Episode 10: The Title

Credit: Leslie Laurien, MSMI

The rush — both physical and emotional —  of finishing the skirt slightly blew out my brain and left me tingling with excitement and anxiousness and something else. Something located more in my wrists.

The title of this blog is actually relevant. My chiropractor told me I had carpal tunnel syndrome when I was in high school, and that I had gotten it by playing the violin too much. In college a teacher told me that I wasn’t playing too much, I was just playing wrong — my wrists stuck out at awkward, forced angles and remained stiffly glued for hours each day. If I would just play right, my body wouldn’t be doing anything unnatural and I would avoid injury, he said.

But when I looked around in music school, I saw the walking wounded all around me. Every student had carpal tunnel. The rare few with tendinitis were regarded with awe — if you get carpal tunnel from practicing too much, you must get tendinitis by being completely devoted to your craft.*

My chiropractor was not very specific or informational in his diagnosis. This is probably related to the Wikipedia entry for carpal tunnel‘s statement that “the pathophysiology is not completely understood.” He showed me a couple of stretches and told me to take it easy.

For the most part, I followed his advice by practicing less and then finally not at all. I laid down my fiddle and my neck hickey faded, but the pain stayed. It turns out that carpal tunnel stays with you forever and is mostly triggered by stuff that I enjoy doing. Video games. Typing (whatever, I’m a nerd). Knitting.

Even now, more than a day after I bound off the last stitch of the skirt, my wrists still ring with residual agony.  The pain will be there until I decide to take up a less physically demanding hobby, like ice hockey. For now, though, it’s worth it.

*Musicians are really sick people. A member of my youth orchestra once told me how he had developed a huge and incredibly painful ulcer on his neck at a competition which then burst all over his instrument at a climactic moment. He was incredibly proud of having played through this horrifying incident, and I can only assume the judges handed him the win so that he wouldn’t come over and squirt neck goop all over them.

This wound up being a pretty depressing post about pain and stuff, so here are some pictures of puppies:

Babushka!

Best behavior.

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