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  1. #1

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    20 years ago I developed focal dystonia of my right hand index finger. I spent about 8 years trying to re-train the index finger with only marginal success.

    Then, I decided to grow the fingernail on "C" and re-train all the fingers:
    P = P
    I = Not used
    M = I
    A = M
    C = A

    This actually worked, but also I'm 20 years older so my playing is not what it was when younger. At least I can still play.

    The last-ditch option was to play the Classical with a pick. I can still use a pick fine for electric with P and I working together there is no issue.

    In the video (Soleares ; Hommage a Tarrega by Turina) you can see how "I" curls up and is essentially useless.

    Wonder if anyone else has experiences to share?


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  3. #2

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    Similar situation here: p and i are no longer independent of each other, so I lost my classical and flamenco repertoire, but found that hybrid picking with a plectrum and the last 3 fingers of the right hand gives me a good bossa/samba ability, as well as limited arpeggio facility and comping with the fingers while playing bass lines with the pick or thumb. I worked for years on retraining but I was too old for it to take, which I was warned about. I have found that the plectrum playing seems to be quite good, and I am playing the Villa-Lobos Etude 1 at a concert tempo with the plectrum as well as with pick alternating with the m finger. I have been working on John McLaughlin/Al DiMeola scale fragments as well, achieving good speeds after spending a couple of months on the Cracking the Code site. Bill Leavitt's Pick-Style Classical Studies book is very helpful, along with Gustavo Assis-Brasil's hybrid methods and Tim Miller's hybrid stuff.

  4. #3

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    This point has my interest not that I have focal dystonia in my hands so I feel blessed in that respect. However I am a long distance runner and developed runner's dystonia gradually over the past 6-7 years. I have been a life long distance runner of 42 years and it is horrible. Some days I can go out and manage ok for a bit but then I get all tied up and even walking normal is a problem. I went from training 8-10 minute mile pace to now I am lucky to break 11-12. I can walk for miles mostly but not the same.

    My understanding is there is not real cure for dystonia. I have tried many things but I don't see a doctor, did you get go through any therapy? Dystonia is completely weird it takes me out trying to run fast or even jogging easy. I am better trying to sprint for a bit. i am also glad it does not effect riding a road bike, I can ride like a beast no problems at all.

    I like to here more even though different place that our dystonia is showing. I could see where it would cause a major "head case" for a guitarist because I has caused me a major head case.

  5. #4

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    From everything I have researched, a focal dystonia is a neurological problem, stemming from too much repeated motion with stress involved, where the brain's motion impulses become confused on a cellular level; cells "smear" across each other and the impulses to the muscles are not sent clearly. Incurable, although if caught in time, new pathways can be developed. Most folks suffer this condition in later life, after age 40, and I got hit after 50, and was told that someone my age would have a difficult time, which was correct.

  6. #5
    One of the most frustrating things about this is that is seems as if you can re-train the affected hand. You can slow way down and pretend like your first week learning guitar, and the hand can function perfectly. But as you hand gets more advanced in the re-training, it falls back into dystonic pattern.

  7. #6
    Etude No 1 is my major practice routine to get the pinky working. The a-m-a sequence of the arpeggio becomes c-a-c and forces the pinky to work.

  8. #7

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    I have cervical dystonia diagnosed 2 years ago. I am 43. Basically my head tilts or turns right without being able to control it much. It's not fun but injections of botulinum toxin every 4-6 months reduce symptoms and pain quite a lot. You just have to accept to be stinged in the neck 3-4 times. Weekly kinesythepy helps too. With that, on low stress periods my life is absolutely normal.
    I am sure you have checked if those treatment could work on your index finger icr. And I am sure you know Django played without 2 fingers on his left hand!

