There is NO CURE for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or any other repetitive musculoskeletal injury, ONLY Prevention and Body Maintenance!
Terry Myers,Guitarist Called Himself A Poster Child for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
An Interview with guitarist Terry Myers, the evening production supervisor at Taylor Guitars.
Terry is now back playing guitar and loving it again, free of pain and knowing what to do to avoid RSI problems.
You pick up a guitar and something magic happens. A connection, like no other touches you deep, inside, like falling in love for the first time. You feel the vibrations going through you and this incredible excitement brings a smile to your face. You begin to make music and it’s like the motion you always felt in your soul. It is soaking up the music that meant something to you and you connected with it as if it were your life in melody.
Terry Myers called himself the “Poster Child for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”. He researched this disorder, was told surgery was his only option, and had three of them. Catastrophe prevailed and eventually, thanks to a doctor in Bend, Oregon, he was able to restore his arms and hands to health without pain. Here is what Terry Myers, a former rock guitarist on his way back, has to say about his experience dealing with the medical profession, his overcoming carpal tunnel syndrome and how he found his way back to playing the love of his life, his guitar.
Katé Montgomery, ND: Terry you called yourself the poster child for carpal tunnel syndrome. Why?
Terry: What I hate most is the words “carpal tunnel syndrome” (CTS). It is another stupid title! It is a title in actuality for tendinitis. It makes people think it is something bigger than it is or that something much more wrong with you than there is. People are alluded to believe there is something seriously wrong with them. The words carpal tunnel syndrome puts you into an emotional spin, leaving you to do irrational things, think irrational things, and act on them, like I did. I believed that surgery was the only answer, for what I learned later was severe tendinitis!
I was a jock in school and knew about tendinitis. What angers me most, is if I had been told from the beginning that this was tendinitis, I could have dealt with it by icing and getting massage therapy. I would have been okay. Instead, that title fooled me into believing it was something more serious than it was, and that led me into a twelve-year tailspin!
Katé Montgomery, ND: A diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or any other repetitive strain injury of the arm and hand is a musician’s worst nightmare. No musician wants to think their career may be over or limited. Without your hands, one can not feel the rhythmic sounds of strumming a guitar, or remember what it feels like to hold the guitar and play it like you used to. The hands are the most important instruments a musician has. They are the extension of ones heart, mind and spirit that drives home the passion, visions and most importantly, their dreams.
Katé Montgomery, ND: When you were injured how did you feel if you can’t play the guitar?
Terry: If I can’t play, life is very difficult. You play from memory or how things used to feel.
You don’t feel the strings as well; it brings on frustration; it takes the pleasure out of playing; and it becomes more mechanical. It takes more focus and concentration to play; to get through it, you play through the pain. It is not as easy for your mind is not as into it as you used to be; you play more out of habit but not with ease. I remember where it used to be when I was younger. I just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes you feel like quitting, but you can’t, as it kills you to put it down; A part of you feels like it was ripped from your soul; the fingers still do it. part of you… you kill yourself doing it. You keep playing in pain no matter what, You keep playing ,, until it gets worse & worse; till something has to give. You take a break, rest, cancel a tour, record a CD as you can’t tour… it hurts too much. But it doesn’t go away.
Katé Montgomery, ND: Have you ever had an instance where your hands froze?
Terry: Yes. One night in the middle of playing my hands froze. I had to stop and go rest them and try to stretch them out. They just quit! I couldn’t believe it. They tightened up on me and the pain came. I couldn’t reach the cords and well I just stopped.
Katé Montgomery, ND: What else did you see that could cause early problems for a guitar player or any musician?
Terry: One of the things I saw in my early days was the notion to look buff. “the working out thing.” Everyone has to have this incredible body. In the off hours (usually during the day), you are going to the gym to sculpt and make your body look “buff.” then, as it is today, it is fashionable to look good.
For a guitar player, this is the biggest mistake you can make. Lifting weights is designed to strengthen and tighten while shortening the muscles and tendons. What happens from this desire to look a “buff,” can cause your flexibility and range of motion to be reduced. This is a double whammy for the guitar player. The combination of playing guitar, and going to the gym… it took me a year to see the damage from this combination.
