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 Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-15 05:56

I've labelled this as off-topic because it specifically concerns a problem I'm having with tenor sax, but it might well apply to others when they play clarinet.

A few months ago I began to notice some episodic pain at the base of my left thumb, especially after a week of playing tenor for a show. I went to a hand therapist, who diagnosed mild wrist arthritis and gave me over a half-dozen sessions some exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles. I didn't find very much benefit in the exercises, but the problem wasn't affecting my clarinet playing, although other actions with the thumb have occasionally continued to cause some slight aching pain.

Fast forward to tonight. I got the tenor out (for the first time in months) to play through the book for a show I'm playing in a week, although there are two pit rehearsals this week. Bad news. The clarinet isn't a problem - I play all the time and the thumb motions don't trigger pain. But playing the tenor, with its heavier key actions (including the octave key) and its palm keys, which need much more wrist movement than is needed on clarinet, was definitely inducing pain that will be hard to deal with over a week and a half of playing.

I suspect in the long run I'm going to have to see a hand orthopedist, perhaps for steroid injections (if they're considered useful for arthritis in the hand and wrist joints), but there's not much chance of my getting an appointment like that soon enough to help with the immediate problem - those appointments are usually made weeks in advance. I'm wondering if anyone here who has experienced similar problems has found anything topical to apply to the area or any way of bracing the wrist that doesn't interfere with the business of fingering the instrument.

Karl

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: Burt 
Date:   2019-07-15 07:03

Do you keep the sax far out in front of you when you play it? If so, your thumb is bearing most of the weight of the sax. Putting the sax so the thumb is about even with your hip will make the neck strap bear more of the weight, taking the weight off your thumb. Unless you bend more at the neck, this change will also affect your embochure.



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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-15 07:17

Burt wrote:

> Do you keep the sax far out in front of you when you play it?
> If so, your thumb is bearing most of the weight of the sax.

To be clear, the pain is in my left thumb, not the right thumb that goes under the thumb rest. No, I let most of the weight hang from the neck strap (which is another reason why I'm not fond of playing either tenor or alto - my neck doesn't like it much).

Karl

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2019-07-15 07:57

I've recently been having some similar issues with my left hand and thumb with the clarinet. I've found that a wrist brace helps significantly. There are quite a few different models available at the local CVS drugstore and the clerk was very helpful in finding something that gives enough support while still allowing the range of motion I need. I don't have a sax handy but I think I could still maneuver the palm keys with the one I'm wearing.

The one I got is a Futuro, item Number 072140909932. You can find it online, but being able to try it out in a store would obviously be better if possible.

Best wishes!

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: smokindok 
Date:   2019-07-15 08:38

Since the discussion did drift onto the neck strap issue: I have found the Wittman Spinstrap to be a huge help when doubling on larger saxes. Started using it on bari and now also use it for tenor. Shifts the weight off the neck and onto the right shoulder, which I find much more comfortable. About $40 for the sax version.

http://wittmanspinscom.ipage.com/?page_id=6

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-15 10:14

Can you take a pic of your thumb when playing the sax? Sounds a bit weird maybe but some thumbs don't bend the same and the position on the sax may be causing you discomfort.

There are also special straps for this too that can help. You are not the first to experience an issue. It is a bit more common with the bari and some players simply use a stand, which is an option.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-07-17 20:54

Look at the bend in the left wrist. Try for very little bend by repositioning the sax or changing its’ angle.
Practice with thumb off the thumb rest.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-17 21:06

Arnoldstang wrote:

> Look at the bend in the left wrist. Try for very little bend
> by repositioning the sax or changing its’ angle.
> Practice with thumb off the thumb rest.
>

Checking the bend in my wrist is a useful thought. I do try to keep my wrists straight on both sax and clarinet.

I haven't tried taking my thumb off the thumb rest (and, I assume, re-positioning it somewhere that is less stressful), but I will when I have the sax out tonight. I also want to try building up the palm keys, especially the D key, so I don't have to move my hand so far out of position to press them all the way down. I've done that with cork glued to the palm keys of my alto, and it makes reaching them easier.

The pain doctor who regularly treats my sciatica prescribed Voltaren Gel, which is a topical analgesic that seems to be helping. And a 400 mg dose of Advil kept me pretty comfortable through the rehearsal on Monday. All of this is a relief because the pain I was experiencing over the weekend when playing the tenor made me consider cancelling out of the job.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

Karl

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-17 21:12

Bob Bernardo wrote:

> Can you take a pic of your thumb when playing the sax? Sounds a
> bit weird maybe but some thumbs don't bend the same and the
> position on the sax may be causing you discomfort.
>

You and Arnoldstang have made me think about moving my left thumb. The problem, of course, is that the octave key is where it is. And if I need to open the octave key, there's not much I can do about where my thumb sits without having the key altered (which certainly isn't out of the question). It's something to think about.

Karl

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-07-21 06:21

Make sure you are not pushing the sax out with the right hand. Allow it to fall backwards. ie Try playing in a downward angle . This might take pressure off the left hand. It’s not a textbook playing position and it does twist the back slightly but your priority is a relaxed left hand and thumb.
As has been mentioned you might try other neck straps as many people have good results with shoulder harnesses etc.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Thumb and wrist soreness on T Sax (OT)
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2019-07-21 08:53

I second the idea of it being important you have straight wrists when playing. I had some very concerning wrist pain a while back and I tried everything to stop the pain. Neck straps, different types of thumb rests, holding the clarinet closer and holding it farther. I saw a video by a bass player explaining that having a bent wrist and doing finger action causes a lot of wear and tear on the wrist. Straightening my wrists, I can play as long as I want with no pain. Technique really is everything.



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