String players with chronic pain syndromes

October 20, 2006 at 05:27 AM · I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at the age of nine and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at the age of ten. (EDS is the connective tissue disorder that Paganini is rumored to have had.) Around that time, I started playing the violin. It took a few years, but I eventually fell deeply in love with not only the instrument, but the whole culture of classical music. At the same time, I have been learning to live with chronic pain and fatigue. These two parts of me have always been intertwined, for better and for worse.

It is, at times, very difficult. There are lots of questions. How do you keep a regular practice regimen going, especially over periods of time when you’re ill or in extreme pain? How do you keep cheerful after those long breaks and you realize how much ability you’ve lost? What kinds of adaptive aids do you use, not only in your music, but in your everyday life, to preserve your strength? How do you find doctors and health care providers who understand your seemingly crazy decision to keep plugging away at your musical studies, despite the fact it often makes you hurt? How do you find high-quality music teachers who understand? If the chronic illness takes a financial toll on the family, how do you pursue serious studies on a shoestring budget? (This is a biggie.) How do you handle the periodic - and sometimes intense - anger toward your disobedient body? Those with chronic illnesses, or those who have family or friends with chronic illnesses, know what I'm talking about.

But it’s not all bad. I have become much more aware of my body than I otherwise would be. I have realized how important it is to have a mind-body connection, especially when playing the violin, regardless of whether you have fibro or not. I’ve learned how important it is to go into every practice session knowing exactly what needs to be done. I’d also like to think I’m a little more patient than I otherwise would be (maybe), and I’ve learned to give and take. And I know for a fact that being ill so often as a child enhanced my appreciation for the arts.

So, that being said -

How do string players with chronic pain - whether it be in the form of arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, connective tissue disorders, etc. - balance their illness with their playing? I would love to hear from *anybody* with experience in this area. I have read about very few string players - especially high-level amateurs or professionals - who have chronic pain and/or fatigue syndromes. There have got to be some out there. I would love to hear from you.

Replies (26)

October 20, 2006 at 06:12 AM · Hi Emily. I'm a fellow Wisconsinite (from Milwaukee), and I've also had to deal with a weird and unpleasant pain syndrome that affected my ability to play for many years.

To be perfectly honest, I completely stopped playing for four or five years (all of high school and my first year of college). I hate to think about what I missed out on during those years, not only musically, but in life experience as well. Chronic pain takes a serious toll on one's emotions, and it was only years later that I realized that it was depression (rather than pain) that caused me the most damage.

Unfortunately, I feel that I failed to balance my illness with playing. At times, playing was probably impossible, but there were times when it would have done me a world of good to force myself to stop obsessing about surgeries, doctor's appointments and physical therapy.

I'm not sure this will be of any help to you, but I hope that it helps to hear from somebody who has been through this problem.


October 20, 2006 at 07:17 AM · I haven't been formally diagnosed with EDS, but I have all the physical hallmarks of it from a Western medical standpoint.

No teacher or medical professional I've ever worked with has been able to help me specifically cope with EDS. One has to learn to work with this condition despite the well meaning advice of people who just don't know what it's like to live this way.

For me, violin playing is not painful anymore. This is because I have top instruments as well as top training. I utilize a quasi-Auer method, but EDS has forced me to modify the technique. It's pretty simple: if something doesn't work for me, it HURTS and then I tweak things until the pain goes away. Either I change me or I change the instrument, and I'm playing pain-free today. This is a process that took me 26 years of unabated intense violin self study to cope with.

Conditioning is vitally important for an EDS person. I place a huge emphasis on conditioning because if the body won't respond to your demands, you'll injure yourself. I run modes and etudes routinely, and I've got the art of ongoing violin practice down to a pretty exact science.

With EDS, there's always the major fatigue factor. I don't feel the pain in my joints anymore, but it hits me as a full body fatigue that forces me to take long naps during the day. And if I do a hard gig, I have to be careful the next day in order not to overexert myself. I always know when I've pushed it too hard because my lungs quit on me and I get bronchitis no matter what time of year it is.

Diet is huge. EDS prevents me from mechanically digesting certain sorts of foods. For example, I'm utterly intolerant to soy products, beef, and turkey. That doesn't sound so bad until you realize I'm a Chinese guy who's been soy intolerant all his life (!!!) So I eat mainly ground foods nowadays, the softer the better. Staying away from processed foods in general is a good idea.

October 20, 2006 at 10:44 AM · Kevin, when you say "ground" foods, do you mean food put through a grinder or food grown in the earth, like potatos?

My two older daughters have problems with chronic pain. The oldest no longer plays (though she might return sometime in the future; she talks about it sometimes) and the second has been in pain since age 11. We've tried all kinds of chiropractors, physical therapies, etc. So far the one thing that is helping is Alexander Technique (by no means a cure, but it's helping.) Right now she is having weekly private sessions with an Alexander therapist who works with a lot of string players in our area.

