Help with hand pain, stiffness

alparrott

Platinum Member
Last night was my first gig back with either of my regular bands after the musical, and in my opinion it went poorly. I had numerous issues, but the biggest one going on right now is that I'm having a lot of stiffness and pain in my hands, and it's really giving them the dumb when it comes time to execute.

A little background here. I have issues with my neck going back to a serious injury while I was in the Army. Since I've gotten out, it's resulted in what's called cervical radiculopathy, where the nerves that run to your arms and hands get pinched where they come out of the spinal column by bulging discs. After several episodes of this, I've lost feeling in my thumbs and first fingers of both hands. Surprisingly, this hasn't caused me as many problems as you might think.

However, now I'm starting to get stiffening of the tendons and finger joints, with occasional pain. It can cause real difficulty in grasping and holding sticks, especially if my hands get sweaty. Occasionally during a fairly fast song, the numbness in my thumbs and fingers intensifies to a somewhat painful level. The newest development is that I've developed trigger finger in the middle and ring fingers of both hands.

I try to stretch and stay hydrated when coming up to play, but it's not enough. I'm wondering what some of my older - ahem, more seasoned - drummer brothers and sisters may be doing to address similar hand issues. Favorite balms? Heating or cooling? Dietary modification or supplement?

It hasn't gotten quite to the point where I'm ready to see a doctor, and my sister, who's a nurse practitioner, has been great about answering my questions. I figure there might be one or two home remedy fixes that might keep me going. The last thing I want to do is get to retirement in a couple of years and sit around not being able to play. Thanks in advance.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm a big fan of chiropractic manipulation, inverting and massage for issues like these. Alternative natural stuff.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I'm a big fan of chiropractic manipulation, inverting and massage for issues like these. Alternative natural stuff.
I agree, and the neck issues are no longer the primary concern. For them I've done a lot of work with spinal specialists and physical therapists, and I'm at a point where as long as I'm careful, it should not get worse. Unfortunately, the nerve damage running down to my hands is likely permanent - if it hasn't come back by now, say the doctors, it never will.

The issues I'm having right now seem more related to impact and vibration - possibly even early onset arthritis? - but I think having insensate hands and fingers might have hastened the issue by causing me to overgrip.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
If possible before starting the gig, try running or soaking your hands in hot, warm water. I am one of the older guys and it helps me at time. I do this as well when I go to the shop to do my woodworking.
 

T_Weaves

Silver Member
Things that have helped me. Alleve (2 before the gig), frozen water botttles to hold while on break, or bag of ice (right knee) and lastly, any type of drum hoops (s-hoops, mapex sonic saver, sonor vintage series,) that flange in instead of out. I had two friends I recommended them to and they said I was crazy. One tried them and was shocked at how much better his wrists, hands and fingers felt. I don't mind being called crazy. Just trying to help.

Larry is on point with the chiro manipulation too.
 

fess

Senior Member
A cortisone shot may help. I just saw a hand specialist for problems with my thumb due to arthritis. Seems to help a lot
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Exercise, stretching and getting someone to work on you, hot-cold showers in the morning, anything that promotes full movement, better ciculation, healing etc.. are all good things.

Pinched nerves that have been this way for a long time are probably not gonna just fix themselves and I wouldn't even dare having any sort of medical opinion, but stranger things have happened. Softer, more relaxed and flexible tissue will help, but it's not a cure it's a constant thing, right. A lifestyle.

I don't believe in pills or injections as long term solutions, that's for extreme cases where nothing else can be done, just to get by. I know people who consume 4-5000 mg of ibuprofen every day, which is insane, it's simply their only option to have any sort of life at all.

Now, I'm no spring chicken and yes I can't get away with what I used to. There are several things... They won't solve your specific ailment, but it will help evberyting else which in turn will probably help that indirectly, too. Pinched nerve tht's aspecialists job........ arthritis, basically inflamation is something else. Might just be a result of being tense from your other condition.

