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Violinists And Arthritis


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#1 Roseau

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 20:50

Since September I have been playing chamber music once a week with a couple of people including an elderly violinist. I haven't asked her how old she is but from what she's said about her life, she must be around 80. She phoned me a couple of weeks before Christmas to say that she wouldn't be able to come that week because she had a painful left thumb and the doctor had advised her to rest it for a week or so. Then Christmas took over our lives and we hadn't met since.

I phoned her this morning to find out how she was and she was very upset. The doctor has told her it is arthritis at the base of her left thumb, has given her a splint to wear at night and told her to stop playing the violin. He basically said that she was in good health (given her age) and that she should be thankful for that and not make a fuss about what is only a hobby.

What he doesn't realise is how important the violin is to her. She has played on and off throughout her life. She was first taught to play by a nun in her convent school when her grandfather was deported during the war and the nun thought playing an instrument might take her mind off it. Her husband and daughter both died about ten years ago and she started having violin lessons, again to "take her mind of things". She still has a weekly violin lesson, plays in an orchestra once a week and plays in the small chamber music group. Her social life revolves around the violin and when I first met her she said it was the violin which gave her the motivation to get up in the morning.

We live in a small town so I suggested that she try and find a specialist who is used to (or at least interested in musicians) but does anyone know if she is likely to be able to play again.
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#2 jojo

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 21:27

kerioboe, what a SAD story sad.gif

I don't know the answer for this lovely lady right now.

what I do want to say though is DEFINITELY DEFINITELY this woman HAS TO get a second opinion from somewhere, this doctor whether right or wrong with the advice/diagnosis/therapy is (excuse my next word) AN IDIOT!!! to be SO TACTLESS there is no excuse, the man is just pure horrible and I would not take any more advice from this person.

sorry but to say 'be grateful to be in good health and stop making a fuss about what is ONLY a hobby', right now I have to stop myself from throwing my laptop through the window mad.gif

if I find any useful information for this woman I will post here, in the meantime my deepest sympathies through this worrying time for her, I really feel for her.
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#3 jojo

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 21:41

kerioboe, start by reading this thread on violinist.com
http://www.violinist...nse.cfm?ID=3901

you could also join and post there, as it is a web forum aimed at violinists only there is a huge number of world wide people subscribed to it, including famous teachers/professionals from musical and medical background etc, you could subscribe and also post there a 'plea for help' on behalf of your friend if you wanted, but maybe even searching their archives might be of help?

from reading on there it transpires THERE IS people with arthritis who continue to play the violin and viola!
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#4 jessy

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 21:45

I really do feel for this lady - playing the violin is obviously something which is terribly important to her. I know there are specialists 'out there' who deal with injuries/problems of this sort for musicians and performers- there might be one in your area & a quick internet search might find something.

She should never give up hope. If it's any consolation to her, I play in various chamber groups/orchestras & I know of at least 5 old ladies who are quite arthritic yet continue to play (& to a fairly high standard). Usually the best thing seems to be to do what you feel you can, not overdoing the playing, and just being fairly sensible.
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#5 jcassell

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 23:12

The poor lady needs a second opinion, and perhaps it may be best to see an osteopath or Alexander teacher as well as a medic. If this is rheumatoid or another inflammatory arthritis, there are good treatments available that can reduce damage to the joint, and keep it working. If it's osteoarthritis, it may be better to try and adapt positioning, and perhaps take some paracetamol.
I would also see advice from http://www.bapam.org.uk/ who may have doctors interested in both the mechanics and the psychology of musical performance nearby.

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#6 Flossie

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 23:26

QUOTE(jcassell @ Jan 5 2011, 11:12 PM) View Post

I would also see advice from http://www.bapam.org.uk/ who may have doctors interested in both the mechanics and the psychology of musical performance nearby.

Do you know if there's an equivalent in France? smile.gif Kerioboe didn't actually say which country she's in (although most of us know as she's a very regular poster on here). ph34r.gif
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#7 miffy

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 23:49

I can't see how giving up the violin will help - especially at 80, if anything I'd say play while she still can. When I have my bad arthritis flares, I try to stay in splints as much as I can for normal stuff and stresses of the day, it takes the pressure off even simple things like taps and door knobs, then my hands are in as good nick as possible for when I take them off to play the violin.
As I said on another thread recently, knitting has helped my thumb joints hugely biggrin.gif
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#8 Guest: Celeste_*

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 23:59

Hmm... how sad. sad.gif

I don't have arthritis, but something different... Back in September, my physiotherapist told me that the only way I could stop being in unbearable pain was to stop playing the violin, something that I haven't to date posted on here because it upsets me so much.