I think diet may be an important link but so far she hasn't put in the initiative to change her diet.

Not being able to practice, not being able to sit through an orchestra rehearsal without intense pain, feeling isolated because of the pain, having to take time off and lose skills while peers are praciticing and gaining skill-- all of this has been very demoralizing, particularly when her identity was built around being a string player, from an early age. One thing she's doing right now (11th grade) is figuring out what else is out there in the world, what her other interests and skills are. Hopefully, she will be able to play for the rest of her life, but given the chronic pain issues, it won't be a career option.

October 20, 2006 at 11:02 AM · Sorry to hear that. In addition to what Kevin says,

you could search for past comments concerning pain or wait for Buri to turn up.


October 20, 2006 at 11:37 AM · In addition to the excellent advice and support you're getting here, check out clinical hypnosis (NOT stage hypnosis). Contact your local chapter of ASTD (the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis), which is made up of physicians, psychologists, and dentists who use clinical hypnosis as a serious therapuetic tool in their work. I know that there is a whole segment of the professional community that uses this tool for a number of chronic pain syndromes.

Good luck.

Cordially, Sandy

October 20, 2006 at 01:26 PM · Lots of good, general advice to be gleaned from the extended posts preceding, not just for those with these dreadful pain disorders, but those of us whose bodies are aging :) Stay rested, make conscious choices about diet, exercise, especially therapeutic exercise like walking and swimming, try what appeals from the stretching/flexing disciplines like yoga, Alexander, tai chi, Pilates. A personal plug for Feldenkrais; careful, considered, low impact with surprising results. Also support the idea of great tools in great shape. If you play on enough instruments and bows at well-stocked shops, you'll find some that seem to "play themselves" in your hands. If you're of a frugal nature, talk yourself into putting your comfort first. Mess around with chin rests and shoulder rests. I have a couple different pairs as sometimes one set-up just isn't feeling right. Finally, be open to some variation in standard technique, especially if you have had teachers who were adamant about your mimicing specific posture details. Sue

October 20, 2006 at 02:16 PM · Hi. I'm not at all qualified to speak to your particular situation. And what I'm about to recommend is not any sort of cure-all panecea. But I would like to recomend to one and all the following excellent book: "Playing (less) Hurt" by Janet Horvath. Revised edition 2004. Horvath is Principal cello with the Minnesota Orchestra, and her book comes with recommendations from doctors as well as other musicians. It is vey comprehensive, and includes a long resource list. I don't know how widely available it is. I got my copy from Shar.

October 20, 2006 at 02:15 PM · Thank you for having the guts to write in about this. I have so many things to say about this, but I will try to limit my response :)

I wrote in to this site, many years ago, about many mental/psychiatric problems and how treatment for them would affect my playing. I am a professional violinist, at the time, working on my Masters degree.

At this point in my life, my doctors and I have realized after much testing and surgeries that the root of the mental anguish was actually pain and their various syndromes. Not ALL of the problems, but the majority of the worst symptoms were relieved with treatment for chronic fatigue and pain.

I have a chronic bladder condition called Interstitial Cystitis, which causes almost continual severe pain in the abdomen, EVERY DAY!!! Grrrr. It is also related to Irritable Bowel (which in its reality is very debilitating, and the general public idea of what this encompasses is misguided). Also year-round allergies... I also have myofacial pain syndrome, diabetes (medication controlled), fibromyalgia, low level chronic bleeding in my stomach and esophegus, panic and anxiety disorders, bipolar I (sometimes with psychosis, but not in a good while), and a lazy gall bladder. Small tumors and cysts throughout the body, and daily nausea. Neuropathy in my feet and legs...For some months we thought I had MS (multiple sclerosis), but ruled that out. There must be a more specific cause of these physical/mental problems, but I have decided against continual testing to figure out "the mystery of my body". Because THAT, more than anything, gets in the way of my music.

That list isn't meant for sympathy, so please don't take it that way. It is meant to show that, yes, our physical and mental beings are directly related to our careers and our level of involvement with music in any point in our lives. We cannot play, practice, work, with ailing bodies.

Like Kevin said, I have to know my limitations. I was recently asked to do a concert that would have been right on the heel of a concert the day before, in a month that is riddled with rehearsals and concerts back to back anyway. I said no. He asked again. I had to say "no, it is on a Monday, and I didn't schedule for it". It is hardest perhaps to know how to schedule, and what to tell people when you cannot do something because of your body that others can do without worrying.

I drive 3-4 hours to my Symphony gigs and rehearsals. We all know how it is to sit through long rehearsals, and to do it in pain, is agonizing, to say the least.

My best advice, is to find a doctor who will trust you and listen to you . Whenever one is dealing with major pain illnesses, there is the very real issue of pain medications and doctors unwilling to prescribe what you really need.

Pain clinics usually have very good doctors who will work with you. Tell them your specific needs. That you have to be able to drive, that you have to sit during long rehearsals, that you have to practice hours every day. It is tricky to find pain medication that will assuage the pain, but not leave you brain-dulled.

