1. #1

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    I wondered if anyone here has ever battled dystonia? This is a neurological disorder that is rare but does occur in musicians especially those that involve repetitive motions. Basically what happens is the brain shuts down the normal controllable functions of muscles that they stop working as such. It can be cramps and inability to get your hands to do what, that you have trained them do for years.

    First off the condition is not fatal and most of the time not painful just the brain shuts down. Maybe some you at least have heard of this condition. I ask because luckily I don't have the condition related to playing the guitar at all. I have however developed "runner's dystonia." What happens in my body has forgotten how to run properly or with any coordination. I have been a long distance runner for 43 years and ran over 85,000 lifetime miles. I use to run races and marathons I was never particularly fast as such but durable. Well over past 8 years I have steadily gotten to the point I cannot run. I can walk ok and generally very strong but I do look a bit unbalanced. At times I can run a bit for say 100 to 200 meters. Then stop and walk and repeat. I am not in any pain at all I just feel off balance and cannot wrap my head around running as such.

    So I am reaching out to any guitarist who might have had these symptoms or dealt with the condition? If you have the things I mention will make sense. The other problem is dystonia has no real cure but some have returned to perform. So I am reaching out. I would love to run again even a few miles a week of real running. Right now I am a road cyclist and that is great I have no issues riding a bike I can go smooth and move well on the bike. I just would like to run sometimes. Thought I would throw this out because guitarist and pianist are those hit usually the most.

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  3. #2

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    I have not heard before of any guitarists with dystonia of the hands. A little research shows that the famous Liona Boyd has battled dystonia:

    Liona Boyd Reinvents Her Guitar Career After Focal Dystonia | Classical Guitar

    I think it’s more of a problem with vocalists, violinists and keyboardists due to the highly repetitive nature of their small muscle movements. Classical guitar might be an exception, but guitarists play in a lot of different positions.

    The pianist Leon Fleisher is one of the most famous musicians diagnosed with focal dystonia. He played strictly left-hand repertoire for awhile, then was able to retrain his right hand to some extent after much work.

    The singers Tony Rice and Alison Krause and the radio host Diane Rehm all had vocal dystonia. Krause has IMO more or less completely overcome her afflication, while Tony and Diane were never able to.

    There is a clinic somewhere I think possibly at Yale or Columbia specializing in focal dystonia for musicians.

    Not that this helps your issue, but it is possible with a really good trainer you could overcome this problem if you wanted to. OTOH, maybe this is a good time to transition to cycling? ;-)

  4. #3

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    Something tells me I read about Julian Lage having a bout of it.

  5. #4

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    I believe that there is a member who mentioned it more than once.

    also, Badi Assad.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccroft
    Something tells me I read about Julian Lage having a bout of it.
    I'd heard the same thing but don't know what the actual diagnosis was.

  7. #6

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    I've been dealing with focal hand dystonia for about a dozen years. My hand will stiffen, then lock up in a stretched and contorted position, a position that I could not duplicate intentionally because of how contorted it is. It's often very painful, usually has usually lasted between a minute and several. Sometimes after it lets up it comes right back if I put some stress on my hand; I have to be careful until I'm sure it has completely passed.

    Although the worst attacks occur in my left hand I can get it in either one, sometimes triggered simply by putting pressure on something held between my thumb & fingers in a flat grip. I've had it happen wiping down equipment at the fitness center. That's mostly annoying--the ones that scare me happen while I'm on stage. I've become adept at keeping things going with one finger, but I've been reticent to tackle solos that last more than 8 bars, and glad to be in a big band--if I disappear for a bit the audience isn't likely to notice. This season I have been mostly free of the worst of it, likely because we've had a light gigging schedule. Last week we rehearsed on Thursday and played a long concert Friday night without an attack, but our 2022 spring season will be busier.

    This is not even the worst problem I have with my left hand, but that's OT. Mark, I wish you luck with your dystonia.

    Danny W.

  8. #7

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    I believe roots musician Dave Biller has had to deal with focal dystonia.