Tendonitis and fibromyalgia, anyone?

Edited: January 27, 2018, 6:35 PM · Hello,

I am new to violinist.com, having recently decided to pick up my violin again after 56 years! Unfortunately during that time, I developed chronic tendonitis in both arms and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I have learnt that by avoiding foods with a high oxalate content, I don't get that overall pain that comes with fibro. However, I still have the tendonitis problem to deal with and wondered if anybody here manages to play their violin with this condition and could perhaps pass on any tips. I know that RICE is the recommended treatment, but I confess to not carrying it out very much.

Thank you for reading this and I would very much appreciate your input.

Kind regards,

Replies (18)

January 27, 2018, 4:36 PM · The cello, I'm told, is much more forgiving to people with mobility, range-of-motion, and other issues that begin to affect folks when they reach a "certain age." v-commer Andrew Victor is a good resource on this kind of thing.
Edited: January 28, 2018, 7:05 AM · RICE is pretty much abandoned concept, especially among sports medicine experts. Moreover, the physiology of tendon re-creation is still a mystery.
From my personal experience, the most important...
1. give them a plenty of time to heal - you can not speed up the process
2. hidrate
3. relax all muscles involved in - attached to tendons - deep tissue massage to deal with muscle knots; if the muscles are tight, they will keep pulling the already injured tendon!
4. problem often lies elsewhere - up to the kinetic chain - tendons are just the weakest link in the equation

It is crutial to find a very, very good sports medicine doctor and even better physiotherapist and massage therapist. Anything less - a proven path to prolonged pain and re-injury.

edit: 2018/0128: Avoid using anti-inflamatory drugs (more than 1 week) and pain-killers. They mask the pain and may give you illusion that you are doing well, while actually you are re-injuring yourself. None of them heal tendons.

January 27, 2018, 5:26 PM · Right, Paul.
Cello is much easier on the body than violin - except when hand-carrying one around in a case.

All the joints can be used with pretty much natural angles and the back muscles and arm weight (gravity) if properly used are a big help.

My advice;
1. Rosin your bow and pick up your old violin and try to play it.
2. Sit it on your knee and try to play it like a cello to see how your remembered feel of a bow on the strings translates to this position.
3. If that works for you go to a music store and noodle around on a cello to see how that works for you.
4. If that seems doable - all you have to do is learn to read the clefs. Yes, I said clefs - cellists have to worry about 3 of them routinely and sometimes a fourth - but that comes later, it all starts with bass clef.
5. A teacher will help you stop holding the bow and the cello like a violin.

January 27, 2018, 11:46 PM · Proper technique with a lack of tension is vital. So is avoiding overuse. I take frequent breaks. If I know I'll be playing for an extended time without meaningful breaks, such as in a lengthy rehearsal or a concert, I will take ibuprofen about half an hour before; it seems to help significantly.
Edited: January 28, 2018, 7:58 AM · The last time I got "viola neck" I was out of commission for two months. I didn't see (feel) it coming. I've learned to be more aware of the signs. Also I cannot launch right into heavy-duty 16th notes when I start practicing. I do 5 mins of a slower etude to get things working. I've found Accolay to be a good warm-up piece.
January 28, 2018, 9:56 AM · I agree that cello is more ergonomic than violin. With proper technique and setup, you can play violin for as long as you want without pain, as long as you don't have other physical health issues. It's important to take breaks during practice, not just for the benefit of your body, but for the benefit of your brain as well. After an intensive playing session, you might find your brain overworked and unable to focus and work as well as before. It's time to take a break at this stage. Lengthy rehearsals can have very short breaks as well. It's just a matter of taking advantage of them.
January 28, 2018, 11:09 AM · "as long as you don't have other physical health issues."

I hate to tell you but that's not how aging works. At some point you either have "physical health issues" or you are dead!

I play in a chamber orchestra of experienced older players. So far in the 6 years we have existed no one has died, but I can see how some of us work to overcome increasing physical health issues. The specific age at which these things start to happen is individual to the person and to the instrument played. Cellists seem to hold up better than violinists. Violists have a mixed problem depending on the instrument size and their personal physiques. The wind players do not have the same problem unless their lungs fail them.