Katé Montgomery, ND: The shortening of the muscles through exercise workouts and then with the constant and consistent repetitive use of the arms and hands, leads you down a path where repetitive strain injury becomes, at first a nuisance, but as Terry related, you can’t ignore it after a while. Your hands just quit! All the nightmares of hearing about other guitar players, you just ignore it. It will never happen to me.
Katé Montgomery, ND: Terry, when did you first start having symptoms of repetitive strain or did you know that was what it was?
When it first came to light, I thought it was funny when it first happened. There was this tingling up my arms and hands, fuzzy and tickling and shooting pains. It was entertainment for me. I was not aware there was anything really wrong. The symptoms happened a lot, but it also went away and so I never thought about it. Your adrenaline is pumping at work, while playing, and your hands do feel a little weaker… but you just focus and concentrate on the job. At the time I did not understand what the actual cause was. Later, I went to work for Taylor Guitars. I was a master at fretting guitars. I did twenty-one guitars a day. A world’s record I am sure. I was a machine! It was a very strenuous job.
This is what took my arms and hands down. The trouble was that I didn’t feel the pain while I was doing the activity. Only when I got home and would start to relax, would the pain and numbness hit. It was like all at once and you really aren’t sure what it is and there is no one to tell you what is going on when it is happening.
Once you are told you are a mess, and your job caused it… you don’t really find out until it is too late. I was so nieve! I had no idea what this was. I finally went to see a doctor and here is where you are told it is repetitive strain injury. OK? Now what?
The Musician Athlete…they use their arms instead of their legs… to run great distances!
Katé Montgomery, ND: First I want to state unequivocally: there is NO CURE for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or any musculoskeletal disorder. There is only regular body maintenance with an adherence to prevention.
A cure implies that it will never reoccur again. THE BODY IS NOT A ROBOT. It is meant to move and because it does repeatedly move, it will again develop sore muscles and move out of alignment. To insure that the symptoms of RSI/CTS do not appear or reappear, a preventive and self-care program any musician can follow, can be incorporated into their musical lifestyle. It is simple and easy, with exercises you can perform everyday to warm-up the body, stretch, align the structure and bring the muscles back into balance, free of soreness and pain.
The body moves in and out of balance daily due to the mental and physical stress of normal activities. This is normal. The inception and growth of the computer age brought repetitive strain injury to the forefront. The guitarist, whether he/she is a songwriter, uses a computer or works to build guitars, have all been living with this occupational hazard since the inception of the first musical instrument, or a song written. We never think our passions can be taken away from us until something like repetitive strain knocks on our door. Our limbs – arms and hands, .are the extension of the instrument… and the loss has no dollar value!
Katé Montgomery, ND: When did you begin to have problems and what were the turn of events that put your musical career on hold?
Terry: I was 33 years old and in a band and active. Working. That all soon changed. I went to doctors, worker compensation doctors, general practitioners, Orthopedic doctors and none knew how to help me except to operate. So I went through the surgeries, both hands, one elbow, and that didn’t help. To save money, the worker compensation insurance would not give me physical therapy. I was in the loop and while talking with other patients in similar situations, I knew I should be getting physical therapy, but I wasn’t. The problem is it is all up the insurance company. They are manipulated by the medical industry to only try one thing – surgery. They never look to see if there is anything else out there that might work better and cost them less in the long run and keep you productive. I sum it all up by saying it is about money and cutting corners and not really looking at what could truly benefit the person.
My guitar playing days came to a halt! I had to give up everything for a year. A year off the guitar! My heart and soul put to rest. My right hand went bad first. I had surgery on the right hand, then the left and later at the elbow. After the surgeries, my hand was swelling a lot and Im was in terrible pain. None of the doctors knew what was wrong with my hand. It was continually swollen and it hurt. Finally, after many insistent conversations with my doctor and the insurance company, I was allowed physical therapy.
