Finger Cramping – Guitar – Bass – Banjo – Ukulele – Violin – Cello

November 29, 2022

Finger Cramps in String Instrument Players

Guitar Player Finger Cramps Finger cramps will put a stop to your playing, and can be really painful. They are common in players who play hard, play long, and are predisposed to cramping. If you are reading this, you’ve likely already read a bunch, tried a bunch, and nothing has worked. It’s time to look at “PERPS”. What is a PERP? A perp in the world of music injuries is not a perpetrator, but rather a perpetuator. What I’m about to tell you is missed by many doctors. Sometimes the cause of your problem is less important than what keeps the problem going, and they are not the same thing. Your body wants to heal, it is designed to heal itself. When it is not capable of healing itself or avoiding recurring pain, or in this case finger cramps, we have to ask ourselves a question. Why is it that not all guitarists get finger cramps, and what in my life, could be leading to this recurring problem for which resolution seems impossible. Common perpetuating factors are things like: Day Jobs Sleep positions Previous accidents or injuries Power tool use Video games Gardening Working out Motorcycles and bikes Sports...

Read More

Hank Williams – A Story of a  musician, Chronic Pain, Doctors, and Addiction

November 17, 2022

Hank Williams back pain, doctors, addiction, death.

Hank Williams – A Story of a  musician, Chronic Pain, Doctors, and Addiction Hank Williams is often considered to be one of the most influential singers, songwriters, and musicians of the 20th century. His life was cut short at the age of 29, on January 1, 1953. If by some miracle, he were still alive today, he would be 99 years old. Hank Williams suffered from debilitating back pain for a good part of his life. It is reported that in 1941 he suffered a back injury after falling from a bull during a rodeo. Prior to the injury in Texas, beginning in the late 1930’s, Williams had already started drinking. Some sources say he started drinking heavily at age 13. It has also been reported that his substance abuse worsened dramatically in the presence of low back pain. In late 1951, Hank Williams fell while hunting, and his back pain returned with a vengeance. It was bad enough that painkillers like morphine and alcohol became his medicine to ease the pain. On December 13, 1951, a little over 1 year before his death, he had spinal fusion surgery at Vanderbilt University Hospital. He was only 28 years old...

Read More

Touring Musician Stress, Injury, and Illness.

November 15, 2022

Dr. Lou with Sarah Shook

“We don’t get paid for playing, we get paid for riding” The job of a touring musician is not just playing gigs. For those who don’t live the lifestyle of a moderately successful touring musician, it is hard to grasp what goes in to a “day at the office.” The physical and mental wear and tear of being on the road is real. In over 20 years of working with musicians who travel by plane, tour bus, sprinter van, even rusty Subaru with trailer, it’s work for all of them. One “A-List” musician patient of mine once told me something to the effect of “of course I’m blessed beyond belief, but I’m still not at home tonight.” Success of all types requires sacrifice. The hour or two on stage is often preceded by the sound check, and the unloading of gear, the drive to the venue, the sleep on the bus the night before, eating out for every meal, and the list of stressors goes on and on. When working with a touring musician it is critical to recognize the connection between mental, physical, and chemical stress. All types of stressors break people down slowly, and while on the...

Read More

Is There A Special Doctor For Musicians?

October 19, 2022

Dr. Lou with The Eagles of Death Metal

Is There A Special Doctor For Musicians? What separates the health issues of musicians from those of “ordinary” people? Diet? No. Exercise? No. Genetics? No. As a musician, does your doctor know the difference between carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in secretary in a legal office, and CTS in the wrists and hands in a flautist? Do they understand what needs to change, and how? What about the difference between neck pain in a guitarist vs neck pain in a cellist? Does numbness in the face of a tuba player differ from that of a harmonica player, and how? What separates specific health issues of musicians from ordinary people are the hours of focused practice and repetition, of the mind and body. Diabetes is a lifestyle related disease that knows no boundaries. Cancer affects everyone. High blood pressure – mostly a lifestyle issue that affects everyone. Musicians have specific repetitive stress issues that often affect the nerves, muscles, joints and other moving parts of the body. PRMD’s or practice related musculoskeletal disorders are real, and may impact the musician in the short as well as long term. PRMD’s have ended tours, ended careers, or led to invasive surgeries, some of...

Read More

Self Care Tools For Musicians On A Tour Bus – Dr. Lou Jacobs

September 21, 2022

Best body work tools to take on the road. I work with a lot of musicians, their crew, and management. When you are on a tour bus for weeks on end, it can be really rough on your body. While recently working with Gary Clark Jr., it came to my attention that I should have recommendations for tools that you might use on a tour bus to help ease the aches and pains of performing and being on the road. Heating Pad Theracane Percussion Massager Formula 303 *Ball in a sock *Exercise and stretching videos with Dr. Lou Heating pads are comforting, they promote blood flow and often reduce the tension and soreness of achy muscles. They are cheap, easy to use, and very helpful when you just feel sore and tight. Your tour bus should have ample outlets to plug one in. The Theracane is a plastic cane-like tool that is used to work on knots in muscle by oneself. They are designed so that the user can put pressure on any part of the body, to loosen it up. No need for tour bus electricity for this tool, it’s old school. A percussion massager does similar work...

Read More

Michael Jackson. Prince. Tom Petty. Back Pain and Opioids.

