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  #1  
Old 09-10-2007, 05:23 PM
pbm2112 pbm2112 is offline
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Default Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Hi everyone, it seems like loads of drummers I talk to have hand problems and are struggling though it.

Iím a 38 year old graphic designer and after many years of very heavy computer use my hands ground to a very painful halt 2 years ago Ė I couldnít even click a mouse for the pain. I had months off work, a lot of accupuncture, physiotherapy, osteopathy, shiatsu massage, etc, etc, etc and though Iím just about holding down my job, itís a struggle by the end of the day. But Iím still drumming as much as I can. As RSI often has no obvious physical problem that can be treated Ė more it is managed through (heavy-duty) pain killers and rest - my doctor said it was ok to drum if I could.

Iím no expert in drumming or medicine or anything really, but I wanted to write this post about things that have been working for me in case they might work for you. And I would love to hear about how others are dealing with the same problem.

1) I changed from using a mouse on my computer to using a pen and tablet. This was very hard to get to grips with at first, but has made the single largest difference to my hands.

2) I changed sticks from a hickory 5A to a maple SD9. I found it requires less finger tension to hold thick things than thin things (like writing with a thicker pen), so moving to a thicker stick really helped keep a relaxed grip. As the maple is a lighter wood than oak or hickory, it means that the increased width doesnít increase the weight. They break quite easily on my 22Ē K Custom Rideís bell, but itís worth it Ė it has made a huge difference. (I often use a thinner ride if I am rehearsing for an extended period of time as it is easier on the hands)

3) Iíve change my grip from an index finger/thumb fulcrum to a second finger/thumb fulcrum. Keeping the balance here requires less effort for me, and brings in the back of the hand more. In fact, when playing loud I keep the stick loosely gripped by folding little finger over the stick (and the ring finger to a lesser extent) and keeping the front of the hand very open and relaxed. Itís easy to control the stick as the appeture made by the little finger is quite small, and you can hit hard with minimal strain on the tendons in the wrist.

4) The moeller concept of getting two strokes for one has been a huge help. It has given me a more fluid and relaxed playing style and more economy of movement.

5) I now stretch A LOT throughout the day, which I had never done before. There's a lot of info on the net about stretching, and I found this site has good info on musicianís problems: http://www.musicianshealth.com/stretches

6) I practice little, but often. I tend to have a few different exercises on the go (usually a hand technique study, a foot technique study, and a couple of rhythm/independence studies) and I rotate them. Often I will keep a rhythm I am working on written in my pocket and will practice it in tiny bursts throughout the day just tapping my feet and hands. Itís amazing how much you can achieve this way. Itís not as good as sitting at the kit and really getting to grips with something for a good few hours, but as I canít do that, this is the next best thing.

7) I wrote RELAX & BREATH on my snare drum skin. It reminds me to check my body for areas of tension that can build up without really thinking about it (especially I find in the shoulders and elbows and grip). Conscious breathing really helps when approaching a difficult part of a song or fill.

There isnít a remedy for RSI that Iíve heard of, and improvement is painfully slow and very frustrating. But these changes have meant that I can continue to play the best instrument on the planet and type the odd long email!
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

It's cool to hear that you're perservering with drumming. Every drummer I know has concerns about what would happen with an injury or something affecting their hands, and it's awesome that you've found a way to make it work.
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  #3  
Old 05-14-2010, 09:59 PM
mikejay mikejay is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Hey - thanks so much for posting this! I've struggled with a debilitating drumming handicap for a while now. It doesn't affect anything else I do except drumming (though I do feel its presence when I use a computer, smartphone, or other electronic device for extended periods).

What happens is that my backbeat hand (in my case, my right hand, as I play left-handed) sometimes goes "palsy". When that flares up, I can barely hold onto the stick and have very little control. It's all I can do just to keep the stick from flying around - I can't play properly at all. Instead, it's a struggle and to be honest, quite miserable to play.

That said, I've tried all kinds of treatments, including acupuncture, rest, exercise, change in my posture, and change in technique. What's worked best for me has been:

1) strength training - I incorporate muscle and strength-building exercises for my wrists and forearms into my weight routine.

