Broken left arm - I'm devastated!

February 14, 2019, 3:49 PM · Hello everyone, a little over a year ago I broke my upper left humerus and 2 months ago I had a second surgery to clean up scar tissue. Despite all the physical therapy, second surgery and a nerve test I still have limited range of motion and can not get my arm into the proper position to play. I am desperate to find something to help and am curious if anyone has ever heard of a medical device or some sort of sling that can be rigged to prop up a persons left arm to hold the violin correctly. Once my arm is up and in position I can still move my pinky finger which is very good news in all of this. Am looking far and wide for any suggestions. Thank You!

Replies (22)

February 14, 2019, 4:21 PM · How'd it break?
February 14, 2019, 4:28 PM · Oh my!!!! Hugs and Prayers!!!!
February 14, 2019, 4:51 PM · I’m sure everyone on the site considers your experience their worst nightmare. I’m very sorry to hear of your broken bone. You say that you have had physical therapy, but many such these are directed towards re-establishing basic functionality only, perhaps with little or no attention to something as specialized as playing violin. I recommend asking around, or even researching nationally, for physical therapy resources that are more specific to specified complex occupational tasks. In the book “Playing (less) Hurt”, by Janet Horvath, there is a list of clinics and selected medical practitioners in the appendix on page 213 that may be of interest. If you like, I can photocopy this list and send it to you direct. It may or may not be possible in your particular case, but additional opinions, with your goals specifically defined, may help you achieve what you are seeking.
Edited: February 14, 2019, 6:08 PM · I'd pay attention to Charles. He's a physician. I agree there is a world of difference between being able to sit at a computer and use a keyboard or lift a 28-oz can of tomatoes vs. playing the violin! Think about people who need to get golf swings or batting stances or tennis strokes back into shape after recovering from a fracture. They're doing more than routine PT.
February 14, 2019, 6:15 PM · That's a tough one. Aside from physiotherapy, perhaps play some baroque music in the old style of holding the instrument against the body rather than the shoulder so you don't have to raise your arm so high, just a thought.
February 14, 2019, 6:16 PM · I'm sorry to hear that. If it's any consolation you can probably play better than I can. Even with your broken arm.
February 14, 2019, 6:21 PM · See the site for a possible solution. The tutorial shows how it works. Hope this works for you...
February 14, 2019, 7:24 PM · In the list that Charles refers to, I wouldn't be surprised if some specialize in treating violinists and violists -- I don't know any names off the top of my head, but I remember seeing one in Northern California advertising exactly that.
February 14, 2019, 8:37 PM · Along the lines of using straps, maybe try a setup used for cello da spalla:

Or maybe take up the da spalla? :)

Edited: February 14, 2019, 9:28 PM · Soraya, I second Charles' opinion as far as taking 2nd and 3rd opinion about your recovery process / progress. If, and I truly hope that is not the case, the verdict is negative, consider learning a new instrument where left hand is positioned within your range. Guitar, cello or viola da gamba could be good candidates. They are not comparable to violin, but if one is a true musician, an instrument is just a medium, not the destination. Good luck and please keep us posted!
February 14, 2019, 10:57 PM · So sorry to hear. Sending best wishes on a full recovery!
February 14, 2019, 11:13 PM · Oh man that sucks. In your position I would probably follow Charles' advice.
February 14, 2019, 11:15 PM · I feel for you. I hope you find a good solution. I can't offer much help in that department, and it may be a last resort, but have you thought about playing cello?
Edited: February 14, 2019, 11:19 PM · I broke my IV and V metacarpal bones in my right hand about ten years ago. (No, I didn't punch anyone.) It was a long recovery. A year after the injury I was still getting up an hour early every day so I could run hot water on my hand and flex it to regain my range of motion. And four or five years after the injury I had resigned myself to accepting a somewhat limited range of motion. But now, ten years later, I'd say that I have essentially all of my original mobility in my ring finger, and 95% in my pinky. I'm just telling this story as encouragement. It should get better with time and patience. One year is not so long as these things go.
February 15, 2019, 6:49 AM · Maybe this discussion could lead to something....

I wish you well with your recovery....