August 24, 2022

Michael Jackson, Prince, and Tom Petty walk into a bar…. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Prince was found dead on April 21, 2016. Tom Petty died on October 2, 2017. Though all very different personalities, they had one common note. Their causes of death were related to dependency on pain medication, ultimately for back pain. Although Michael Jackson’s problems are reported to have started after he was severely burned while filming the infamous Pepsi commercial, his pain later in life was related to low back pain caused by a fall on stage. Or off the stage as it were. At his time of death, his house was filled with painkillers like oxycontin, demerol and diprivan. According to testimony given by friends and former doctors, Michael Jackson was severely addicted to pain killers and other forms of anesthesia. What is not well, or publicly documented is what he tried for his back that didn’t involve medications. Perhaps it was too late, and he was so addicted to the pain meds from his 3rd degree burns, that natural methods for back pain were out of the question for him. It’s sad to think he may have had other options....

Read More

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The Guitar Player and Bass Player.

March 26, 2022

Dr. Lou with Motionless in White - Spring 2022 - Cross Insurance Arena - Portland, Maine - Trinity Of Terror Tour

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome And The Guitarist Prevention. Management. Healing. In this brief post, you will learn about the anatomy of the carpal tunnel, what carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) does to the guitarist, and how to prevent, manage and treat CTS yourself. The carpal tunnel is a band of ligamentous tissue that traverses the wrist. Think of it as a stretchable bridge over a stream. Underneath the carpal tunnel ligament, also known as the “Flexor Retinaculum” or “carpal ligament”, is where your forearm and finger tendons live. It is also where the nerves and blood vessels run along side one another to nourish and control your hands. All of these structures are packed pretty tightly through the wrist, under the flexor retinaculum. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when inflammation due to repetitive stress, or scar tissue and adhesion due to repetitive stress accumulates under the flexor retinaculum. This is one of the more common playing related musculoskeletal disorders or PRMD’s in guitarists and bassists. Beyond pain, numbness, tingling and even weakness may occur in the hands and fingers. Loss of dexterity, and even muscle loss may occur in severe cases. The surgical treatment of this involves cutting the flexor retinaculum and...

Read More

Shoulder pain in guitarists. Bass Player shoulder pain.

March 15, 2022

Dark Star Orchestra 2022

Why do so many guitarists have shoulder issues? It’s really quite simple. One arm is up to work the neck and frets of the guitar, the other arm is down to strum.The strap of the guitar pulls down on the shoulder of the hand on the neck of the guitar, applying pressure to the trapezius and elevator scapula muscles, among others. Looking down at music, or the guitar itself puts additional strain on the neck and upper trapezius muscles. This strain makes the head feel heavier, but it’s the muscles of the upper traps, upper back, shoulder and neck muscles that do most of the work to provide your neck with the angle to look down. This combination, in conjunction with stress of life, is plenty to cause chronic neck and shoulder pain and fatigue. I am often asked, when is it too late? When has the problem become “unfixable?” Fortunately, until the spine or shoulder joint itself is involved in the way of degeneration (arthritis), disc disease, or reversal of the curve of the neck, most discomfort is muscular in origin. These muscles run down into the shoulders and will make everything hurt, but the bark is often bigger than...

Read More

Steve Vai Had Trigger Finger Surgery!

March 3, 2021

Trigger finger pain and immobility could end a musician's career. Call Dr. Lou at (207) 774-6251

Guitar player magazine reported that the great Steve Vai is recovering from surgery following a “trigger finger” diagnosis, which was the result of the sustained holding of a chord. What is trigger finger, how does it affect musicians, and what can you do to prevent and resolve it? What Is Trigger Finger? Simply put, trigger finger is when a finger gets stuck in the bent position. Much like a tendonitis, the soft tissue becomes inflamed and extremely contracted. Sometimes the finger releases and snaps, like a trigger. The medical term for this condition is “stenosing tenosynovitis,” which basically means that there is a shrinking of the sheath of tissue around a tendon of the finger that causes it to become restricted and contracted with inflammation. Slow fingers? Poor Muscle Memory? Musician Finger Speed Solved. The cause of trigger finger is often repetitive stress. In musicians, “Playing Related Musculoskeletal Disorders” are called PRMD’s. Prevention of PRMD’s includes proper warming up, stretching, strengthening, post play cool down, taking breaks and evaluating daily activities that could make one more vulnerable to PRMD’s. Things like computer work, cooking, driving, sleep position, history of injuries and activities may all contribute to vulnerability and perpetuation...

Read More

Saxophone Injuries – Musician Injury Specialist

February 18, 2021

Saxaphone injuries are more common than you might think. Call Dr. Lou. Over 18 years specializing in the drug free care of musician injuries. (207) 774-6251

Sax Breaks Backs.  And other parts… Saxaphone players are prone to injuries that may impair their performance, but may also disrupt their life outside of music. Finger, wrist, neck and back injuries are common. Back pain, neck pain and headaches are leading causes of missed work worldwide. Your concerns are legitimate and demand proper attention in order to reduce your risk of future disability or inability to play. An 2019 article published The journal “Medical Problems of Performing Artists” discussed the most common injuries among saxophone players.  PRMD’s (playing related musculoskeletal disorders) are remarkably common in saxaphone players. Small injuries may lead to bigger injuries, even disabling pain that derails careers. Professional and college level saxophonists were polled and 76.15% had had some form of PRMD in the past. 50% had a PRMD in the past year. 21.1% had a PRMD in the past week! The most common areas of pain and injury were the wrists, neck, mouth and jaw. “The most common self-reported postural habits were forward head position and rounded upper back. Postures that correlated with higher pain ratings were rounded upper back and backward pelvic tilt. The rounded upper back, backward pelvic tilt, and excessive curve...

Read More