By Luga Podesta, M.D.
Published in DRUM! Magazine's December 2008 Issue
As drummers and percussionists, we all know our art can take its toll on our hands and wrists. Repetitive gripping of drum sticks or striking a drum with our hands can lead to a number of injuries to the fingers, joints, tendons, and muscles.
The human hand and wrist are an intricate work of anatomy consisting of 27 bones. When you add in the numerous nerves, arteries, veins, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, the potential for a variety of injuries goes way up when this structure is subjected to repetitive or direct trauma.
Symptoms vary depending on the type, mechanism, severity, and location of the injury. Common symptoms range from pain, swelling, numbness, stiffness, discoloration of the skin, weakness and deformity, to localized warmth or redness, blistering, loss of motion, or catching and clicking.
Specific hand or wrist injuries will present with one or more of these symptoms. Unfortunately, many of them are felt to be trivial or minor in nature and thus not treated early enough. The majority of conditions involving the hand and wrist can be treated non-surgically. When they become chronic or the condition worsens, some will require surgical treatment to restore normal function.
Over the next few issues of DRUM! I will cover some of the more common overuse and traumatic hand and wrist conditions, including nerve compression injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar neuropathy; tendon injuries including De Quervain’s syndrome, trigger finger, and wrist tendonitis; fractures involving the wrist and fingers; and, finally, ligament and cartilage injuries.
Anyone with a hand injury, drummer or not, should consider seeking medical attention as quickly as possible. The potential for permanent damage increases greatly when medical attention is delayed. Even the smallest cut or minor discomfort could require advanced treatment to prevent significant loss of function.