January 28, 2018, 3:54 PM · Andrew Victor, you are so right! I am ignoring any other health issues, physical or otherwise. Violin is my first passion and although cello might be easier on the body and I love its more mellow tones, that idea must wait unless all else fails. Initially I wanted to just leap back in from where I left off and go on from there, but I can see that isn't going to be possible. I intend to take things slowly. Extremely frustrating, as patience was never one of my virtues.
January 28, 2018, 7:23 PM · Thanks Andrew for pointing that out. I did include aging-related conditions in "physical health issues".
January 29, 2018, 12:57 PM · You have my heart felt commiserations . Lots of good advice . Stick at it and be gentle with yourself .
January 29, 2018, 4:35 PM · Hi Rose,

You've got an advantage - I picked up a violin for the very first time a couple of months back and though I still look only 35 I'm just a wee bit older, if you get my drift :-)

The thing is this I have rheumatoid arthritis including in both hands and particularly so in the left which has curled fingers 1, 3, and 4 - just what every violinist needs, right?

The condition totally ruined my golf game and I'm not going to win the Open Championship - not in this life.

Anyway, I look at it like this - which may or may not be of some use to you - I've got the pain but not all the time. When I 'play' (I'm taking liberties with the term) violin the pain increases into about 1 hour of practice but I figure I've got the pain anway whether I play or don't play so I may just as well do something that I've come to love.

Believe me me when I tell you that I get as much of a kick out of stringing together 4 or 5 good toneful notes as I did sinking birdie putts.

So it's all about perception and attitude to pain. And loving what you do. I wish you well and hope you get much pleasure despite your problems which you'l appreciate I have much in the way of empathy.

You never know but one day we may just play Carnegie Hall with special billing: 'Art & Ten.'

January 29, 2018, 4:57 PM · Lyrica/preglabin for the fibromyalgia?
January 29, 2018, 7:35 PM · Thank you all so much for your input, and perhaps there will still be more to come. Will brooks, I thank you for your observations. I'm trying to approach this with that same attitude. I can't say I've made a lot of progress yet, but I feel encouraged to push forward!

Arnie Cohen ... I've heard of Lyrica for fibromyalgia, but I'm not sure what it's intended purpose is. I have none of the pain associated with it due to my low oxalate diet and the chronic fatigue that often comes with fibro is a distant memory since I abandoned gluten.

Thank you Ken Ritchie for your commiserations. And once again, thank you ALL for your advice and encouragement.

Edited: January 29, 2018, 7:42 PM · Rose -- you're right ... Lyrica is for neurpoathic pain specifically, but there are TV ads for Lyrica targeted toward fibromyalgia sufferers. If you've solved those problems using homeopathic remedies, then I suggest writing a book about it and selling it in airports. You'll make a mint.
Edited: January 31, 2018, 4:13 AM · I am not going to talk much about Fibromyalgia(FM), because I only know 2 people with it and I have never taught anyone with FM, but I will talk about resilience and how to increase our resilience.

Resilience is essentially the key to a good life, our ability to bounce back in stressful events is a sign of a strong mind. The hippo-campus is the center of resilience, it is the part of the brain where some memories are encoded or encrypted, emotion is encoded here. If we have a strong hippo-campus we should be more resilient in adversity. People with low resilience, quite literally, have a smaller hippo-campus.
The hippo-campus creates 700 new neurons a day, this gives us hope: we can retrain, strengthen and make the hippo-campus larger and thus, become more resilient.
How do we do this: learning new things, creating a strong social environment, exercise and sports, humor, eating well and probiotics etc....
How does the Hippo-campus shrink: too much alone time, dwelling on the negative, passive aggressive attitude, poor focus and procrastination, having a "I'm too old" attitude, not addressing the negatives etc....

Even though strengthening resilience isn't the cure, it may help a lot. It is my guess, that resilience is the best prevention, but sadly, from what I've read about FM, good parenting is the best prevention....

Playing an instrument with a good teacher is a very good thing ...

Good luck..


Edited: January 31, 2018, 3:34 AM ·
February 4, 2018, 6:42 AM · Correct posture, correct posture, correct posture...

It’s essential for preventing/worsening injuries, e.g. tendonitis, and staying relaxed while playing. The suggestion to see a good teacher is excellent, maybe one versed in Alexander Technique.

Have you seen a rheumatologist? There are a plethora of things they can offer. Also, physical therapy - sometimes you can find it specifically for the performing arts.

Also, I find heat the more helpful than ice. It relaxes instead of tightens the muscles so much.

I would suggest restarting slowly, but I dive in - so that would be hypocritical of me. Once I start playing or practicing, it all falls away.

February 4, 2018, 11:29 AM · I just found this

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