Have you ever experienced burning, pins-and-needles sensations or sharp pain, during or after playing the drums? These sensations can be early symptoms of a playing-related musculoskeletal disorder (PRMD). In a previous article, Dr. Azar reported that the two most common medical diagnoses for drumming PRMDs are tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome – words that strike fear into the hearts of many drummers.
It’s important to note that these conditions don’t have to be catastrophic – they can be treated! The key is early intervention. The sooner you take steps to deal with the problem (which means consulting medical professionals, following their advice, and making changes that will prevent it from happening again), the better your chances are of successfully recovering from the injury.
Before you can intervene, you have to be able to recognize when you are starting to develop a PRMD. Here is a brief description of the two most common drumming-related injuries:
If your symptoms include swelling, increased heat, and sharp, painful movements (acute tendinitis)1, or dull, achy, uncomfortable sensations (chronic tendinitis), this might be your problem.
‘Tendinitis’ refers to an inflammation of a tendon, which is the connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. It can happen in any tendon in the body, but commonly occurs in the shoulder (e.g., bicep tendinitis), on the inner or outer sides of the elbow (e.g., epicondylitis)1, and in the tendons of the wrist and the thumb.
This condition can be caused by repetitive motion, poor body mechanics and posture, and lack of strength in the muscles attached to these tendons.
Typical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include an intense burning and/or numbness/tingling sensation on the palmar side of the hand – particularly in the thumb and the index and middle fingers – and weakness of the hand.2
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the very small space created by the bones of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament.2 The median nerve shares this space with the tendons of the wrist, finger, and thumb flexor muscles (9 in total).3
Repetitive squeezing, gripping, and wrist bending tightens the transverse carpal ligament, which narrows the carpal tunnel and compresses the median nerve. This interferes with the sensory signals being sent to the hand and the motor signals being sent to the thumb.2
If you are experiencing one of these injuries, please see a medical professional to confirm a diagnosis, and then consult a rehabilitation specialist (e.g., physiotherapist, athletic therapist – ask for a referral, if necessary) to develop a treatment plan that will be tailored to your specific issue.
Athletic therapist Dylan Durward frequently uses the exercises and thermal treatments described below in the rehabilitation programs he develops for clients who have been diagnosed with these injuries. But they are by no means a substitute for seeing your own medical team.
Neither Drumeo nor Dr. Azar can provide medical advice. Please go see a medical professional if you’re concerned about something! The content of this article is meant to provide you with some food for thought and some information to help you ask the right questions of your medical team.
Dylan Durward is a Certified Athletic Therapist and the exercises and thermal treatments mentioned in this article are generally considered safe, but they should not be used as a substitute for specific medical advice from a physician or other medical/rehabilitation specialist.
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