2) rest - I try not to drum more than once or twice a week (works best if I only play once a week) and get proper sleep and rest between workouts.

3) keeping my arm straight - I did some research and determined that my problem is due, at least in part, to ulnar nerve irritation (funny bone nerve). Sleeping and relaxing with my right arm extended seem to lesson pressure on my ulnar nerve. It's now second-nature to me, and it's made a positive difference.

4) changes in stick grip - I've experimented and found that holding the stick with my thumb on top (as though I'm playing vibes) keeps pressure off the nerve. Basically, any grip that keeps pressure off the "funny-bone" nerve is more sustainable for me.

5) supplements - I take b-complex, tart cherry, glucosamine/chondroitin, and various other supplements that are supposed to reduce inflammation. I also try to eat foods that are believed to help in that area, including pineapple.

6) acupuncture - I can't be sure, but I think it has helped. And I'm a pretty big skeptic. For example, I didn't find chiropractic, massage, or rolfing helpful at all.

Despite all that, this issue is still a problem and keeps me from joining a band, sitting in on jam sessions, or practicing much at all. If I start playing a lot, or have other stress going on (including heavy computer work), the problem can act up.

Your posting gave me yet another alternative. I tried the grip you suggested (using my ring finger instead of my index finger against the stick and holding more loosely) and that's helped; it's similar to something I've tried before but different enough to warrant my gratitude to you for posting your solutions. In the meantime, I welcome any and all other feedback and potential solutions. I want very much to play actively again.

Thanks!

Mike
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Old 05-14-2010, 10:11 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I am 20 years older than you and have found two things that help with sore hands. First I run hot water on my hands before playing if they feel stiff. I do it for about 5 minutes. Second and this helps alot is to detune your snare head. If you can get by with a lower sound then soften up the head by detuning. A tight head kills my hands. I have found the Remo Fiberskyn head is soft but can ve tuned higher than some without feeling like you are drumming on concrete. I also gave up on pad work. Hope this helps. I learned years agon that when learning a racquet sport like tennis or racquetball to have the strings looser until you are ready for the majors and you will save a lot of elbows and forearms. I applied this to drumming and hands and it seemed to work.
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  #5  
Old 05-14-2010, 11:08 PM
mikejay mikejay is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

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Originally Posted by GRUNTERSDAD View Post
I am 20 years older than you and have found two things that help with sore hands. First I run hot water on my hands before playing if they feel stiff. I do it for about 5 minutes.
That's something else I forgot to mention - I do find that heat helps, especially wet heat such as water as hot as you can stand. Either soak the affected area in it directly, or apply a soaked washcloth. I have a tendonitis issue in my left elbow that doesn't affect my drumming but can sometimes give me a sharp pain (I attribute that to a lot of computer mouse usage)..
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Old 05-19-2010, 09:41 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I gave up at Christmas because I hadn't enjoyed playing for 6 months to a year, both my hands/wrists are agony all day & keep me up at night a lot of the time. I tried Drum lessons, painkillers, Thai massage, our British National Health Service, stopping playing, manic depression & doing a pretty good Keith Moon impression (ie Drinking & taking Drugs so badly that I ended up in Hospital at one point). Nothing has helped & my hands seem to be getting worse despite not picking up the sticks for nearly 5 months (I do use a PC all day at work though).

The only reason I came on the forum was to get the ball rolling with regards selling my pride & joy when I noticed this thread, maybe there's hope for me yet, anyone else with any suggestions would be most welcome...

I miss the Drums.
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  #7  
Old 05-20-2010, 05:05 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I don't have RSI, but I'm recovering from a serious finger injury. I had several surgeries, and a lot of therapy. I've invested a lot of time in learning to play tension free. I had to re-invent my self, which has taken a lot of time, but it's been worth it. I'm back in a band, I practice about two hours a day, and I'm enjoying all the time I get to play.
I couldn't do this without the tension free approach to holding the sticks. I know my situation is a little different from the posts on this thread, but the tension free approach will really help, if you have the time to invest in learning this technique.
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  #8  
Old 05-20-2010, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Quote:
Originally Posted by pbm2112 View Post
5) I now stretch A LOT throughout the day, which I had never done before. There's a lot of info on the net about stretching, and I found this site has good info on musicianís problems: http://www.musicianshealth.com/stretches

6) I practice little, but often. I tend to have a few different exercises on the go (usually a hand technique study, a foot technique study, and a couple of rhythm/independence studies) and I rotate them. Often I will keep a rhythm I am working on written in my pocket and will practice it in tiny bursts throughout the day just tapping my feet and hands. Itís amazing how much you can achieve this way. Itís not as good as sitting at the kit and really getting to grips with something for a good few hours, but as I canít do that, this is the next best thing.