I take 13 medications. It gets really depressing sometimes to knwo that. But I no longer fight the stigma and negative comments from people who are not in my body. Because I know what makes me a more functional person. The medications have given me my life back. NOt free of pain and fatigue and restrictions, but much closer to what a healthy 26 year old is capeable of doing.

It is a delicate balance. I suggest daily stretching or yoga, and a level of activity that does not cause you pain, but will help you energy-wise. I know with Fibromyalgia, certain exercises actually damage the muscles instead of help them, so be careful. But don't end up totally inactive. That will be more detrimental to your violin life than anything else.

Don't be afraid to take medication, but be sensitive as to how it affects your perception of your playing and your ability to react and concentrate.

And last, but not least, know when to take a break, and when to stop. On those days when you are so fatigued or in pain to practice, get the violin out and set it where it will take mere seconds to get it out and play. That way, your first "good" moment, you can get started, which sometimes actually helps you to feel better.

DOn't make totally unrealistic goals, that will only further the frustration. As you feel better (you will! Don't loose faith and hope!!), and learn better to manage the things in your life that mean the most to you, you can add th ings one at a time.

Just as important as having a doctor who trusts you to know what you want to do, a teacher who has an understanding of what you are facing physically is important. THey need to know how much to challenge you, and when to let you rest. Especially if you are in pain in a lesson, they need to know that. Otherwise, there can be a lot of tears.

Sitting down when I practice, if I need to that day, gave me the opporitunity to continue on days I was too dizzy to stand, or hurt too much. You need a teacher who will let you sit sometimes, without making you feel "lazy".

DOn't let ANYONE tell you you are lazy. We all know you are not. That is not the issue at all...

Last, but not least, If you DO have to take a few days away from the instrument, don't beat yourself up about it. What is the hurry?

Hmm. Think I wrote too much anyway:). Hope something in here was helpful.


Jennifer Warren

October 20, 2006 at 02:56 PM · I don't happen to have the sorts of problems that are being discussed here, but I have found that as I'm getting older I have to think a lot more about how I am going to use my body before certain activities. Getting older means that I can't really do all night practice or play without warming up, but why did I ever do that anyway? I am amazed when I think back to my training in college that nobody ever discussed the athletic side of playing the violin.

As for dealing with these really hard health problems, I wonder if reading up on folks like Lance Armstrong might help? I mean, folks like that might have a lot to say to us about how to perform physically at a high level despite really debilitating health problems. Just a thought...

October 20, 2006 at 03:24 PM · Elizabeth Smith, I'm talking about grinder foods. Nowadays I can't handle ground beef anymore. Thus no hamburgers or steaks. I can't do ground turkey either. Ground pork I can do, and Asian specialty markets have ground chicken which I adore.

One thing that DRAMATICALLY helped was increasing the amount seafood to my diet. Since EDS is hard on the connective tissue, the body needs every edge it can get. Many of the supplements prescribed in pill form are actually taken from seafood. So instead of popping pills, I pop squid and mussels and shrimp. At the supermarket, one can buy those El Cheapo bags of mixed "seafood medleys" that are delicious in all sorts of ways.

But the thing that REALLY helped me get stronger like nothing else was learning and mastering Chinese kung fu. I had the privilege of learning the "real" Chinese kung fu from an authentic Chinese master, not the chop socky stuff taught in academies nowadays. That stuff is extremely body strengthening, particularly in core strength. It also was psychologically good for me because whenever somebody came after me afterwards, I was able to defend myself against much bigger aggressive opponents. I even ran a martial arts school for a while before EDS got the better of me and my bouts of fatigue and bronchitis took me down. Without EDS, I'd be a martial arts instructor and not a pro musician. Today I still teach, but in a much more limited way.

I'm glad somebody like Jennifer is a professional violinist. When one has a physical disorder that limits the amount of working hours one can do, you want a job that earns a relatively high amount of money in a short amount of time. Professional violin (especially a concertizing violinist) is one of those jobs that does that. In a way, I can ONLY be a professional musician.

With EDS, the brain goes into shutdown if the body doesn't cope. When I was in medical school, the long hours killed me so badly that I could barely respond to people. I'd think I was alert, but I'd miss assignments and not respond properly. The brain fog of EDS that comes from overexertion is almost identical to that when a person takes too much Dramamine and then tries to play the violin.

For me, EDS has one significant advantage. Though I struggle with body fatigue, I do not have any violin related joint pain because the range of motion exceeds that of a standard violinist. Also, EDS comes in handy when playing guitar. Since all of my fingers can bend 180 degrees backwards, I can do bar chords like nobody else can. As a result, I gig doing solo improvised jazz guitar in gigs without backing tracks a la George Van Eps or Joe Pass. Thus I retain the focused sound of small fingers while having speed and accuracy between chords. That comes in handy on the violin just as it did for Nicolo Paganini and his EDS influenced writing for both violin and guitar.