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  9. #8

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    Django is always in my thoughts as I build a technique with the pick and working fingers of the right hand.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz
    From everything I have researched, a focal dystonia is a neurological problem, stemming from too much repeated motion with stress involved, where the brain's motion impulses become confused on a cellular level; cells "smear" across each other and the impulses to the muscles are not sent clearly. Incurable, although if caught in time, new pathways can be developed. Most folks suffer this condition in later life, after age 40, and I got hit after 50, and was told that someone my age would have a difficult time, which was correct.
    Yep, the problem occurs in the motor and/or sensory cortex in the brain. Your hand (or legs, etc.) are fine. The brain has what can be described as a map whereby it operates the extremities. The brain is constantly remodeling itself/its neural circuits, trying to be efficient in utilizing its resources and tries to simplify motor functioning into more effective units. In the process, the map becomes inaccurate in some cases, resulting in disordered rather than more efficient movement. Any repetitive motion is a candidate for focal dystonia. Golfers and tennis players can develop this in their swings, often referred to as the "yips."writers cramp is a focal dystonia which is quite common. Pianists, typists, etc., can all develop problems with this due to repeating the same motions thousands and even millions of times. Brass and reed players can develop this in the muscles affecting control of the embouchure, colloquially referred to as losing one's chops.

    Julian Lage has made a great description of his experience of this in his left hand in an interview, which essentially ended up feeling like he only had one big finger instead of four individual fingers- in the middle of a gig. This could have been career ending, of course, but somehow he has succeeded in overcoming this. I recall him mentioning the Alexander method although I do not know if that was part of his management of this problem. I also wonder if the fingering style he has developed in his left hand is partly an effort to prevent this from recurring; he moves around the fingerboard differently than any other guitarist I have watched. Liona Boyd has also been public about her struggles with focal dystonia, in her case affecting her middle finger so that she could no longer do tremolo. She has converted to playing with a pick rather than playing the classical repertoire, and has also taken up singing and accompanying herself on guitar. I would suspect that focal dystonia tends to occur in people who have done the same movement many, many times. A classical guitarist practicing tremolo for example, might do something like that for hours a day when developing the technique and maintaining it resulting in thousands of strokes in an hour. Runners take tens of thousands of steps per week, millions of steps per year, while running/training/racing.

    Often focal dystonia can be "tricked" by changing the motor pattern just slightly. For example, I have pretty severe writer's cramp. If I hold a pen normally between my thumb, index and middle fingers, within a few words I start to lose motor control in a very characteristic fashion (you can see videos of this on YouTube). However, if I hold the pen only between my thumb and index finger I can write pretty normally for extended periods. I also noticed that I sometimes get some spasms in my ring finger, sometimes while playing and sometimes at rest. I have not gone to see a doctor about this yet but the level of concern is certainly there; since I already have a focal motor dystonia affecting my right hand, I don't know if I am at higher risk for developing other task-specific dystonias in that area.

  11. #10

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    Julian Lage went to Jerald Harscher (thepoisedguitarist.com) for help with his incipient dystonia, he caught it early, and Jerald uses a bit of Alexander technique among other things to help dystonics. Julian is young and caught it early; I, on the other hand, was well into my dystonia before discovering Harscher; I worked with him for a few years, but I was too old and too far gone. Fortunately, I had started as a jazz player studying pick style with Bill Leavitt and Barney Kessel, so I returned to that with hybrid picking added, and was able to continue my career, albeit in a different direction. Like, Liona, with whom I communicated about dystonia, I took up singing as well. Jerald posited that my flamenco practicing probably brought about the dystonia, as I created too much tension trying to accomplish Paco de Lucia's speed in picado.

  12. #11

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    I suffer from fd in my right hand, but im now about 95% cured - it can be cured! I was doing it with Institutart, it's a place near barcelona, with the help of splints and different exercises. It can be 100% "cured" although it's a long way. Some do it even without splints. But you need to know the way. I suggest checking Juaquin Fabra. You can join the group Musicians with Focal Dystonia in facebook.

  13. #12

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    This sounds horrific. I feel for all those affected.

    I have had numerous sport-induced finger injuries that affect my right hand, but nothing like this.

    What can one do to prevent focal dystonia?