7) I wrote RELAX & BREATH on my snare drum skin. It reminds me to check my body for areas of tension that can build up without really thinking about it (especially I find in the shoulders and elbows and grip). Conscious breathing really helps when approaching a difficult part of a song or fill.

There isnít a remedy for RSI that Iíve heard of, and improvement is painfully slow and very frustrating. But these changes have meant that I can continue to play the best instrument on the planet and type the odd long email!
Thanks for that, pbm. I need to do those things too because my hands are ruined through PC use. I stretch a lot too but should do more. Great idea re: "relax" and "breath".

I find that using a graphics pen as a mouse replacement is useful for varying my hand movements, along with keyboard shortcuts. When my hand gets sore I shift back to mouse and vice versa.
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  #9  
Old 08-07-2011, 12:42 PM
Claude Hoffmann Claude Hoffmann is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Maybe I would be good to take lessons with a good drum teacher who can supervise your sitting position, how you hold the stick, the way you hit, etc. I do believe that technique is the key to avoid injuries.
I've been studying with Dom Famularo (www.domfamularo.com) and I really recommend contacting him, or somebody who studied with him for a long time.
I play drums professionally, I regularly do 5 hours non stop shows (and I assure that it’s not soft jazz stuff) and I have no pain at all back pain, no wrist pain, and no forearm pain. On top I don't warm up and I don't stretch, although I absolutely recommend doing it. But of course the muscles feel tired at the end.
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Old 09-04-2014, 05:05 AM
zeitgeist zeitgeist is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I recently developed a HORRIBLE pain in the area of the ligament above the right index finger (more towards hand). I wasn't sure what caused it; whether it was the mouse and keyboard at work, an incorrect golf club grip (I was playing in a summer golf league and golfing more than usual), or drums - or, some combination.

I decided to rule things out one by one. I struggled to finish the golf league, and stopped playing golf. I bought an ergonomic mouse (Adesso), and laid off the keyboard and mouse quite a bit at work. I started wearing a wrap/brace that has a built-in ice/heat pack, and taped the index/third finger together, and things started to improve a little bit.

THEN - I went down and did a drum session for about 2 hours. That night, the pain came back with a force.

So I searched, and found this thread. I did, actually, switch drumsticks. Originally I had these really light (but cheap) Whitehall sticks that high school kids use in the marching bands. When those broke, I switched to some Vic Firth 5AB sticks (shorter than normal). I needed a new set, and Guitar Center did not have the shorter ones, so I bought a pair of Extreme 5A sticks. They're heavier than the Whitehalls by far, and a little longer than my old 5AB sticks (I think they were 5ABs).

This is a serious enough issue I need to solve it asap. I really don't want to give up drums, though. I just started back 2-3 years ago after a 20 year layoff and I'm enjoying it. I'm probably also on a timeline as far as being able to tackle tough stuff before I get a bit older and the skills like hand speed start to slip. So I know I need to take some immediate time off, but I need some advice on a few things.

I am thinking I need a lightweight stick, and perhaps a shorter stick because the longer the stick, the more reflexive torque force hits that ligament when the stick is on its way up.

I also probably need some help in terms of grip...to help get that pressure off that right index finger knuckle area. I tend to use the French Tympani grip, with the thumb up, on top of the stick. Most of the pressure I put on the stick is indeed the thumb and index finger. The other fingers don't do a thing. I just recently started trying to add more pressure with the 4th and pinky fingers to stabilize the stick, to get a little more control based on a technique video I watched sometime back.

If anyone can help, it might save my ability to keep playing drums (as well as other things, since this injury affects a lot more than just drums).

