Sunday, December 12, 2010

Focal Dystonia Part 2

If you haven't read my first blog entry about this, you might want to take a look at it now before you go any further:

What have I done since my last blog about this?
1)  I've continued reading about it.
2)  I've continued correspondence with another person who has a similar problem.
3)  I've been trying out different things to see if any of them work for me.
4)  I've been praying for a healing (as have many of my friends).

Now it's time for the update.  It seems I have found something that is working out for me.  I suppose only time will tell, but for now I am playing better than I have for several years.

First of all, the biggest impedence to my playing has been my index finger, which locks up and refuses to move, or only moves a tiny bit.  My middle finger shoots out across the banjo head, but for whatever reason, I am able to get it back in time to pick the next note regardless of how fast I am playing, so that doesn't really affect my playing.

What have I tried up to this point?  I tried playing the piano some thinking that it might rewire my brain and fingers since it is a little bit different from banjo, but still uses all my fingers.  I also tried changing my hand position, but until now, was unable to find a position that really worked any better.  I tried anchoring my pinky on the bridge instead of on the banjo head, and then I tried anchoring just one finger instead of two.  I even switched between the pinky and ring finger anchor to see if one was better than the other.  I tried putting more bend into my wrist in hopes that it would make my fingers come in at a different angle.  I tried making my hand farther away from the strings so that my index finger would have to reach out more, but then I just didn't hit any strings at all!

Now, all of a sudden, I am having success with a combination of changes.  Since it is a lockup that is happening to my index finger, I have been thinking very hard about keeping my hand relaxed when I play.  That only works to a certain extent since this is a nerve issue and is out of my control.  (But it does help a little.)  Next, I started anchoring only my ring finger, and sometimes (gasp!!!!) I don't anchor at all.  It was hard for me to decide to try this because it violates the #1 rule of banjo playing, which is you always have to anchor at least one finger.  (And I believe everyone should unless there is a good reason not to.)

Next, when I feel my index finger start to cramp up, I not only stop anchoring, but I also use my arm to help my index finger play the string.  Even to me, it seems like an impossible thing to think about fast enough, but I can do it.  I can also anticipate the problem to a certain extent because forward rolls are the hardest for me to perform, especially if there is more than one in a row.  Pinches on the 1st and 2nd string before or after forward rolls have been very hard, but now I can just dis-anchor and am able to perform them well and quickly.

In a nutshell, these are the changes I made:
1)  Very purposeful thought about right hand looseness.
2)  Anchor only the ring finger, and anchor it loosely or sometimes not at all.
3)  Move my hand and arm as necessary.

Right now, I get a cramp in my hand when I first start playing, but that goes away pretty quickly if I keep playing.  My playing is now faster and better than it has been in years.  I don't know if this is something that my nerve will re-adapt to and cause me problems again, or if this will be a long-term solution.  I'll have to get back to you on that one!

For now, all I know is that God has answered my prayers and I am able to play!  If this helps just one person, it will be worth it.

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