This is going to sound like boasting, but I'm naturally athletic and that helps. Even with EDS, I can still jump high enough at 5'5" to touch the basketball backboard. If I didn't have EDS, I have no doubt I could touch the rim or get very close to it.

October 20, 2006 at 03:48 PM · Jennifer, I've missed your blog and am glad to see you back again.

You write, But I no longer fight the stigma and negative comments from people who are not in my body.

It's very hard to be mindful of other people's pain. I'm not in chronic pain and I confess that I am sometimes guilty of forgetting my viola-daughter's pain. And if I forget it, imagine how others do. She goes to a music-performance based high school (which was a mistake, but too late) and last semester she had to take off most of the semester from playing. This led to all kinds of difficulties and complications. Her grades went down in the music classes; her peers were highly suspious and critical and unsupportive (at the school, some of them at least), and one of her teachers was very angry to learn that she was still playing (about 2 hours a week) in her extra-curricular quartet (which is at a higher level, and which is a long-term committment spanning many years.)

My daughter has often pointed out that very few people and probably none of her peers know what it's like to be in real, chronic pain. The negative comments make the pain worse; chronic pain is also a cause of depression. And depression makes the perception of pain even greater. So it's a vicious cycle.

October 20, 2006 at 08:36 PM · To Emily and all who suffer in a similar way from these physical symptoms, here is something you might find helpful or interesting, but definitely in my opinion worth reading, especially if you think your physical symptoms might be coming from suppresed emotions, which usually manifest itself through physical symptoms. Check out... Click on contents.. I wish you all well.

October 20, 2006 at 08:02 PM · Wait for Buri, one of my favorite regulars here.

Sorry to hear about your pain. I am not sure exactly what that is, but I also encountered pain on my neck and waist after only about 25 minutes continuous playing. I tried to change many things from chinrest (left mounted to center mounted bak to guarneri style), shoulder rest, violins and bows. Nothing really worked perfectly although some might cause less pain than others. Until quite recently, I just realized that my posture was causing me all the grieves. Now I don't really in pain like what I had before. I don't know whether my new found solution is correct, but it works for me. I hope you find something works for you soon.

Best luck!

October 20, 2006 at 08:05 PM · I don't have any kind of chronic pain syndrome, but I have had terrible, terrible physical problems arise from playing viola, for which I've had to get physical therapy, steroid shots, MRIs, painkillers, back braces, etc. Sometimes I've felt hopeless because I was sure I would have to give up playing viola and be stuck in a job I hated (which would be any other job than being a violist). I thought I might have to switch to violin (which is much easier on the body, especially for someone as tiny as me), which would make me miserable, because it's not what I love. I've also felt like my body was falling to pieces and getting old even though I'm only twenty years old.

I'm in a decent physical state now (I kind of lost mobility in my back for a while) and I guess the only thing that helps is trying to be relaxed while playing, and to not focus on the pain.

October 20, 2006 at 10:08 PM · I can't digest tofu even though it's soft. My body cannot break down the complex soy protein.

Anyway, I get around EDS on the violin by holding my violin low without a shoulder rest and using a fiddle style bowgrip. This is a more "medieval" way of holding the violin, and it works well for me. There hasn't been any kind of classical technique I can't do with this setup.

EDS prevents a person from sticking too long to any single concept in practice, so I get around that by running related exercises that all have a different twist. I'll run modes, but then I'll go play a piece like Sicilenne and Rigaudon that kind of uses them. Or I'll get fatigued from playing a concerto and shift gears into an unaccompanied solo. The key is to keep shifting around the physical emphasis so that no body part burns out via repetition. Usually one can cycle back to what he was working on in the same practice session.

I cannot emphasize the importance of doing scales and etudes for EDS folks. Without the physical conditioning acquired by doing them, getting through repertoire becomes exceedingly and often impossibly difficult.

October 20, 2006 at 11:07 PM · Greetings,

traditional Chinese medicine has proven especially effective in treating cystitis and diabetes without drugs.

It is a a long term procedure that involves exercise, nutrition and psychological /spiritual work and stimulation of ki flow in equal parts. Neglect one and the patient is not getitng the package.

Taking lots of medicines helps in the short ter but stresses the internal organs in the long run as one oves futrher and frther away fro a meaningful cure.

I have noticed a greta dela of expertize and advice on this list over the years but very few people have actually mentioned nutrition in a more than cursory way (apart from Kevin -apologies otthe other si forget) . When I have been talking to people with these kinds of problems both on and of flist the most immediate and shocking thing I invaribaly find is that those people are doing all the right things with trying differnet docotors, treatments, meditation and the like and in between are -eating according to the norm of other people.- The norm of other people in western countries is highly contraindicated even if you are helathy, or rather if you follow the norm you are not helathy. The body is just not designed for stimulants, dairy produtcs or excesses of the thre ekillers salt, sugar and fat. This is not an expression of my prejudice. It is perfectly objectively verifiable by noting obesity rates and the prevelance of luxury diseases as well as ipotency, low sper counts and infertility.

