Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is It Carpal Tunnel?

So in my post yesterday I gave you the skinny on wrist pain, the possibility that it might NOT be Carpal Tunnel, and what Active Release Technique is. Today I want to tell you about my experience with it...

I've been playing since 14...all types of gigs, sometimes 10 hours a day on stage, sometimes equally as long practice sessions, and lots and lots of lessons with quality professionals. Even though I had learned the proper technique for my hands and feet, about two years ago I started having a dull ache in both of my wrists.

I ignored it for a bit...shuffed it off as overuse. Backed off of my practicing a little, thought that would do the trick. And it did...but as soon as I would pick up the sticks and start playing again, it would come back. I had no clue what to do. I was scared to death of visiting a doctor about it, knowing the only option was to cut my wrists open...yikes!

This went on for months...thought I might have to stop playing altogether. Then one evening, as I was lying in bed, I remembered an article from a Modern Drummer magazine I had gotten in the mail while in college. I couldn't remember the content of the article, but I remembered the title..."Wrist Pain...It May Not Be Carpal Tunnel". Then I went to sleep and forgot about it.

Fast foward a couple of weeks...I was looking for some reading material to occupy me as "nature did her thing" and I grabbed an old Modern Drummer out of a stack of about fifty. And what to my suprise?! It was the edition with that same article in it! Talk about a God send!

I devoured the whole article in about two minutes and by the end of it I was convinced that I had to meet with the doctor (Dr. Preston Wakefield) that had been didn't matter how far I had to drive. Then to my suprise, I read the small print at the bottom of the article...HE WAS RIGHT HERE IN MY OWN TOWN!!! RIGHT HERE IN NASHVEGAS!!!

Fast foward another two seconds and I was on the phone scheduling an appointment with him. It took them about a week to work me in, but work me in they did. Dr. Wakefield works part time with the Titans (pro American football team) and part time with the Predators (pro hockey team)...and the other part of his time is spent working on musicians...lots of them.

I walked in to a dark office with some moody music, ok. It threw me off a bit...definitely not your normal, run of the mill doctor. Dr. Preston is a soft spoken guy with somewhat of a "hippie" vibe to him...very nice and very cool. He took my wrist, flipped it over and began to feel around with his fingers.

"Ah, there's your problem" he said.


"Right feel this..."

"Um, I got nothin'...don't feel a thing..."

"Yea, we can fix this."

WHAT?!?! No surgeries? No long recovery time? No living with the pain? That was it? "We can fix this?" As if he saw a stain in the carpet and he knew all it needed was some cleaning and it would be fine.

I couldn't believe it. Dr. Preston explained to me exactly what you read yesterday...that my problem wasn't at all with my carpal tunnel. He explained that repetitive motions in the same position over prolonged periods of time have the same result that happens immediately when an athlete gets tackled hard or in the wrong way (hence the reason he also is in high demand with pro teams.)

He worked on my arm for roughly half an hour...he would knead my arm, ask where the pain was (it was moving when he was massaging it...amazing!), then knead some more.

We scheduled another appointment.

The pain got worse. Suck. I couldn't believe it. Here I was thinking that I had found my miracle man and it turned out to be all smoke and mirrors.

When I went back to him the second time I informed him that it had gotten worse.




He stared at my arm for a minute and then went to work. I went to pay him at the end of the visit and he wouldn't take my money. "You can pay me when I stop messing up your arm." (Although he used a bit more colorful language than that!) Now I knew this guy was the real thing! I had never had a doctor refuse my payment for failing to make me better! This guy was great.

Long and the short of it...I went to Dr. Wakefield three times and haven't had pain since. He taught me a series of stretches (which I'll post on later) and informed me on how to avoid the problem again.

So here I am, two years later, playing with no pain and telling everyone I know that's going to get checked out for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to stop and go see my doctor. Insurance won't cover the visit (his techniques are relatively new and the insurance companies usually don't accept the visits) but it's only $70 a visit. His goal is to see you once and never see you again. Mine was a pretty bad case, so it required a little more attention.

So if you've got wrist or joint pain, don't get freaked out. Look up an Active Release Technician (A.R.T.) that is close to you and get the problem seen about.

My next post is gonna be on how to avoid the problem altogether, so keep checkin in!


Dale Botha said...

Cool..Read the previous article and this one...I could be slow but I can't find the 3rd installment?

Otherwise nice article!

Stephen said... sorry man! I did the two posts and then got REALLY swamped w/ I did a follow up vlog on it while I was on the's the link to the vlog where I show the actual exercises...

Post a Comment