Drafting vs. Drumming and getting Wrist Tendonitis

by DraftingDrummer

Hi Joshua,

I’m looking for an explanation with regard to wrist tendonitis. I have correct posture, relaxed wrists, support etc, etc. I have done a ton of reading and research and have had visits to the doctor and I am actually doing fine right now. Let me fill you in on some of the history.

I’m 49 and have been a structural engineer as well as a drummer for about 26 years.

For about four years now I’ve been dealing with tendonitis off and on of varying degrees. I have my own engineering practice (just myself and my wife) in which I have to do all the engineering and drafting. Drafting demands heavy mouse use with constant clicking. I use AutoCAD and draft very quickly. I would develop tendonitis in both my wrists (I have also learned to click using my left hand as well just to get by) so much so that I would need ice packs, massage, vibration etc.

The only way I could keep working was to work for an hour or so and take and hour break, work at night and weekends to spread out the clicking with as much rest, ice, massage in-between. Eventually, It would culminate to where I would need to stop all together for a couple of weeks.

Two summers ago it effected me for about six weeks. Finally, last spring, it started again a little bit at a time. Then during the summer it got to a point where I had both hands in a sling. I decided that it was time to hang up the mouse and start a new career.

The pain occurs in both wrists at the same spot. It is where you would take someone’s pulse. The pain is not sharp and it doesn’t travel or shoot. However, it is very concentrated in that small pinpoint area. When it gets bad it swells or inflames and any form of pain killers don’t seem to work.

I made the decision to stop engineering (design/drafting) last July (6 months or so) and my wrists finally went back to normal in about two months or so and have healed to a point where I don’t have the pain anymore. However, as soon as I try drafting for any length of time it begins to hurt again. So this tells me I’ve made the right decision.

The only activities that seem to cause this to happen is mouse clicking. Typing does effect them as well but its only after a lot of typing and consistently everyday. The pain (if any) is mild and since I don’t type as much it doesn’t reach the tipping point. This email here is about the most typing I’ve done at one time since last summer.

My problem is this. I can play the drums without having the same reaction as with the mouse clicking. Why is this a problem? I have someone who doubts my condition. They feel I’m lying and can’t understand how I can play the drums but not do my drafting job.

I have found that playing the drums does not effect this particular area. Now, as all drummers are aware, you need to play relaxed as well as warm up your wrists and not over do it with playing and stop if you start to feel pain or you will develop tendonitis in your wrist and/or elbow.

And all
drummers at one time or another have had to deal with tendonitis and it is “normal” in the sense that it doesn’t necessarily coincide or cause other conditions.

I’ve studied my hands while playing the drums and the fulcrum is between my thumb and index finger. Also, my index finger (clicking finger) hardly moves at all when I am playing (single stroke, double stroke) if any. It stays stable while the stick pivots in the fulcrum. Most of my movement seems to be with the more major muscle groups (wrists, forearm and there on up). Are there separate tendons that create the movement for clicking and use different nerves??

How can you explain how this happens medically?

Do you have any pictures, diagrams and/or charts that can show how this is possible?

I can’t explain why this is so, I just know it is. Can you please give your expert opinion?

Best regards,



Joshua Answers:

Hi DD.

1. The good news is, the pain goes away after a time when you stop mouse clicking. The bad news is, obviously, it comes back quickly.

The GREAT news is that you can drum all you want.

2. "They feel I’m lying and can’t understand how I can play the drums but not do my drafting job." My advise is to laugh dismissively in their face and walk away (because it's that or get made at their ignorance and lack of respect). I'll just assume it's not your wife. :)

You probably shouldn't take that advice, but it's fun to think about.

There's all sorts of reason why it can be exactly this way, and NO reason why it can't be (medically or otherwise), aside from their lack of skill, knowledge, experience, education, and imagination.

3. "Can you explain how this happens medically?"


A. It is how it is.

B. It's actually easier on the body to drum than to mouse click, in the sense that drumming uses multiple structures/muscles/etc which means over all there's less load/strain on any one in particular, compared to mouse clicking, which is very fine motor movement muscle firing and stabilization.

The body gets extremely efficient at whatever tasks we do. Which basically means that the bare minimum that needs to happen happens. The big downside to that specialization is that a very small set of tissue/structure is doing all the work.

You mouse click with one finger millions of times. Muscles get tight. They stay tight. They get tighter. They stay tighter. Connective tissue too.

The tighter a muscle is, the less circulation it gets in and out and the less force/work it can produce.

Overworked, undernourished, hello Pain Causing Dynamic and constant/chronic Process of Inflammation.

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

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Comments for Drafting vs. Drumming and getting Wrist Tendonitis

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Jan 18, 2013
Joshua Replies to DraftingDrummer - Drafting vs. Drumming and getting Wrist Tendonitis
by: The Tendonitis Expert


C. There's no rule that says if you hurt in point A there will be pain at point B.

For whatever set of reasons, you hurt in that exact spot on each side. I imagine that's a spot where all the tightness, torque, pain enhancing chemical, etc happens to focus.

D. It's a blessing in your situation that it only hurts right there.

Also, it's just one of many possible variations in the tendonitis dynamic. It's a dynamic, meaning multiple factors are at play.

All the same factors are at play as would be if you hurt all over, it's just that your specific arrangement of this and that equals pain in that one spot that has a certain behavior pattern.

That's not super specific or medical, I know, but that's the necessary overview. It gets super complex of course, I like to stay on the simple end of things since that view is just as effective (or more) for reducing symptoms and fixing wrist tendonitis problems.

E. To get more specific I'd point to anatomy charts and which muscles fire which actions. But that doesn't actually tell you anything. It's how all the factors work together that causes pain or not. Anatomy is jut one factor.

Yes, different muscles and muscle groups and contract to cause certain movements.

F. Why can you drum but not mouse? Basically, the explanation provided in B. above. Ultimately, the relaxed drumming doesn't irritate the specific dynamic that gets irritated by that one tiny mousing movement.

It's safe to say that your mousing muscles are WAY too tight, constricted in connective tissue, full of and surrounded by pain enhancing chemical, and watched over by an over-defensive nervous system.

It's not just muscle. It's tendon, all sorts of connective tissue, and even empty space. The spot where you take a pulse is a common location for mousers and guitar players.


So let me know if that answers your questions, creates more questions, is to vague, etc. It's conceptual mostly, but I find it's most valuable to understand the concepts, then the specifics make more sense and fit into a picture that actually helps one see something useful.

Jan 22, 2013
Drummer suffering from wrist pain
by: Anonymous

I am a drummer and i practice a lot. I am afraid of doing permanent damage and i don't know my diagnosis meaning i don't know what to do with the pain.

I have trouble taking "vacations" from practice and playing. I often have a dull pain in my wrist where i don't know how to position it for maximum comfort. I take frequent breaks during practice to stretch, but the discomfort has not subsided.

Along with the that i also find that i wake up to my hand being numb. I open and close it until the feeling returns, but i can't help but think that this is not a good sign.

I am looking to see if the treatment for carpal tunnel and tendonitis are the same, where i can obtain clear cut information on treatment, and how long i should be refraining from something i love.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Sam.

You definitely want to learn How To Reduce Inflammation.

There is some difference between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Wrist Tendonitis.

If you have numbness, I'd definitely go the route of The Carpal Tunnel Treatment That Works .

And read this thread.

And this one: 20 Year Old Drummer With Newly Diagnosed Tendinitis In Wrists On Both Side

And this one: Drummer Tendonitis When Bend Wrist Back Feels Like It's Going To Break

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