So, to caricature the situation, a sufferer ay be popping pain killers for the abdoinal trouble, patting theselbves on the back for also -doing acupuncture- and after a nice relaxing session of the latter going out for a coffee and ice crea with friends.

This is the extree. To a lesser degree the suffere ay have read a few books , folowed a few vague suggestions from an MD who has no formal training in nutrition(that is usually true!) anbd thinks they have done all they can.

But there is no such thing as a healthy food for everyoneones needs and a Chinese medicine specilaist would evaluate a patinet on a weekly basis for months changing the food as the go along for each individual. Whta works well for one will kill someone else. That is a literla statement. The macrobuiotic founder Oshawa refused to teach some of his later stuff becaus ehe knew the perfect murder could be comitted by judciious combinign of daily foods.

It doesn'T take much to prevent healing and sustain pain. One cup of coffee is enough for many people.

Incidentally, I am not exactly sure about this ground food thing, but basically proteins and carbs digets differnetly so according to traditional chinese medicine, of you eat the two toegtehr when you are in poor health the body gets distressed and neither is ingested well. A simple basic step is to start separating these components. However, there is a way of creating a healthy and delsicous food that is easily absorbed and combines all the elemnets. This is called a congee. You stick rice, vegetabples, tofu or whatever you fancy really , in a pan bring to the boil and simmer on a really lo heat for at least and hour but much longer is even better. The end product tastes great is and is very easily absorbed by the most dameged of stomachs,



October 21, 2006 at 01:29 AM · I am so thankful to read so many wonderful responses here. I'm surprised at how many of you have experience with chronic pain, and that I didn't even know it prior to this thread! I've had these diagnosises for almost ten years now and I'm only now, in a period of intense self-reflection, realizing how much more I need to learn how to help myself. And I'm really learning a lot here. So thank you. My deepest respect to Jennifer and Kevin, especially, for having learned how to balance performing with chronic pain. It is so good to hear that it is possible.

Please keep the discussion going! I will definitely print this one out for future reference.

October 21, 2006 at 03:26 AM · Thank you, Buri. I really really wish I could afford to be treated with Chinese medicine. I've looked into a few times, and one specifically was recommended to me by a good friend. I just can't afford either the care, or the herbs, or, even...the foods themselves. My insurance is paid for by the government, and I cover the expenses of the medications that are under 20$ above and beyond what they pay for (5 per month). The rest I rotate. Iknow how bad that is for the body, I know.

But how many options are there, if you don't even really have a budget to be sick? I take what I can get to be comfortable. Sounds like the easy way out, and it is. I did try an alternative method of healing using muscle testing and a sort of subconscious questioning and repetition. Energy flows etc. etc. I was so very excited. I stopped taking most of my meds and felt wonderful for about a week.

Maybe whatever you have the most faith in will work for you at the time? Is that flaky? I know, though, that if I go into a treatment doubting it, it is destined to fail.

I tried herbal treatments of my own devising. They were SO STRONG!!! I was actually overdosing on herbs. I still make my own essential oils and extracts, but I have tamed down the capsulating. I was making my own capsules with no guidelines for dosaging. So be careful abuot treating yourself.

Buri, you are correct about most MDs having minimal training in nutrition. And the nutritionists I have been to were little more effective than reading a book with the food groups and caloric value of foods. Useless.

So I'm doing a diet of elimination, which takes FOREVER to figure out. It is coming slowly, but as it has been said, everyone's reaction and uses for different foods is unique. Following prescribed diets for any problem, seemed to excasserbate (sp?) one of the others. This can be intensely frustrating and may lead to giving up the search for foods good for your body.

Besides all the attention to trying to be healthy...I am so incredibly guilty of drinking coffee. I stopped for awhile and didn't notice much difference, so I jumped back on the coffee comfort limo. Yup. The hardest thing to ever detox from is on every corner and in every eating facility and when I run out of my home supply, well..that constitutes a crisis....he he.

Anyhow. Thank you for the advice and knowledge.


October 21, 2006 at 04:34 AM · To my knowledge, which is pretty extensive but not all inclusive, traditional Chinese medicine has no answer for many of the connective tissue disorders. That's because not many Chinese people have faced it, though there are more Japanese people that deal with that kind of stuff than people in Asia realize.

Now fibromyalgia? Qigong and other curative practices can do much for that. I helped a lupus student go from a level 10 on the pain scale to a zero using the Fukien White Crane techniques of Iron Palm (also known as "pai da") and Vibrating Palm (also known as "ban zhuang") Those traditional healing techniques were both featured in a distorted way in the 1980s movie "The Karate Kid". They are also written about in Patrick McCarthy's book "Bubishi, the Bible of Karate" which was known in China as "The Shaolin Bronze Man Book". I did NOT cure the fibromyalgia - I simply relieved it a bit and the treatment has held for a few years thus far.

