you’re playing the guitar, harpsichord, or cabasa, musical instruments can place an unusual amount of strain on your hands and wrists. Common music-related hand injuries include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are experiencing tingling, numbness, or a chronic feeling of weakness in your hand, you could be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. A relatively common condition, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by continuous pressure on the median nerve in your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result from repeated motion of your hand or wrist, or from repeatedly contorting your hand or wrist into difficult positions. Any instrument that requires repetitive hand and wrist activity can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Tendonitis. A pervasive, dull ache in your hand could mean you have tendonitis, an inflammation of tendons. Tendonitis is a result of repeated strain on your hand or wrist. Musical causes of tendonitis might include: a guitarist’s tight gripping of a guitar neck, a drummer’s repeated flicking of drumsticks, a saxophone player’s constant hand stretching, and many more.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. If you allow tendonitis to go untreated, you may contract a more serious condition known as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. De Quervain’s tenosynovitis occurs when constant inflammation of the tendons begins to irritate the small, flexible tunnels that insulate your tendons. With De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, these tunnels become swollen and filled with fluid. Symptoms include a sharp pain at the base of your thumb and difficulty moving your thumb and/or wrist. Tenosynovitis can be caused by the same activities that cause tendonitis, but its results can be much more painful.

How to get treatment
Music-related injuries often fly under the radar until it’s too late. If you begin to experience pain in your hands or wrists due to music-making, the first step is to give your hands some time to heal. Take regular breaks for ten to fifteen minutes during rehearsal, and know when to stop if the pain becomes overwhelming.
When you are not rehearsing, make sure to cool the affected area with an ice pack. To prevent further injury, you should make sure to gently stretch your hand and wrist muscles before playing.
Without treatment, any of these conditions — carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and De Quervain’s tenosynovitis — will only get worse. If your symptoms persist, give us a call at Florida Hand Center. With locations in Port Charlotte and Fort Myers, our experienced team of hand specialists can help you get back to doing what you love.