The Physical Therapist suggested that I might have what is called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a condition where a nerve may have been irritated from surgery. Great! The pain was so bad, my hand swollen, all I could do was lay in bed and cry. Nothing helped, not even the pain medications. You name them I took them. I finally went to several more doctors before one diagnosed it as RSD. I ended up going for hospital visits to go through therapy to heal this disorder. I was told I was in the 1% of the people that got this and it was rare. This is a serious condition and it took three months to of intense therapy to solve this disorder. It was a rough experience. And I am very lucky that the physical therapist was astute. God Bless her!
Katé Montgomery, ND: Terry, you finally went to see a doctor in Bend, OR. What was different about his approach to your healing?
Terry: A physician in Bend, OR suggested to me that time heals all, only if you get the correct therapy for the problem. I had seen so many doctors, had three surgeries and years of worker compensation battles. I was skeptical but I was ready to try anything just to get rid of the pain and get my hands back. He prescribed deep tissue massage, swimming, ice and heat, alternating and rest. Three months later, I was better. Now I was beginning to understand that in the beginning, I had severe tendinitis. Doesn’t any one understand this? This is why this is so frustrating. It is all a big game by the medical establishment. And it revolves around money. My career came to a stop because of this and now it was to see if I could come back.
Katé Montgomery, ND: With the advent of the computer age, more and more people are developing hand and wrist problems and it is crippling their lives. As most musicians know, the loss of your hands is fatal to your career. There is a solution. The old saying, “Treat your body like a temple” is the truest statement in this case. You should treat your body like your most expensive possession, your finest tuned instrument and make sure it runs well, has no aches and pains to slow you down. If you invest in your body, it will continue to perform at its highest level. The body needs rest and relaxation but it demands maintenance care.
Katé Montgomery, ND: What are the statistics for musicians? How many do you know have had this RSI problems? Is repetitive strain injury a serious issue in a musician’s life? Or do they even think about it?
Terry: I believe all, at sometime in their lives have had symptoms of tendinitis, numbness and tingling, that fuzzy feeling down the arm and pain when you sleep. There are guitar addicts, a person who spends hours a day practicing, in rehearsals, recording and playing night after night. But the professional musician, his or her damage came early on as a child. The bad posture, the constant strive to be the best, that is early on in the career. Once a musician is lucky enough to make the big time, there are enough interruptions…business meetings, interviews, and more that they don’t have the hands on as much and the rest comes on the bus. But that does not mean there hands don’t have problems. They have just limited themselves more and don’t play as much as they did when they were younger.
Katé Montgomery, ND - Interesting. So you are telling me that just like a secretary, who can’t keep typing at the rate of speed she once did, she now limits herself to part time. This is what we call aging from a doctors point of view.
A musician spends hours a day practicing on his guitar, and then goes and plays hours even more intensely at a gig. More hours are spent holding the muscles of the arms and hands in contracture and in constant motion. Arms straining, elbows bent, wrists cocked, shoulders rounded, and the head always looking down at the guitar. A postural nightmare!
But all part of the intensity of playing. The muscles of the arms and hands are working just as hard as if they were running a marathon. The musician depends on the arms and hands to be strong, flexible and relaxed to enable him/her to play as fast or as slow as the musical piece demands.
The result are tight, sore and many trigger points (hypersensitive areas in a muscle that will not let the muscle fibers lengthen, and this has a pain referral pattern. These areas are very tender to touch), sending painful spasms up the arms, and radiating throughout the upper body. You will not feel this until you stop and rest and then it all comes to the surface.
Katé Montgomery, ND: Are you aware of any musicians that get regular therapy to sustain the health of their body?
Terry: NO! A healing program…no, Not a regular program. They are all an accident waiting to happen. Rest on a tour bus is their therapy.
Katé Montgomery, ND: A regular program includes self-care, structural and muscle integrity which all leads to the stability of the nervous system.
Correct posture, structural and neural alignment means setting regular appointments to insure the health of your body. You demand so much of it but treat it badly. Expecting it to weather all you do to it, put in it and over tire it.
The use of a chiropractic or osteopathic every 2-3 months after you have had several just to stabilize what you may have wrong with it. Massage therapy is the most important, but goes hand in hand with structural integrity. A massage therapist can maintain the health of the muscles and tendons, freeing them up from the pain of an inflamed tendon, and the spasms of many trigger points from over use. And of course, there is the pain.