For all of my knowledge of kung fu and medicine, the simple fact is that EDS and lupus and RA and other disorders of the connective tissue can only be optimized and not cured.

October 21, 2006 at 04:37 AM · Greetings,

Kevin, re connective tissues my healer would tell you other wise. The conditon of the connective tissue is dependent on the relevant organs. bring the organs back into balance and the problem will be helped.But what you say about TCM may be true . My doctor is consierably more widely qualified.


>Thank you, Buri. I really really wish I could afford to be treated with Chinese medicine. I've looked into a few times, and one specifically was recommended to me by a good friend.

Well, yes and no. If you decided to switch to organic food for example, and bought in bulk that would be cheaper than regular shopping.


>But how many options are there, if you don't even really have a budget to be sick?

That is the world we have created for ourselves, yes.

>I take what I can get to be comfortable. Sounds like the easy way out, and it is.

No judgement. Everybody does the best they can at a given moment.

>I did try an alternative method of healing using muscle testing and a sort of subconscious questioning and repetition. Energy flows etc. etc. I was so very excited. I stopped taking most of my meds and felt wonderful for about a week.

That sound slike a missing part of the picture that you need.

>Maybe whatever you have the most faith in will work for you at the time? Is that flaky? I know, though, that if I go into a treatment doubting it, it is destined to fail.

That can be true. It depends how much the type of treatment depends on allowing things to happen which is central to healing most of the time anyway. It isn`t the psychosomatic debate either.

>I tried herbal treatments of my own devising. They were SO STRONG!!!

Very, very dangerous. Please don`t do it again. Pretty please! herbs are killers in the wrong hands. Highly toxic.

>So I'm doing a diet of elimination, which takes FOREVER to figure out. It is coming slowly, but as it has been said, everyone's reaction and uses for different foods is unique. Following prescribed diets for any problem, seemed to excasserbate (sp?) one of the others.


Right. Prescription that isn`t done on an individual basis is not so great. One of the safest neutral diets taht you can acess easily is the Candida Diet which is easy to find on the web.

>This can be intensely frustrating and may lead to giving up the search for foods good for your body.

That`s for sure!

>Besides all the attention to trying to be healthy...I am so incredibly guilty of drinking coffee. I stopped for awhile and didn't notice much difference, so I jumped back on the coffee comfort limo.

Given the amount of medicein you are currently taking your body is in an frighteningly yin condition. completley out of whack. In western terms ACIDIC AS HELL. It wouldn`t surpise me if your joints were in agony , never mind your guts.You are certainly discharging calcium faster than you can takeit in which is going to make your nervous tension skyrocket.

On the yin/yang scale coffee is up the top with medicine and sugar. It is a real killer for you. The addiction is hard to beat, I assume you are taking it black?

Very often it helps to try and evaluate your state of mind immediately prior to drinking it. If that tells you sonmethign, good! Then try and find some kind of specific action that you do every time the urge for coffe springs up. Maybe make a cup of tea ;) (much less dangerous)

Try putting the coffee somewhere less convenient like on the roof. By the time you have climbed up there the urge may have dissipated.

Yup. The hardest thing to ever detox from is on every corner and in every eating facility and when I run out of my home supply, well..that constitutes a crisis....he he.

Need chocolate, need chocolate.....

>Anyhow. Thank you for the advice and knowledge.

Am still thinking. Will be in touch,


Too many prunes.

October 21, 2006 at 05:56 AM · I am not really qualified to join in this discussion but would just like to implore everyone to think very seriously about Buri's posts.'We are what we eat' is a classic saying but has as much to do with health as with figure.The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most money grabbing industries,take one medicine and you'll need another to stem the side effets.Having watched my father die not from disease but from taking increasing larger doses of cortisone and the other 20 medicines that were required to stem the side effects in order to combat asthma I would advocate everyone to steer clear of pharmaceuticals if at all possible.

October 21, 2006 at 09:09 AM · Having a bit of a restless night, and thinking much about what I have actually learned over the past year or so that might be helpful to someone else, directly relating to chronic pain and violinn. Specifically fibromyalgia, lupus (I don't have, but my grandmother died from complications and many other related things), arthritis, etc. etc.

Number 1.: essential oils can be your best friend if used in a real way for you. Some can be helped by inhaling, but I found that to be limited to helping problems with allergies, asthma, etc. I started experimenting with different synergies for my sore muscles and joints. For violin related muscles, I found a combo of ginger, neroli, and a combo of peppermint and eucalyptus with white camphor, rosemary, and lavender to really help. That one also helps inhaled for certaintypes of headaches if you breathe it for 15 minutes like a maniac. ANyway. Use these oils generously on the muscle or joint after playing, rubbing it in slowly but firmly, keeping the area moving. Then stretch yourself in a regime that suits your needs, and re-apply.