Last edited by zeitgeist; 09-04-2014 at 05:07 AM. Reason: minor edit
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  #11  
Old 09-04-2014, 01:58 PM
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eclipseownzu eclipseownzu is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I dont suffer from RSI necessarily, but 20+ years of playing with rock, punk and metal bands have taken a toll on my body. I have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder, a bursa sack in my right elbow that inflames whenever I play and arthritis in both wrists. I have had doctors tell me that surgery is the only option for the shoulder and elbow issues, but that is not an option right now. So I really just suffer through it and chalk it up to love of playing.

I am sure poor technique is primarily responsible for my issues. I dont know the moeller technique from the heimlich maneuver, so I assume one day I may need to actually sit down and figure out how to play right. Untill then I will just keep bashing away and hope my arms dont fall off before I decide hang up the sticks.
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Old 09-04-2014, 02:49 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

This sort of thing is every drummer's nightmare. I'm glad you're persevering and hope you are able to continue doing so.
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Old 09-04-2014, 03:41 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I thought this was a new thread until I saw "Pollyanna" and her old avatar and realized it's from a few years ago.

Anyway, I'll use it as an excuse to jump on my soapbox about these things.

If you're breaking sticks playing the BELL of your cymbal, it makes me wonder about your grip and if you're playing loose enough.

Drummers are hitting harder than ever. There have always been players who really hit hard, but I don't think it's ever been as prevalent as it is today. As Jim Riley told me, there really aren't any players in Nashville who don't hit hard. It's not like there is a cult of players who have a light touch on backbeats; the top players all slam 2 and 4.

If you think about it, long-term health playing drums really hard is a relatively new concept; there were no 60-year-old rockers in the 1980s or 1990s. But there are now, and many of them had to evolve their technique when they got older because of the cumulative wear-and-tear of doing things a certain way for 30 or 40 years.

So learning to play without injury is, to my mind, the single most important thing a player can learn and a teacher can teach. Yes, learn the rudiments and independence and get your double-bass chops up, by all means. But if you can't do those things without hurting yourself, you shouldn't be doing them at all. I think the good teachers understand this. But I think this is more important than ever, and any educator who spends more time flaunting chops than emphasizing taking care of your hands is doing their audience or student base a huge disservice.
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Old 09-22-2014, 08:16 PM
zeitgeist zeitgeist is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Lately, I have been taping the index and middle finger of right hand every morning, in an attempt to restrict the tendon/ligament from flexing. But, it's not really healing, so a doctor visit looks to be in order.

I've cut out activities, and got an Adesso ergonomic handshake-grip mouse (which is great). I'm trying to play a couple of 30 minute sessions twice a week to keep my new heel-toe technique from regressing. Maybe I can adapt the way I grip and hold the sticks or something.

I like to play fast stuff (right now I am trying to play Swingtown from Steve Miller Band). We'll see if I can find a way to keep going.
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Old 04-19-2015, 12:55 AM
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HeavyDrummer HeavyDrummer is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Hey guys!
I dealt with a serious tendonitis injury a few years back. I almost thought I'd never get to play again. But, luckily, through a lot of research and lifestyle changes, I over came it. Massage therapy, fixing my technique, and a proper diet all contributed to recovery. Trigger Point therapy is a life saver! Check it out!
There is a new website that is starting to address a lot of similar stuff that I learned on my journey to recovery. Check it out!

www.DrumerHealth.com

Happy Playing!
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  #16  
Old 04-19-2015, 03:21 PM
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River19 River19 is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I'm in the same boat as the OP as well......39 years old, RSI from computer use at work 12-14hrs per day. I would say RSI stopped my drumming entirely from 2004-2014......picked them back up recently but I monitor my playing time and realize that getting back into heavy gigging etc. is not a realistic thing with my career.

It is tough......I find my posture at work, home, drums and sleeping positions really can impact my arms.

Our generation is phucked when it comes to what technology dependence has done to our bodies......it is slow and debilitating if not addressed and habits changed.

Stay strong

Edit: also, years ago I switched to Zildjian anti-vibe sticks.......makes a huge difference.
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Last edited by River19; 04-19-2015 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 04-20-2015, 10:20 AM
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John Lamb John Lamb is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Quote:
Originally Posted by zeitgeist View Post
If anyone can help, it might save my ability to keep playing drums (as well as other things, since this injury affects a lot more than just drums).
It could be any number of things. If you post a video, that would be easier.