Edited: February 15, 2019, 1:51 PM · I have not had a broken arm, but last year I had a ruptured disc in my spine - with the resulting pain, stiffness, and scar tissue issues. Maybe my experience will help you. I spent 4 - 5 months in daily physical therapy to get rid of pain via a focus on regaining flexibility in the scar tissue area. I spent another 4 months regaining strength, and re-started more active violin practice. I am now working on more endurance.

Possibly, a physical therapist with knowledge of sports / musical muscle movement can design a sequence of daily exercises to regain flexibility in your shoulder. As Charles Zacks said above, you need a person with more advanced knowledge than the typical therapist. You might ask potential therapists how they worked with tennis players and baseball pitchers with shoulder injuries. You also need to devote yourself to daily exercise, and expect that final results will be months in the future. Muscle trauma and scar tissue require a long time and much effort to adjust back to original functionality.

February 15, 2019, 1:35 PM · There are specialists, really good ones, in performing arts medicine. Here is a page that lists a lot of resources, including, in the middle of the page, Performing Arts Medicine Clinics. I don't know where you are located, most of these are in the U.S. But perhaps that can help you get started.
February 15, 2019, 1:36 PM · Also, while you are healing, it might be soothing to take the opportunity to do a lot of listening to artist recordings, or maybe live performances.
February 25, 2019, 7:19 PM · I'd consult a specialist to ensure you don't do more harm. But what I did (I have an issue with my arm that requires surgery every 1-2 years) is I play sitting down next to a high adjustable table that I can rest my elbow on and holds my arm up. Best wishes with your recovery!!!!!
March 2, 2019, 5:05 PM · Thank you all so much! Since discovering this website and the various threads I've read, I took my violin with me to PT and we have discovered it seems to be muscle weakness in the ability to supinate my left hand (and violinists need to supinate a little farther than norm as well!). So the therapist seems to believe I may be able to regain this slowly over time by simply strengthening those muscles (for example holding a 1-4 lb weight and slowly twisting/rotating my wrist back and forth, as if mixing a jar of sauce or something like that).
But this web site and all your words of encouragement mean have been SO wonderful, thank you all!!!
Edited: March 4, 2019, 11:47 AM · Soraya:

You couldn't receive more sympathy and understanding, nor more support and expert advice (medical, musical, and personal) than the above responses. Allow me to add mine.

I currently have virtually no use of my right hand (in a cast, hand surgery due to the ravages of arthritis), so I (like many of the above) have a personal connection with your challenges.

So, please consider the following brief suggestions:

- Never, ever, ever, ever give up. Never.

- I got an article published in 1975 in The Instrumentalist, written primarily for amateurs like me. Whatever you decided to do, whatever exercises or Physical Therapy routines, start with a minimum daily routine of 3 minutes (maybe even less). With your (hopefully temporary) disability, don't push it. It's better to do less but do it on a daily basis. So make your daily "chore" ridiculously short. Doing something every day with full concentration is what counts.

- As a psychologist, I can tell you that it's human nature to constantly be giving yourself negative self-talk. Especially when you're feeling down, it's important to tell yourself - over and over again - something short, simple, and positive. (e.g., "I'm going to overcome this challenge.").

- And, yes, eliminate the word "problem" from your vocabulary. You have challenges, not problems.

- Here is my favorite music quote, by Tchaikovsky: "Music is not illusion. It is, rather, revelation. It's triumphant power is that it reveals to us beauties we find nowhere else. And the apprehension of them is not transitory, but a perpetual reconcilement of life." Music serves a larger purpose in life than just pretty sounds.

- And one more of my favorite quotes, by Dr. Milton Erickson: "Life, all by itself, will bring you pain. Your responsibility is to create joy." That's what you do by being involved in making music.

Be well.

March 4, 2019, 3:48 PM · Soraya,

Due to a tandem bicycle accident Team Wells discovered that there are all kinds of physical therapists. If you haven't used a "Hand Therapist" you should consider it for both arms. General therapists concentrate on gross motor functions and typical daily life. Hand therapists concentrate on fine motor functions and very specific issues about your recovery. Did you therapist ever ask you to bring your violin? If not, find another therapist.

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