24-year-old Oboist

by Laura
(Evanston, IL)

Hello Joshua!

I have been playing oboe since I was 10. I majored in it during college, and though I ultimately decided to make teaching music my full time gig, I still do a good deal of playing.

During college I would sometimes notice that right thumb (supports the whole instrument), along with the thumb side of the hand up into the forearm, felt strained. My oboe would feel heavy. This was not so much of an issue up until my last few years of college.

Since I graduated, my playing has become less consistent. I don't practice everyday (and when I do, it's only for 30 minutes or so), but I have a weekly 2.5-hr rehearsal. I realize now how hard this has been on my wrist, that lack of consistency. Having graduated 2 years ago, my wrist has finally started to hurt badly enough for me to seek out treatment.

Oddly, the weight that rests on my thumb when I play my oboe is making the OPPOSITE side of my wrist hurt. The majority of the pain is on the outside of the pinky side of the wrist, with pain going up into the forearm. I also notice the pain when I grip things with the right hand, turn doorknobs, and button a shirt. Any action that pushes against my right middle and right ring fingers also makes the pinky side of the wrist hurt. Picking up a pitcher full of water, typing, and doing dishes are some other activities that are painful. The pain is sharp, with no tingling. The most pathetic part- I can't even RUB SOAP into my hands without experiencing this pain.

I went to see a holistic doctor, and he gave me some exercises to do with a rubber band (for grip), some anti-inflammatory herbal supplements, some advice on how to hold my oboe and how to strengthen my core, and the advice of icing the area.

I stopped the rubber band exercises because I think they were actually hurting me more. The herbal supplements have done nothing- I started taking Advil this morning and will probably continue for about a week. I have been holding my oboe closer to my body and practicing stand up, as the doctor instructed, which seems to help.

I would be grateful for any advice that you can give me! As you may guess, this pain has been a long time coming, and I should have seen a doctor long before this.



Joshua Answers:

Hi Laura.

So...when your thumb side is pressing in one direction, the opposite side still has to contract/support/stabilize/etc.

But ultimately, everything, over time, has gotten tight. And stayed tight. And then gotten tighter. Repeat.

Connective tissue shrink wraps down. Too tight muscles fatigue far faster. Inflammation kicks in.

Repeat. Pain and lack of function increases.

Time passes.

Repeat. Repeat.

That's how the Tendonitis dynamic works.

See: What Is Tendonitis?

Rest doesn't fix anything.

Rubber band 'strengthening' doesn't work (usually) because asking muscles that don't work optimally to work harder doesn't somehow fix anything.

'Improving' ergonomics is fine, but ergonomics isn't the problem. The problem is that your structures aren't working as well as they should.

So you want to fix the whole ecology of the area (by which I mean, there are multiple factors involved all working together to cause pain and problem.

Icing can be helpful. Ice pack for 20 minutes isn't terrible, but it's a waste of 18 minutes a time. See: How To Reduce Inflammation

Anti-Inflammatory drugs like Advil are fine to get you through the day, but aren't a fix.

Read the above links/pages, and come back with questions etc.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

Subscribe to The Tendonitis Expert Newsletter Today!

For TIPS, TRICKS, and up-to-date Tendonitis information you need!




Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.

I promise to use it only to send you The Tendonitis Expert Newsletter.

Reversing Wrist Tendonitis ebook cover

Reversing DeQuervain’s ebook cover

Carpal Tunnel Treatment That Works Dvd cover

Reversing Guitar Tendonitis ebook cover

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Wrist Tendonitis Q&A.