The Ominous Tendon Pain

Edited: September 24, 2018, 6:00 PM · For the first twenty minutes after picking up my violin, my fingers move as if through molasses. Normal. But, when I played Kreutzer 9 before my scales the other day, I had quite intense pain in my wrist and palm around the tendons, in addition to general stiffness.
I find this happens every day.

I have a very loose grip with no tension in any of my joints—I made sure of it when I felt the pain. The problem also disappears when I'm all warmed up and my hand feels fine for the rest of the day.

A mystery!

Replies (11)

September 24, 2018, 7:26 PM · Do you stretch properly - for 5 minutes - before playing? There are some good stretches available online.

Stop and take a break when this happens, shake out your hands, etc.

I know someone who ignored this pain and gave a performance; they almost lost all feeling in their hand & their career would've been over.

September 24, 2018, 7:39 PM · Hmmm...

Trying some of the stretches I found with a quick search, I don't feel any burn in the area where I get pain. I'm a bit skeptical. I suppose I'll try them out when I practise tomorrow to put them to the test.

September 24, 2018, 7:59 PM · It's not really a burn but a stretching feeling.

I also think some slow warmups would help - most teachers say scales should come before Kreutzer.

September 24, 2018, 9:02 PM · 40 years ago I had a 30 minute violin warmup routine after work that included scales, some Dont exercises, a couple of Paganini caprices and some other things that I can't recall (maybe some Bach). I experienced pain in the middle of the routine but by the end of the 30 minutes the pain was gone I was ready to resume practice (of whatever I was working on) where I had left off the previous evening. That was my routine for 5 years and it never caused me lasting pain.
September 25, 2018, 9:49 AM · Pain is the way your body tells your brain; "Don't do that". It could be a ergonomic-posture-form problem. A lot of private teachers are not good at diagnosing and fixing those issues. I know I am not.
Kreutzer #9: The majority of the editions tell you to hold down the lower finger. I do the opposite, lift the finger not currently in use. Any muscle,small or large, when tensed continuously, quickly runs out of oxygen and fuel, the blood flow cannot keep up with the demand, gets fatigued, then weak and slow, then painful, and finally, maybe damaged. That's why the "isometric" exercises have gone out of fashion. Put Kreutzer #9 back on the shelf until you recover.
September 25, 2018, 11:25 PM · I think half the problem here is OP is going straight into Kreutzer without any sort of warmup exercises or scales. Personally I don't even think about studies until 45 mins into practice.
September 26, 2018, 6:22 AM · I'm using this Kreutzer as a warmup.
Maybe it's too intense.
September 26, 2018, 8:08 AM · Joel note that the Kreutzer more or less regularly alternates between fragments where the 1st finger is the lowest, and fragments where the 2nd finger is the lowest. So in a sense you never keep one finger the entire etude. But regardless of that, what you write is very interesting and something I was not aware of (although it sounds logical in retrospect).
September 26, 2018, 10:24 AM ·

I see Kreutzer 9 as a four finger dexterity, strengthening exercise. Our fourth finger is generally the weakest in everything so it needs the extra practice.
The questions are; how long should an exercise be? and how long should you work on it? IMO, short reps and more sets throughout the day. The exercise should only be 8-16 bars long and only focus on what you are strengthening. Repeat the 8 bar exercise only 3-6 times(reps), 2 or 3 times(sets) a day. This trains the mind to anticipate movement but also trains the mind to anticipate blood flow to the area(that's my guess). Once you notice an improvement you can shorten the time interval between sets to about 20 min.

September 26, 2018, 12:34 PM · The statement "For the first twenty minutes after picking up my violin, my fingers move as if through molasses." does not match up well with the statement "I have a very loose grip with no tension in any of my joints". When you sit to watch TV or have lunch, do your fingers "move as if through molasses" as you move your hands? If so it's not normal, and a trip to a doctor may identify the cause. If "molasses fingers" does not occur in other situations, you have a tension problem starting as you pick up your violin.

Playing the violin should not be painful at any time or any place in the body. Your body is asking for some change in the practice routine.

Edited: September 26, 2018, 11:35 PM · Great suggestions above. This sounds to me like you may be twisting up your wrist while you're playing Kreutzer 9. I myself have had times when my wrist tendons hurt a bit and it's because my wrist is a bit twisted, I'm overstretching my fingers, I'm squeezing my thumb, or any combination of these things. The pain is gone once I fix it. Although your grip could be relatively loose, your wrist could be extremely bent or twisted sideways (referred to as radial and/or ulnar deviation), and none of these poses are acceptable. Try playing Kreutzer 9 slowly and pay attention to the feeling in your left wrist. If you feel any twisting, tension or discomfort, consider repositioning your hand so you can reach with more ease.

I took a quick listen to this etude and it sounds to me like there's great potential for thumb squeezing, overstretching and wrist twisting. When playing fast passages with heavy involvement of the 4th finger, try to keep your 4th finger as close to the string as possible. This may involve repositioning of the hand, in particular, bringing the edge of the palm higher above the fingerboard and moving the wrist a little closer to the neck. Avoiding thumb tension will help you to play more evenly. For the extensions, try opening your hand more. Don't stretch too much.
Instead, reposition the hand, namely the thumb and wrist, so you can reach further without actually straining/overstretching your hand.


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