Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Some years ago, when I was a Masters degree student at the Barratt Due Institute of Music, I went through a musicians worst nightmare.
I got a bad tendonitis in my right forearm and I was in pain. I was only able to play five minutes at a time before my arm started to hurt. Which is not an ideal situation when you are trying to get a Masters degree in music...
Obviously I was desperate to heal and therefore I asked everyone I met for advice. I think I must have asked around 30 people. Cello teachers, other teachers, students and colleagues.
I asked 30 different people and I got 29 different answers.
29 different answers!
In other words: No one really knew why I had tendonitis and what to do with it.
Nobody knew what to do to help me. Even though this is very common for a lot of music students.
People would willingly give me the answers they THOUGHT were right for me. But no one really knew.
How could it be that such brilliant teachers did not know the answer? Was it because they themselves had never struggled with pain, or was it simply because they had not had the opportunity to learn about it?
The situation was making me miserable.
It goes without saying, if you are a music student who loves to play, and then the ability to play is taken away from you, it will not be a happy road.
I tried everything.
I relaxed while playing. I took massages. I tried to put ice on my arm. I dipped my arm in warm and cold water. I changed my shoes. I went for walks. I tried to not practice at all. I drank sour milk. I tried supportive bandages. I tried painkillers. I even taped healing mineral stones to my arm while sleeping. (Yeah I was desperate).
None of it worked.
My best hope was this: There had been two people who had recommended the same physiotherapist, and he was known to be great with musicians. I decided to give it a shot.
I called him and got an appointment. He was familiar with the problems of musicians and had worked with some of the best musicians in Norway. So we started a treatment of massage and exercises, combined with some laser and stretching.
And, it worked!
At least, after a while.
It took me 9 months to increase my practice sessions from five to 20 minutes.
That's nine months of weekly appointments and three days a week at the gym, doing the arm and shoulder exercises I received.
Phew! That is a lot of time and money.
But at least I was making some progress.
I was very happy with my 20 minutes of practice now. I felt more positive and I actually got some work done.
But there was something going on in the back of my mind...
Was I going to spend the rest of my life only practicing 20 minutes at a time? Did I have to go to the gym three times a week to keep myself in good enough shape for practicing at all? Was all of this really necceassary?
I was curious about something called Timani. Some friends of mine had started taking lessons and were very happy about it. I did not really understand what it was, but my curiosity got the better of me.
I can remember the first time I spoke to Tina Margareta Nilssen, the founder of Timani.
I was at the gym, doing my arm and shoulder exercises (of course) and the phone rang. I had left a message on her machine earlier the same day, and now she returned the call. I told her I was interested in a lesson, but when she told me the price, I shuddered.
It was 1100 NOK for the first lesson. Thats about 110 american dollars. 110 dollars!
As a student who was kind of struggling to make ends meet, this was a major cost for me.
I decided to accept it anyways, because I was kind of desperate to make more progress.
We met some days later, I came to her apartment for the lesson. I talked about my story with the tendonitis and how I had managed to become sort of well from it. She listened and then I played for her.
She started to explain about anatomy and how the body works while playing an instrument.
I took it all in. My jaw was probably open the whole time.
I learned to sit and I learned how to stroke with the bow.
Walking home from the lesson I was very intrigued to try it all out the very next day. When I arrived at my practice room the next day I was very careful to make all the changes she had given me.
I wanted to get this right.
And what happened?
I could easily practice for 45 minutes!
That is more than a 100% increase in 24 hours! And to think that I had spent 9 months working myself up from five minutes at a time to 20... I was in shock.
Who knew it could be this easy?
We somehow learn that everything worth having does not come easy. So when something DOES come easy, we might not always recognize it for what it is.
In music we sometimes accept some things as “truths” without really making an effort to see if they really are true.
I encourage you to not create any truths that will hold you back in any way.
I believe in making the impossible possible.
Are you struggling with tendonitis?
PS: Everyone has a slightly different body, so your progress in healing might be different from mine, even though you may try the same treatments. Don't give up and keep trying!