Carpal tunnel exercises. You know, newspaper balls,

Diet is such a big part and getting stuff through your food is the best way, so supplements are to augment and add stuff that's hard to get in other ways.

Top of the list is fish oil in big doeses and glucosamine(which is better to get though home made broth than a supplement.

Some people do good on coffee, but it's generally best to avoid both caffeine or sugar as much as possible. Obviously, for most people, wheat and soy as well. Be careful with nightshades. A bell pepper here and there probably won't hurt, but extreme consumption of tomatoes probably will.

Then you have your typical list.

- enzymes. All sorts, but bromelain and serrapeptase a least.
- fermente foods
- minerals(I highly recommend Donna Gates' Minerals from the Earth)
- healthy oils
- extra antioxidants
- berries
- turmeric
- MSM

etc. etc...



Extaernal things are fine, but hot and cold, massages and exercise etc.. are the best. When it comes to ointments, for permanent help, healing from the inside is way better and deals with the actual cause. It's probably cheaper, too. DMSO, if it's legal here you are, would be the exception.


This is really just a few ideas I theow out there. I have no idea what you know or what you generally do or how you live.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Is cervical radiculopathy similar to or another term for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? That might be a place to research for useful healing and movement patterns.

I'm in compatibility with Odd-Arne's philosophy. Diet, exercise (cardio, resistance and Mind-Body) and supplements are foundational to long term healing and health.
The area where the nerves are constricting might need stretch work, while the opposite area may need strengthening and tightening.

A postural analysis with some flexibility tests relating to the thoracic spine area is a good place to start.

There's a good fitness, performance and longevity site called Ergo-Log www.ergo-log.com. The search function is very good.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Try playing with lighter sticks, notice if it helps. Maybe heavier sticks place more of a burden on your hands and arms.
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
I'd go get your neck checked out by your Dr. If the symptoms are in both hands, and there wasn't an injury to both arms around your elbows, that tells me that there may be something going on where those nerves come off the spine in your neck. Im not a Dr, and it's been 20+ years since I took anatomy. I hope that you get this figured out and the symptoms go away.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Try playing with lighter sticks, notice if it helps. Maybe heavier sticks place more of a burden on your hands and arms.
I've traded up my beloved Vic X55As for a few sets of Headhunters maple sticks in the same dimensions with a textured grip and a lighter front end. But I'm taking a week or two off drums to let the hands heal up a bit, so no telling anytime soon.

I'd go get your neck checked out by your Dr. If the symptoms are in both hands, and there wasn't an injury to both arms around your elbows, that tells me that there may be something going on where those nerves come off the spine in your neck. Im not a Dr, and it's been 20+ years since I took anatomy. I hope that you get this figured out and the symptoms go away.
I have two damaged discs in my neck impacting my cervical nerves. Those are the nerves that depart the spinal cord near the collarbone area and travel down the arms to the hands and fingers. If the nerve is pinched where it comes out of the spine, the symptoms are usually most prevalent in the extremities. Because I have two damaged discs, the symptoms are biradial - i.e. in both hands. So says my doctor, a spine specialist (as well as my Army discharge physical and my subsequent VA physical which awarded me a good percentage of disability). Look up "cervical radiculopathy".

I've been treating the pain and stiffening with Tiger Balm. The right hand is worse affected (which makes sense considering it plays about four times the notes), but the balm helps the stressed tendons to relax somewhat. As I mentioned, no drums for about two weeks (my next scheduled showtime is a week from next Thursday). I have friends locally recommending all sorts of salves and supplements. I'm pretty optimistic at this point. Thanks for all the suggestions.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Have you tried playing open handed to help redistribute the work load?
That's an interesting suggestion. It's certainly got merit for longer-term sustainability, although it's not something I can start doing at the next gig. I've dabbled with it here and there in practicing but for years I've thought "You do everything very well with the right hand already ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Now it's broke...