That being said, from your description, I'd hazard a guess that your wrists are habitually bent (ulnar deviation) and that playing in the constantly bent position is squeezing your nerves.

http://www.vistalab.com/images/WristRadial.jpg

It could be a bunch of stuff, though. Take some time off and rest it and see if that helps. Swim. In the meantime, you will need to reform your technique. Playing a standard-setup drumset in French Grip only is usually a very bad idea, especially if you want any sort of power.
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Old 04-20-2015, 10:29 AM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Quote:
Originally Posted by River19 View Post
I'm in the same boat as the OP as well......39 years old, RSI from computer use at work 12-14hrs per day. I would say RSI stopped my drumming entirely from 2004-2014......picked them back up recently but I monitor my playing time and realize that getting back into heavy gigging etc. is not a realistic thing with my career.

It is tough......I find my posture at work, home, drums and sleeping positions really can impact my arms.

Our generation is phucked when it comes to what technology dependence has done to our bodies......it is slow and debilitating if not addressed and habits changed.

Stay strong

Edit: also, years ago I switched to Zildjian anti-vibe sticks.......makes a huge difference.
If the anti-vibe sticks are making a difference, then you are holding too tightly. The drumstick should, in essence, be thrown at the drum and recaught, meaning the drumstick isn't in the hand when it contacts the head. Mostly, anyway. Vibration can damage the arms, though, and cause carpal-tunnel-like issues.


You're right about the posture, too! Slouching rounds the shoulders and presses on the Thoracic Outlet, a big bundle of nerves and blood vessels that passes between the collarbone and the ribs.
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Old 04-20-2015, 11:16 AM
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River19 River19 is offline
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Lamb View Post
If the anti-vibe sticks are making a difference, then you are holding too tightly. The drumstick should, in essence, be thrown at the drum and recaught, meaning the drumstick isn't in the hand when it contacts the head. Mostly, anyway. Vibration can damage the arms, though, and cause carpal-tunnel-like issues.


You're right about the posture, too! Slouching rounds the shoulders and presses on the Thoracic Outlet, a big bundle of nerves and blood vessels that passes between the collarbone and the ribs.
Fair point, I've loosened my grip a lot over the past 20 years, it is more a preventative thing with the sticks, my primary issue is the 12-14hr days clicking a mouse or keyboard thousands of times per day.......which is why I also keep my posts short lol

I've found that the improved grip does help a lot and I have more focus on technique now than I did in my 20s when I was more of a heavy hitter.

The hard part about RSI for most people is that you have to really plan some rest periods in your day for your arms and hands to avoid "flair ups" which can take days to recover from.
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Old 04-20-2015, 02:32 PM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

Never had drum related injuries but have gotten tendonitis from other injuries. But now at 60 my hands have developed arthritis. My wife hands me a jar to open now and I have to tell her I don't think I can do it-it's like it feels like they have lost strength. I tried the rubber grips on sticks but they break down and leave little rubber bits that get into drum head edges and dampen it. So now I find a 7A light stick helps with the hand pain-I prefer a 5A but it kills my hands after about thirty minutes.
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Old 04-21-2015, 12:05 AM
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Default Re: Drumming with repetitive strain injury (RSI)

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Originally Posted by River19 View Post
Fair point, I've loosened my grip a lot over the past 20 years, it is more a preventative thing with the sticks, my primary issue is the 12-14hr days clicking a mouse or keyboard thousands of times per day.......which is why I also keep my posts short lol

I've found that the improved grip does help a lot and I have more focus on technique now than I did in my 20s when I was more of a heavy hitter.

The hard part about RSI for most people is that you have to really plan some rest periods in your day for your arms and hands to avoid "flair ups" which can take days to recover from.

I'm working on a book about the biomechanics of drumming at the moment. the concept is that when you understand how your body you move better - improving technique and decreasing injury. I'll have a section on injury - do you think I should include a section on handwriting and computer use? I've been thinking it is off topic, but maybe useful? thx
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