Finger pain in young violinist
My son has been complaining of finger pain recently, I believe starting with violin but now also when he plays piano. The pain has shifted some - it was the pinkies, then wrist, then thumb. He's only 7 and he generally practices an average of 30-45 on each instrument daily. I don't know exactly what set this off but he's been playing a lot of Schradieck which can be taxing, and I've noticed some tension in his left hand. So it could be overuse with some bad habits. I've discussed with his teacher (who is fully remote) and I'm working with my son very carefully when practicing - watching his posture, his hand and arm movements, his thumb. We've also tried more breaks and some stretching during the breaks. We've had some sporadic improvement but in general I'm frustrated not being able to pinpoint anything. I wonder if he needs to take a practice break. I would appreciate any thoughts particularly if anyone has experienced something like this.
I would certainly insist on a practice break, but I would also recommend that you have him seen by his pediatrician, and if need be, have him evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon. If he's got some kind of overuse injury, he needs rest, possibly physical therapy, and careful correction of his technique to ensure this doesn't reoccur.
Have a luthier check his violin for proper set-up. A violin with even slightly too high action (the distance of the strings from the fingerboard) can cause hand injuries.
I agree with Lydia. It is concerning to think of a possible overuse injury in a child so young who is not practicing excessively.
He have to rest for some days.. than he must plays with minimun tension. Also use a good ointment
Definitely have your son checked by a pediatrician and an orthopedist. And I agree with George about making sure the violin is set up properly but there's very little to be done about the piano. I would suggest having your son checked by a physical therapist, especially one who specializes in musical injuries if one is available, or at least one who specializes in sports injuries.
Schradieck should not be fatiguing. If it is, there is a major technical issue that needs to be addressed.
Thanks for everyone's responses. I will look into everything!
The most important part of Schradieck is the first two pages. Stretches can be done later, especially for such a young child. Schradieck should teach us primarily to articulate without tension, and without that goal in mind, you can get into trouble. I don't know how long is being spent on it, but I wouldn't recommend more than 5 minutes per day at this point, and you may just want to cut it entirely until this pain subsides.
As a violin maker, I would agree with the set-up suggestion, but also, as a former Pediatric Nurse and a violin maker, is the instrument too big? Many teachers want larger instruments for better sound, often sooner than the children are ready physically.
Most teachers that I know, certainly including myself, prefer to keep children on smaller instruments as long as possible. I have had more than one conversation with a parent who was eager to advance their child to a larger size sooner than I thought was wise.
I don't think that it's advisable for small children to practice extensions unless they're advanced enough that their repertoire requires extensions.
Thanks everyone. To recent comments and questions:
A young child (or anyone for that matter) should not be injuring themselves when playing. Period.
Is the piano also full-size ? Piano can be even more stressful on the hand as violin. Some electric keyboards have narrow keys, but down-sized real pianos are uncommon.
Paul, thanks, I will.
"Schradieck should not be fatiguing" but at
I would also consider that he may have a non-playing-related medical issue as well. While unlikely, kids can get a variety of usually autoimmune conditions, as well as tissue, muscle, and joint conditions that could cause what you are seeing. I would want to rule those out before assuming it is from overuse or playing. Can you describe more what he means by finger pain?
Paul, I totally agree - I want to fix this now and time off may be a big part of that. Your other suggestions also sound great. I appreciate the recommendation and may well contact her too. Thanks!
It sounds like you have reached the limits of your expertise, and it's time to schedule a doctor visit.
Christian, yes that is the only thing that's clear at this point.
The great thing about the physical therapist is that she knew what kinds of questions to ask to pinpoint the specific muscles that were the issue.
Start with your pediatrician. They'll refer you for further testing and followup, if necessary -- Within the limits of what your health insurance will cover, anyway. (They may need to draw blood if they wonder if juvenile arthritis or other autoimmune is a possibility, for example.)
Please follow Lydia's advice ASAP. And just stop playing completely until you understand what is going on. Whatever it is, playing can only make it worse.
Lydia is correct; in most insurance plans you need a referral from the physician to get coverage for physical therapy anyway. That is what we did with our daughter. The first referral was to an "sports-medicine doctor" (an orthopedic surgeon) whose treatment regimen consisted of wearing a brace. Total waste of time. The man had no experience with musicians. Then Susanna recommended Brenda, and the problem is not solved yet but we've seen progress. Something that the pediatrician helped us appreciate is that "growing pains" are real. They have, in my cases, well-defined organic causes. That wasn't the thumb, though. That was the knee.
Is the action of the piano ok? If it is a heavy action, or otherwise not ok, then that is something I suggest may need to be factored into the problem.
As somebody who suffers both from RSI of the left wrist and also arthritis of some finger joints I can say that you should stop now for a week or two and see if the pain goes away. That will also help the doctor to determine what the problem might be. It could be nothing to do with the violin or piano but you will not know until you stop playing.
My money is on the violin being the culprit, but just out of curiosity has your son recently started playing pieces on the piano with octaves in the left hand?
Trevor, I think the action on the piano is ok but I could get a second opinion to make sure.
Gabriel I agree. A seven-year-old rarely does octaves but sometimes teachers like to push it and then you can have problems. The method books know better than to write octaves into the earliest books but sometimes a child will find other music to mess around with -- at this time of year it might be Christmas tunes, for example, and lots of "easy piano" arrangements do include left-hand octaves.