2. Creams and ointments sold over the counter that have various types of ingredients. There is one called Turpentine/volcano oil. It has kerosene and camphor and other scary sounding things in them that make you shudder perhaps. But they are medical grade and very VERY good for arthritic pain. Most helpful for me was to mix the linament with liquid soap and just soak in it. With epsom salts. It is quite stinky, but really worked well for me. Make sure the product doesn't have anything you are allergic to in it.

3. If your pain in your arms and neck and spine are not related to violin technical problems, but physical ones that are exacerbated (thank you, Buri) by playing, there are a number of cheap products that have helped me. One is simply menthol patches. The small ones that youcan stick in shapes around your body where the pain flows. They last about 8 hours. Don't go out in public that way, youw ill get looks!!! He he. The other is a band made by ACE that has heating pads in it, underneath the velcro, and also a kind of magnetic strip that helps the circulation to flow down the arm. It works best if you put it ABOVE the area of pain, as it pulls heat and blood flow to it. I think, 10 dollars at Kroger. Adjustable. Found thse to be more effective than the bracelettes that claim fame...because they are not in the optimum spot for our playing circulation needs. Not with our hands upside down....

Last but not least, massage. Somehow convince your husband/wife/friend/children....random person on the street (kidding!!) to give you a massage. Preferrably tell them where the good pressure points are, or your trigger spots.

Oh. I almost forgot. Reflexology. I have been totally won over on that one. I have some good charts, if anyone is interested, I can mail .jpg files of both my hand-drawn ones and some I got from the internet. I have found that when the acutall sore spots are too tender for touch, a good footrub using a reflexology chart, or if someone is experienced, a hand massage, can work wonders for the internal organs. If you can't solicit a massage from someone else, you can always work on your own feet. Kevin mentioned something I'd never heard of...the hand vibration thing? Is it similar to using a handheld massage vibrating machine with a magnetic attatchment on certain points of the foot related to reflexology ideas?

What I can't stress enough, what has helped me understand and love music and playing despite challenges (we all have challenges, ours is pain, anothers is somethign else), is acceptance. Sounds trite to say in a post, but it is so important to be at peace with your condition, whatever it may be. It may take a really long time. But you can't be in battle with your body, angry with it, bitter....and fighting your losses.

Has nothing to do with God (for some it might), it has to do with joining forces with your pain and disappointment and frustration and limitations to improve yourself enough that your goals are worthwhile in a bigger picture, an ENJOYABLE LIFE.

Buri. I actually don't drink my coffee black because it makes me sick...and that was the best deterrent for real!!! nauseas and stomach pain, doubled over-style. I put a lot of nondairy creamer in, liquid, sugar-free, aspertame free. I use Stevia leaf to sweeten it up, and I sprinkle nutmeg, ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, and something I can't remember...on the top. I mixed themt ogether in a "coffee spice" bottle and sprinkle it on top. I think that helps a bit with the digeston and stomach horrors that coffee causes. I also use acid-free coffee. I have to order it to be delivered by mail, so I don't drink NEARLY as much as I used to, budget permitting.

But I still know that it is not the best. I do drink tea. I made my own tea packets from cooking herbs, other tea bags, and some capsules. I boil it and then strain it. They work wonders, but they are labeled for specific issues. Cold/flu, asthma, various digestive problems, nausea, etc. The problem is that they taste aweful. The only teas I enjoy the taste of are of the chai tai black spice variety. Or ginseng/green tea/etc. See the pattern? I LOVE CAFFEINE!!!! So I try to limit the tea as well, unless I have the flu or something. In which case, my friends have told me that the little homeade packets really helped with bronchitis or the like. As for maintenance of everyday living, I have no idea, no CLUE what would be safe and effective and tasty.

Email me personally and I'll tell you the shopping dillema. Personal. (Like the rest of this isn't!!!)

K. the cat is standing in front of the computer, blinding my view of the screen.....bettergo.


October 22, 2006 at 01:00 AM · I'm a new adult violinist with 20 months on this amazing instrument. The week after I purchased my violin I feel and brutally injured fingers 2-4 on my left hand.

The following week I was to begin lessons with the 1st chair of our symphony. I did this, and continued with intensive strenghtening exercises.Just as soon as f2-4 began healing, I developed an inflamation condition along my outer left thumb area.

I developed thumb relaxing exercises from finger dropping exercises and started getting the thumb joint to ease up. Shortly thereafter, the pain moved from the upper inner area of my left hand to the inner area of my left wrist.

I'm now going through massage therapy to get these conditions under control. Yesterday was my first day in months that I didn't practice, today the second. While I know the answers to how to heal and move on, it's been especially frustrating and recently depressing.

I'm very anxious to get back on my instrument as I'm getting ready to finish Suzuki II, and have begun preparing for Suzuki III. Before I get back to work though, I'm going to have to get 'real' serious about warm-ups, physically warming up (heating pad), and upper body strengthening.