I don't really know what to say... I hope there's a way she can keep playing. I'm trying to, but I know I'm making it worse and that one day I won't be able to play any more. I'm already down to about 20 minutes at a time, when I used to play for hours.

sad.gif
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#9 jojo

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 00:03

QUOTE(Celeste @ Jan 5 2011, 11:59 PM) View Post

Hmm... how sad. sad.gif

I don't have arthritis, but something different... Back in September, my physiotherapist told me that the only way I could stop being in unbearable pain was to stop playing the violin, something that I haven't to date posted on here because it upsets me so much.

sad.gif

I am so so sorry sad.gif grouphug.gif
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#10 aesir22

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 07:47

My teacher has severe artritis in most of his joints, he has for about 10 years and he is only 38. He takes a lot of medication. But he leads his orchestra, does concerts all year and teacher pupils. Arthritis hasn't stopped him, even when he was told to stop playing 10 years ago.
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#11 jojo

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:09

QUOTE(aesir22 @ Jan 6 2011, 07:47 AM) View Post

My teacher has severe artritis in most of his joints, he has for about 10 years and he is only 38. He takes a lot of medication. But he leads his orchestra, does concerts all year and teacher pupils. Arthritis hasn't stopped him, even when he was told to stop playing 10 years ago.

Aesir, that's fantastic, maybe you could ask him for some 'tips' to pass onto Kerioboe's friend?
there you are Kerioboe, already a lot of hope on this thread for your friend, hope you can ring her soon and tell her to ring that doctor and tell him what to do with his advice of 'stop making a fuss of what is 'just a hobby'' muahaha.gif

hoops, naughty me blush.gif
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#12 lottie

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:30

This is something that bothers me a bit for a few reasons the first being that my 80 year old father has stopped playing because of arthritis in his thumb sad.gif Fair enough he didn't play much anyway and admits he could still play if he wanted to but he finds it uncomfortable (he doesn't use pain medication). He says his playing time would be shorter and his 'ability' restricted but he could still play reduced parts.

I'm also worried about causing or aggravating arthritis in my own neck because I have an orthopaedic injury there already but I am about to take advice from someone who treats injuries like this and will be taking my viola to the consultation (along with an x-ray). Luckily I don't yet have arthritis and it's not a big problem in the family.

The other thought is that I have an elderly dog with severe arthritis. Now before you throw your hands up because she's a DOG let me tell you about her treatment. At the moment she's on a high dose of painkillers and that certainly helps her movement. We've also treated her with Glucosamine+Condroitin supplements, Devils Claw, Green-Lipped Muscle, Fish-oils and there are several other products I'm going to try. I also use massage and keep her warm which seems to help ease the discomfort. (She can't walk very far but she's still a happy soul.) If I had done nothing she probably wouldn't be with us now.

I'm sure the same kind of product must be available for humans? Most importantly, the vet told us to keep her moving and put gentle aerobic stress on her joints to keep her mobile without damaging stress of course - the general thoughts on arthritis do recommend movement so maybe the violin playing would be helpful (with painkillers taken specifically at playing times). As miffy says her knitting has helped her thumbs.

It might be time for this wonderful sounding lady to start taking a slightly less playing part in her groups, perhaps more administration and organisation, so that if the time comes when she can't play she can still stay involved because social contact like this is vital for the elderly.

Aging and it's infirmities frighten me: I can't imagine not being able to play or paint. sad.gif I specifically took up a new instrument to try to stop my brain marshmallowing as I reached middle-age and am never planning to 'retire' from my activities until I croak. I watched my Father-in-Law sit down and do nothing (at all!) from the day he retired and he didn't last long.

Good luck for finding if not a cure, then at least some comfort for your friend. smile.gif
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#13 jojo

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 10:09

That was a very nice and helpful post Lottie smile.gif
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#14 BadStrad

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:59

One of the things that inspired me to start learning the violin - after years of saying I wanted to learn an instrument and doing little about it - was reading an article. It was asking women of ~100 years of age, what they wished they'd known at 60 that they know now? Well one women said she wished she taken up playing the violin, but she'd been told "oh you're too old, you've got arthritis and so on." She said that she regretted not having the forty years pleasure of playing, and that the exercise her fingers and arms would have got from playing could have helped her to maintain joint mobility.

Arthritis Care http://www.arthritis.../Keepingactive/ advocate exercise (though in part for weight loss) to help manage the symptoms. So I would suggest that your friend follow their advice and consult a physiotherapist to get a second opinion.

I wish her all the best.

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#15 Roseau

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 22:10

Thanks everyone, it seems there may be hope for her. The University where I work has a teaching hospital attached to it (not that I actually know anyone in medecine because it is on a separate campus) but I shall ask around and see if I can find someone who is used to dealing with musicians.

QUOTE(Celeste @ Jan 6 2011, 12:59 AM) View Post

I don't have arthritis, but something different... Back in September, my physiotherapist told me that the only way I could stop being in unbearable pain was to stop playing the violin, something that I haven't to date posted on here because it upsets me so much.

I'm so sad for you thereThere.gif

Have you tried contacting the bapam?
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