Thursday, August 30, 2007

Violinist pain and numbness

This article was original posted at the About Chronic Muscle & Joint Pain blog, by Julie Donnelly, LMT, on December 5th, 2005.

I read several messages from violinists today, and it made me wish that there was some way I could meet with everyone, but that's impossible, so I posted a message about the nerves that cause the most problem for this dedicated group of musicians. I decided to re-write my posting here so you could also read it. Truthfully, it's the same muscles for the majority of musicians because they are usually sitting while they are playing, so the iliopsoas muscles and quadriceps will cause low back pain, as well as rotate the pelvis and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. This causes pain and numbness in the legs and feet.

Also, the three nerves that go down the arms: the radial, ulnar, and median nerves, will cause pain and numbness in the upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands.

I have been working with people suffering from nerve impingement for 18 years, releasing the muscles that entrap the nerve and cause numbness. The impingement in the radial, ulnar, and median nerves can all begin in the neck, then go across the very top of the shoulder. Then the nerves split. The radial goes down the back of the arm (under the triceps) and the top of the forearm, ending at the wrist. The radial nerve innervates all of the extensor muscles, which are the ones that pick your hand up from a flat surface, and also the muscle that enables you to flip your hand over (a muscle called "Supinator").

The Ulnar nerve initially goes under the biceps, then through the "ulnar tunnel" at the elbow, and ends up in the hand. While this muscle can get trapped in the ulnar tunnel, I've found that releasing the tension in the triceps muscle will ease the impingement within the tunnel.

The median nerve also goes under the biceps, but then it stays on the inside of the forearm, eventually going through the carpal tunnel, ending at the thumb and first two fingers. You can read about each of the muscles that entrap the median nerve by going to The Carpal Tunnel Treatment Center's site and then to the section called "Anatomy Lessons."

As for the foot numbness that was mentioned in the postings, that can start all the way at the first lumbar vertebra in your low back. There is a muscle, called "iliopsoas" that will trap the femoral nerve within the pelvis and cause the thigh to go numb. As this muscle goes into an isometric contraction from your sitting for hours, it will also rotate your pelvis, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve There are two nerves that form the sciatic nerve, and these will ultimately cause numbness in the foot.

The sciatic nerve is actually the tibial and peroneal nerves. The tibial nerve goes down the back of the lower leg (innervating the inside of your lower leg), around the inside of your ankle, and then along the bottom of your foot. The peroneal nerve goes down the front of your lower leg (innervating the outside of your lower leg), and ends at that top of your foot. When either of these muscles are trapped by a tight muscle, you will feel numbness at the end point.

People look at the area of pain and numbness for the answer, but they are ignoring the SOURCE of the problem. The source is the muscle that is impinging on the nerve. Once the muscle is released, the nerve is no longer having pressure on it, and the numbness is eliminated.

I've worked with many musicians, including professional violinists, pianists, and guitarists, and the nature of your passion will impact every muscle that can impinge on each of these muscles. I strongly suggest you find a good deep muscle massage therapist. Unfortunately, nice, relaxing, Swedish massage feels good, but it won't work for the muscles that are causing your problems, you need someone who is proficient at trigger point therapy. You can also learn how to self-treat each of the muscles that cause the problems that are common to musicians. For information on how to treat your own muscles go to:

If I can be of any assistance to you in helping you find the treatment that can help you, please feel free to email me directly at: (watch for verification email).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcome to the Pain-Free Musician Blog!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to the Pain-Free Musician Blog!! Pain-Free Musician's goal to help musicians, audio engineers, and musical instrument and equipment manufacturers prevent and treat the Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI's), such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, that so plague our industry.

Keep on the look out here for blog posts about specific muscle groups and how they effect the musician's body, posts with on the go information that you can use at a gig and true life testimonials from musicians just like yourself.

In the meantime, if you are experiencing a RSI such at Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, Trigger Finger, and others, I highly recommend you order the Julstro™ Self -Treatment Kit! This is what saved my arms from the pain of Carpal Tunnel and Cubital Tunnel Syndromes.

Musically yours,
Jim O'Gara, M.M.