I read some time ago, that string players often encounter these challenges, but it seems unusual, to begin with them. al

October 22, 2006 at 03:08 AM · I don't think it at all unusual for someone who is starting out, and as seemingly as dedicated as you to experience these problems. I tell most of my students who are relatively new to the instrument to strictly limit their time practicing for some time. Ten minutes on this, ten on that, with breaks in between if possible. It is like trying to lift very heavy weights without training first.

Perhaps you are just so enthusiastic that you are practicing in intervals that are just too long right now? How long do you practice at one time?

It is also common for these specific pain areas to develope. Some people only develope few, some even more. It takes years and years to find the "place" and "strength" to use with your body. Be patient, and you will be rewarded. Sounds like an inspirational poster maybe, but please don't rush yourself into injury after injury.

But yes, it is common. Mostly with the students with the most desire to improve quickly. But sometimes it may be the body's response to something new in general. Like cold weather :).



October 22, 2006 at 03:18 AM · You pegged me Jennifer! I have played piano professionally, and also play guitar and banjo. I went to a music store to get guitar strings and left/w/a beginner's violin package.

I began playing 3 and 4 hours at a time--consistently. And in that even though I can transpose 'fairly' well on piano, found all this music 'jumping on my finger board saying "play me!', in nearly any key. One of my 1st songs was "Love is a Many Splendid Thing" in e-flat.

My instructor (God love her), was like what! when I took "Air on G String" to my first lesson, with a sober intent of learning it. (I had alreadly learned it note-wise).

For the past year though, I've been really pulling in the reigns, and changed to an element focused approach with little room for diversions. I already did a wedding gig playing Bach and Schubert's Ave's., with "The Lord's Prayer" as a sort of chorus. It wasn't great (nerves) but nice.

Anyway, it is just very tough to determine what is the normal growing pains, and what is emmanating from overcompensation coming from the original injury/fall, particuarly in gripping.

I find the violin extremely rewarding. I approached banjo intently using the "Murphy Method", but this violin thing.... whew!.

And that I made my lazy self improve my sight reading exponentially--that says volumes I think.

Thanks for your encouragement! al

October 23, 2006 at 02:18 PM · I'm surprised and delighted to see nutrition being discussed, as Buri stated too. It's become a bit of a passion for me lately.

I've changed my diet gradually over the past 14 or 15 years, gradually minimizing the amount of meat in our diet, and several years ago my husband and I adopted a vegetarian diet (no meat, fish, fowl, but we still do limited dairy, eggs, cheese). It was a gradual process that worked naturally for us and fit our lifestyle.

I only recently started a personal study of nutrition (I know some of the basics that a vegetarian needs to know, like getting adequate vitamin B12, for example, but not much else). I am very surprised by how little is known about how diet affects the body (and mind, since both are interconnected).

I've never had nutritional advice given by any of my allopathic doctors, they are only trained to recognize and treat symptoms, not causes. That's way too late, I think. So I don't have much faith in my doc's ability to guide me in a healthier lifestyle, as one poster put it, they barely have enough time to listen to me give symptoms. I have had chronic low back pain problems for some years now, which responds well to daily yoga practice, but which was completely dismissed by every allopathic doctor that I saw - they just said "we can't find anything wrong - you're a model patient, just keep doing what you're doing". I did exhaust those avenues, though, and I probably would too if I'd been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or MS or anything of that sort. I just wouldn't take the doc's advice as the be-all end-all of what could be done. That's my prejudice, I guess. I always want to be involved, I ask "what can I do to help?" of everyone that I consult, rather than just relying on medications and surgery or other drastic measures.

I've been reading a book on food combining and digestion this past week, and learned some new things about what I have probably been doing wrong for years. It's not just what we eat but how it is digested (Buri refers to this too). Nobody ever taught me any of this, but I see how important it is to good health.

Anyway, before I ramble on, there's some good information in books by John Robbins (the most recent one is "Healthy at 100", just out this year). In his books, he talks about a lot of studies showing how our North American diet (and increasingly this diet is being spread around the world) is so bad for our health, how cruel it is for animals, and how devastating it is for the environment. It's not a stretch to say that our diet is contributing to climate change (I guess this is now the politically correct term for global warming) with all the problems caused by factory farming that supports the dietary choices of the majority of people. It's something to think about. Anyway, he also talks about various cultures where they live long lives, with virtually no disease, and what sort of exercise and diet they follow, which is quite interesting.

Before I get too far out on a limb about nutrition, I just wanted to say that I work on several people with fibromyalgia and MS (and probably someone with chronic fatigue too, just not diagnosed) and that Thai massage is an excellent therapy for these people. It is a combination of gentle assisted yoga stretching, reflexology, shiatsu or pressure point therapy and other ancient techniques. One of my clients says that our sessions are the only time she ever feels relief from her chronic pain. Just something else to consider.


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