I haven’t been playing the violin or blogging for quite some time now. This is because I’ve been struggling with wrist tendonitis on my left hand for about 3 months now. It makes me very sad, but I’m obligated to take a break. If I don’t rest I won’t heal.
Before I got my tendonitis I was practicing a lot, especially focusing on shifting and intonation. To improve, I was repeating the same hand/wrist movements a lot and this caused a lot of tension and pain. But since I like playing the violin so much, I didn’t care and I just kept playing my violin… I didn’t feel the pain so much while I was playing but the moment I put down my instrument I used to have a burning pain in my left wrist. I kept going like that for several weeks until I finally understood it wasn’t going to get better by just playing through it. In the end I couldn’t even do simple daily activities without pain. It was just hurting all the time. I did a lot of damage to my tendons and so it’s taking a lot of time to heal.
Recovering from violin related wrist tendonitis
At first I was using a topical NSAID gel to rub on my wrist. It did help with the pain, but after about 3 weeks I started to feel very dizzy as a side-effect. So I stopped with the gel and I noticed that my wrist hadn’t improved at all. The pain was back. So it was no real solution for me. Because of feeling less pain, I kept using my wrist too much instead of giving it time to heal. So I’ve been reading a lot about other treatments. I’ve tried lots of things and here’s what I found to be most useful. I am not saying this is the best treatment, I’m just sharing what felt good for me and helped me recover. I hope some of the ideas might help other violinists who are suffering from wrist tendonitis as well.
Release tight muscles
I learned the real problem is probably not with the tendon itself but with tight muscles in the belly of the forearm. When those muscles are tight, they constantly put stress on the tendons. So by relaxing those muscles, the tendons can relax and heal too.
Gary Crowley, a chronic joint pain specialist, talks about how to do that in this video.
The first time I did this, it felt very weird and I didn’t know so well how to do it. But now I do this daily and it feels great. I think releasing the tension from my muscles is what helping me most to get better. More info on this method can be found on his website.
This is also something that feels very good to get rid of wrist tendonitis pain. Because of the cold, the inflammation disappears. Joshua Tucker, a tendonitis expert, explains how to do this ice dipping. Basically you need a bucket of as cold as possible water. Dip your wrist and forearm in the ice cold water for 5 to 10 seconds. After 10 to 15 minutes do this again. Repeat over and over for the duration of 2 hours. This feels amazing. It’s as if your blood starts to stream a whole lot faster. It’s a very relieving sensation!
An inflammation causes your body to use up more vitamins to heal. It’s especially useful to take a supplement of Vitamin B6. Some other recommendation are magnesium, potassium, bromelain and lots more. I don’t think it’s a good idea to start taking a whole lot of supplements, but I do understand that eating healthy is very important, so that our bodies get enough fuel to get better.
I’m applying aloe vera gel twice a day on my wrist. It helps with the pain and it also has an anti-inflammatory effect and stimulates repair. It seems to be a natural remedy with nothing but advantages. I have aloe vera in my garden so that makes it even easier. I can use fresh leaves.
At first I used a wrist brace at night and during the day, to let my wrist rest and recover. But now I only use it to sleep. If used during the day it helps to keep going longer without feeling the pain. So I would then be worsening my symptoms. But during the night it helps to wear a brace because it makes sure that I don’t sleep in a position where my wrist is under a lot of tension.
Doctor Jaspal Ricky Singh posted some great rehabiliation exercises for wrist tendonitis on his website. Compared to some other stretches and exercises I found, I like these better because he explains to do them slowly and gently. This feels healthier for me than some other exercises I did. I feel that my arm and wrist are gradually getting stronger and healthier.
Other experiences with violin tendonitis
Sadly, many violinists suffer from wrist tendonitis. Here you can read some of their stories:
Lessons for the future
I feel much better now, but I’m still going to give my body some more time to get stronger before I start playing the violin again. I’m just too afraid to start again and feel the pain get worse. So when I feel ready to start again, I will have to take it slowly and I will have to gradually increase my practice time. I’ll also have to listen more to my body. And I will experiment to find a good warming-up schedule before my violin practice. That will help prevent future injuries.