As I get back into playing after my time off, I'll have to think about incorporating more open-hand into at least the simpler songs my band plays.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I'm surprised Larry didn't recommend Boron earlier. Definitely knocked back my arthritis. I was expecting to be able to play for additional 5 years max about 18 months ago, but the only thing that makes my arthritis act up now, is if I try to push my rudiments exercises to ludicrous speeds. There are rudiments I'm supposed to get to say 140, but 130 is max, before things start to swell up. Could be technique still too. Definitely still have arthritis, so no magic fix, but as long as I don't go nuts or get sloppy on my technique, I rarely remember I have it. Way different from 18 months ago where my hands were stiff in the mornings and achy throughout the day.

Turmeric helped with inflammation as well for some time, but I stopped taking those after I discovered BioAstin. BioAstin is extracted from Algae and has had great impact on my inflammation, dry skin, dry and irritated eyes. Has really helped with not making up stiff all over. I dropped Boron for a bit to see what impact there was, but after about 6 weeks, my hands were acting up again. Once I was taking them again, my hands felt normal again.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Man, these threads always have the side-effect of reminding me that my drumming has an eventual expiration date. There may be a day when I can't physically do it anymore, and that's if I'm lucky!

Life is weird. But hey, at least I can make music now, so I will.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Thanks to everyone for all your suggestions. Quick update: I took two weeks mostly off from drumming (about two hours total in all that time), stretched, paid attention to my diet and water intake, and used Tiger Balm to relax my hands. I also bought a few pairs of wrapped sticks to ease me from overgripping.

Last night I played a low-volume two-hour gig with my main band and ended up using Vic Firth AJ6 (light jazz) sticks for the entire evening. I had one of my best performances in recent memory and waking up this morning with zero hand pain was a treat. I think it was a combination of transitory factors that led to my issues at that other gig and thereafter, which I've addressed. Thanks again.
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
Man, these threads always have the side-effect of reminding me that my drumming has an eventual expiration date. There may be a day when I can't physically do it anymore, and that's if I'm lucky!

Life is weird. But hey, at least I can make music now, so I will.
Thats sad to hear, but a mind like yours will always have a place in the drumming community, even if ur not playing. But screw all that and keep playing!!
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Since you had good success with the AJ6, you might want to look at the HD4 as well. It's a slightly longer and thinner stick. I have been using these for 5-6 years now and have not broken one. Not even cracked. The balance of the stick is spectacular, as is the rebound. I have a tendency to speed plow through everything as a metal guy, and these sticks just accept it. My hands are never worn out or fatigued when finished. Just a suggestion.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Since you had good success with the AJ6, you might want to look at the HD4 as well. It's a slightly longer and thinner stick. I have been using these for 5-6 years now and have not broken one. Not even cracked. The balance of the stick is spectacular, as is the rebound. I have a tendency to speed plow through everything as a metal guy, and these sticks just accept it. My hands are never worn out or fatigued when finished. Just a suggestion.
The AJ6s I just happened to have in the bag for quieter playing during rehearsals for a recent musical, and they worked a treat. But my latest sticks are three pairs of Headhunters with their textured grip - two pairs of AAA maple and one of A hickory with extreme texture. They have completely eliminated any overgripping I might have had, because they are so easy to hold onto. I used to play these sticks years and years ago, and come to find out my local music store just started carrying them last year - one of four stores in the state to do so.

 

alparrott

Platinum Member
A bit of an update here. My experiment with grip sticks went rather poorly. I ended up with terrible blisters on top of not solving the hand pain. All this, however, did help me in unexpected ways.

A drummer friend saw me posting on Facebook about my issues and correctly diagnosed the problem as improper grip. Makes absolute sense, as other than my melodic instrument instruction and six months' lessons I'm self-taught; the instructor never showed me proper grip.

Thirty minutes spent on Skype with my friend (who also teaches) and pretty much things are looking up. I played for two and a half hours yesterday and not only did my hands not give me issues, but by the end of the session it felt bad to go back to the old way of holding sticks. So I'm optimistic that with this little tweak, things will be better off going forward. Thanks for all the suggestions!
 
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