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Focal Hand Dystonia

2760 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Michael Ward
Some people who know me privately know I've been suffering with a hand problem from last year. I've been fighting it every day, all year and last week I had a diagnosis from a consultant at the London hand clinic. She confirmed my worst fear that I have focal hand dystonia. It's pretty rare in classical musician hand injury ( about 5%) and very rare in pop or jazz players ( me). It's only in my first finger and that's pretty mild I've been told but it's enough to make my right hand useless for playing. As I'm in my 40's now and been playing since I was 15 it's pretty hard. There are treatments but not a lot seems known about it although my consultant was very upbeat having she says treated classical players that have returned to their orchestras. Treatment which is tailored to the individual is also pretty expensive, a long way to travel and with obviously no promises.
I can play my saxes ( except straight sop), saxello and bass clarinet somewhat with no right thumb ( the pincer movement triggers it off) but it's very unsatisfying. Clarinet is impossible as is flute. My bass flute is not quite as bad but still very hard.
Fortunately financially I've always had another hat as a staff writer with a major music publisher who are very supportative but for years I've written so I can play with the bands and music I like usually for no money which didn't matter. I took it for granted that I'd always got my horns for solice.
After a short break to get my head together I'm going to have a serious go at treatment and beating it. I'm also going to get some tests to rule out nerve entrapment in my elbow which goes nuts sometimes.( I went to an Osteopathic healer who actually cleared it for a few days) I've never been a quitter but to date it's got me beat.
thanks for reading.
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Thankyou everyone for your kindness and support. I just got back from a recording and I played my baritone, tenor and saxello. I played without my right thumb except bari which wasn't as bad. It was so great to play again. My horns are very well set up and my set ups well established which makes life easier.Since it kicked off I've tried to be pro active and learned recorders and Irish whistles which I really love now. It's funny but having to change my hand position has made me think more about what I play. I seem to have more time to think.
I need to figure out a way to play my flutes and the only way is vertically with a floor peg like bass clt. Eva Kingma has already been very helpful and offered to convert my bass to a vertical model or make me a new one and when finances permit and presuming I don't improve I'll do it. cheers
I start treatment at the London hand clinic in October. I had an encouraging talk with a jazz pianist who has recovered fully from dystonia after intensive, none invasive treatment.
What a year! After starting therapy I'm still struggling along. Every day I play an hour or two of saxophone usually tenor and in the evening a few hours of gentle long tones and simple exercises on bassflute or bass recorder just trying to " find" my hand again. It's like climbing a mountain every day but I can feel improvement so as long as I do I continue.
The worst thing is although I found a site for musicians with hand dystonia there isn't one sax player or any woodwinds really. This condition is very hard but I really feel I can fully recover although I haven't stopped doing saxophone recording sessions ( no flutes or clarinets)
The best thing is I've had great support from family, musicians and our Union who have been brilliant...and I'm improving albeit very slowly! cheers
Thankyou to both of you.. I love playing and music too much to quit. I couldn't play a scale with my right hand two weeks ago but I can rattle a full chromatic scale as good as ever now.
I had to choose an exercise to play in my " Slow down" therapy and I chose an old fav..Bill Doggets " Honky Tonk" because of the chromatic movement in my right song!!
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