Saturday, December 20, 2008

A new page

I have a new Facebook page. Check it out when you get a chance!

Playing with Butterfly Knives
Segovia class, 1986, USC
Segovia class, 1986, USC
Segovia class, 1986, USC
1976: Pepe Romero masterclass, Houston (age 14)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watch Your Back!

About fourteen weeks ago or so, I decided I needed a massage. Although I made the decision to get regular massage treatments many years ago, this time I had a particularly painful "knot" under my right shoulder blade. This familiar knot has been a frequent nemesis of mine, and a well-known trigger point. A combination of playing my guitar and carrying a lot of stuff on and off planes, through airports, often early in the morning with little sleep and certainly no stretching or warming up, had left the door open for this little pest to pay a visit to my back countless times over the past decade or so. But this time, the massage didn't work.

In fact, the next day, or about two days after I had gotten home from an extended bout of traveling and more constant guitar playing than usual, not only was the knot still there, but a pain was radiating from it down my right arm. This was alarming to say the least. It was a distinctive pain, that of an irritated nerve. And, one day later, the index and middle fingers of my right hand were numb.

I had experienced very mild versions of these symptoms in the years past, but only a coupe of times, and I was able to literally "shake" it off. A couple of shakes and stretches and it was as good as new. This time it wasn't working, and the pain was increasing along with the tingling numbness. It was a combination of one's arm being asleep while someone was hitting it with a baseball bat. No exaggeration. I decided I needed the experts.

I got an xray and an MRI scan. The results showed a bulging disc at the base of my neck. That would be a herniated disc at c-7, for those who like doctor-speak. It is from here that the nerve emerges which serves the right arm, hand, and specifically the thumb, and the first three fingers. I decided on chiropractic treatment, which I am still receiving regularly, over three months later.

This is no advertisement of chiropractors or any other kind of practitioner. Rather, I feel I should tell everyone out there to watch their backs. Playing the guitar as we do leaves all of the muscles, tendons, bones, nerves and fascia vulnerable. They are especially open to injury right after an extended playing or practicing session. Over time, if we don't address these items, if we don't maintain the machine, our physique becomes compromised. Like an athlete, we need to tend to our overused muscles and sinews.

I am no doctor, and will give no advice here. But because of my experience with this matter, I beg you all to do some research on your own if you feel you have any pains or tinglings beyond the norm. I now stretch, keep the muscles warm, and always take regular breaks. I massage out any tension knots that I can reach myself, and if I cannot, I have them rubbed out professionally. I also now monitor myself when tempted to sling a heavy guitar case and computer bag onto my shoulders, and roll my bags whenever I can. Things you can look up on Google or even YouTube:
-Brachial Neuralgia
-Trigger Points
-Nerve Flossing (sounds weird, but it works)
-Pinched Cervical Nerves
-Self Massage
-Finger Tingling/Numbness
-Arm Pain, etc, etc.

Since this has happened, I have had to cancel solo engagements for the first time in over 30 years of playing concerts. It has been impossible to get through an entire full length concert program on my own without having to stop and shake out the numbness. The pain has greatly subsided, thanks to the therapy, exercising and stretching. As for concerts with my quartet, those are easier, in that I am not solely responsible for 100% of the notes, and have a few seconds here and there to shake and reposition my arm. I am positive this will clear up, probably within a six-month period. Meanwhile, I'll just keep up the practice.

Please take care of yourselves, and watch your backs!