Increasing circulation and relaxing the muscles helps to make your job much easier.
This is about correcting the cause of the situation. These therapies prevent the symptoms of tendinitis, tennis elbow, rotator cuff, shoulder problems such as the rotator cuff, bursitis, and nerve damage from developing into future problems.
Katé Montgomery, ND: How does this affect your career? Your financial future?
Terry: It affects your career, because you have to cancel a tour. You can’t play a gig. You have to turn down jobs. It affects others who depend on you. They are out of a job. A musicians career is about the timing. It is what it is all about in the music business. You have to be in the right place at the right time. It is a make or break it career. If your body isn’t up to speed, healthy to endure the demands of touring, constant rehearsals, travel, then you will miss the boat and your career is sidelined or never happens at all…timing, like a fashion trend. be on the train or you miss it.
Katé Montgomery, ND: What is your suggestion for other guitar players?
Terry: To get into a regular program of stretching and therapy. The number one thing you need is massage therapy. It will keep your muscles free of pain and the knots that come from long hours of playing. It is an investment that is absolutely necessary if you are to continue to play. Chiropractic to make sure your spine is aligned and to help your posture stay straight. I have learned the value of this. I don’t’ want to be an old man who can’t stand up straight, hunched over. I want to continue to play. It is so important to stay loose, to stretch and get regular therapy.
Katé Montgomery, ND: Terry, what would you tell kids today, their parents?
Terry: What bothers me most are the 90’s terms. The title CTS, space invaders wrist, nintendo thumb, all have you believing that just because you here it, doesn’t mean every kid has it or will get it. The medical community has you believing that the only fix is a drug or surgery. With the advent of the computer age, every school has a computer lab. Without proper instruction on how to take care of their body, the sheer sound of saying carpal tunnel syndrome has kids wondering what it is and scared they may get it. There needs to be more education about this disorder. And programs put into our schools to teach kids about proper body mechanics, not only at the computer but if they take up an instrument too. I wouldn’t want to see another musician, especially a young one, go through what I did. Parents really should be aware that there is no age restriction to when this can affect you.
Katé Montgomery, ND:
Working With Terry
After hearing Terry’s story I invited him to come and see me. I explained my program and then went to work to teach him my self-assessment steps and then The Twelve – Step Montgomery Method. One of the most important problems facing a guitarist is posture.
Where Terry is Today- His Thoughts On The Montgomery Method – Check out Terry playing some guitar here
Terry: I originally heard of Kate in the 1990’s, when her book on carpal tunnel syndrome was published. I made the mistake of taking her craft lightly.
This last summer (2003), Kate had called Taylor’s to ask if anyone had ever had CTS problems? She was referred to me. Out of pure curiosity, and wanting to know more, I found myself at her office. I still had many residues left over from my past hand and arm problems, so decided to give her program a try.
I have to say that after just three visits with her, those residues are almost nonexistent, not to mention some back pain that has greatly decreased along with the rest and I didn’t even see her for that.
I’m a skeptic by nature, but there’s just nothing here to scoff at. It’s the real deal and what you can learn to help yourself and keep yourself in great condition. Kate’s way and it’s not just hers, is nothing short of being absolutely essential to anyone. This pertains to current problems, beginning ones or past “hauntings”.
This lady can help you more than you know, so take the time to investigate it, learn her self-care program and make it part of your life. Western medicine has its advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes to healing your muscles, Kate’s methods will keep you from the invasive venue, rest assured.
Thanks Katé for giving me back the life I had only dreamed of.
Supervisor – Taylor Guitars
The connection of mind, body and spirit happen as one entity, and occurs through the motions of your body as your mind expands infontessionaly!
This plain and simple resonance, is the gift of music. The importance of hands, arms, mind, heart and soul all culminate into one beautiful place that can only bring you peace if the music is truly what drives you.
Without your hands and arms, none of this is possible. They are simple attachments created by God, brought to touch the hearts of others as well as your own. I hope this interview will help other musicians understand the gravity that this can do to your career. Listen to your body, it is constantly talking to you.