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Oct 14, 2020 - 3:53:42 PM
9 posts since 1/3/2015

Hello everyone,

I was just curious about seeing all of the responses that may be out there but I’m 26 and a former banjo player. About three years ago a problem with my right hand which was diagnosed as focal dystonia caused me to have to set the banjo aside and I’ve not been able to return to playing at all since. I’ve tried a number of treatments both at home and medical including medications and Botox injections and wasn’t able to achieve any relief in my symptoms. It also in turn affected my ability to flat pick on guitar/mandolin. The weird thing is that I still seemed able to strum rhythm but when I would try to go into lead my hand ultimately would not function so now I just play rhythm guitar. Any advice anyone can give me? Any suggestions? Thanks

Jared

Oct 14, 2020 - 4:02:44 PM
likes this

chuckv97

Canada

53634 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

David Leisner, a classical guitarist, overcame it. Read all about it. He also has some videos on YouTube. Good luck!
classicalguitarmagazine.com/da...y-guitar/

Oct 14, 2020 - 4:14:29 PM

NWBanjo

USA

596 posts since 1/19/2006

I'm sorry to hear about your struggles, Jared. I have a good friend who's an excellent old-time musician in town who was diagnosed with focal dystonia in the right hand several years ago. He can't do standard rolls anymore, but has figured out some other ways to play the banjo that sound great (Clawhammer, for one). I'll let him know about this thread and maybe he'll reach out.
Best,
Isaac

Oct 14, 2020 - 4:18:09 PM

61 posts since 10/13/2010

Jared Hollomon -
Scott Devine, an electric bass player I follow on YouTube has found wearing a glove when playing has helped him with his focal dystopia.

He talks about it in this video (skip to the 4:25 mark):

youtu.be/wOVGrGBeqiI

Oct 14, 2020 - 4:23:56 PM

61 posts since 10/13/2010

(Sorry, typo... dystonia, not dystopia)

Oct 14, 2020 - 6:08:04 PM

9 posts since 1/3/2015

Thanks everyone for your response.
However, this problem in reality there’s just no reasonable solution to MFD. I have a more severe case of it than I originally thought meaning it not only has crippled my right hand on banjo it also has affected my flat picking as well. I’ve tried using a glove while playing. The very first time I tried it I noticed I could play but after that it didn’t work for me anymore, it was only a temporary improvement. After trying and doing everything I can think of in the last 3 years I’ve just quit playing altogether because I was fed up and tired of fighting it. I was losing the battle every time no matter how hard I tried. Its just one of those unfortunate situations for me and it’s proven to be difficult to treat. Someone emailed me recently saying that they had the problem and that they switched to playing with their middle and ring finger and opposed to index and middle. I have it severe enough to where I cannot do that so I haven’t even bothered going that route either. The medical treatments were a total waste of time and money as well and I was ultimately just unhappy and it was stressful and depressing all at the same time.

Oct 14, 2020 - 7:29:40 PM

3922 posts since 10/13/2005

Get cranial therapy from an applied kinesiologist. banjered

Oct 14, 2020 - 7:46:50 PM

9 posts since 1/3/2015

Tom,

Never heard of that? I googled it just to see what it said about it. Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that originates in a part of the brain that controls fine skilled movements. Basically nerve cells fail to communicate and work properly in the brain and the brain sends chaotic signals to the muscles causing involuntary movements that are uncontrollable and repetitive. Just curious how would doing the cranial therapy and kinesiology be helpful? Is this something you’ve looked into or tried yourself? Do you have FD?

Oct 14, 2020 - 10:17:20 PM

pfalzgrass

Germany

33 posts since 9/13/2017

Here is a video from Jason Skinner how he deals with FD:

youtu.be/jpQHqiummFo

If I remember right Tom Adams has switched to 2 finger rolls with thumb and index due to FD.

Martin

Oct 15, 2020 - 12:47:53 AM

phb

Germany

2205 posts since 11/8/2010

I have no idea whether this is practical (it sure seems very difficult and a lot of work) but I read somewhere that one way out of focal dystonia can be switching to left-handed playing. Your right hand will have to do the fretting and the left hand the rolling.

Oct 15, 2020 - 7:51:57 AM

1227 posts since 8/24/2008

I second chuckv97’s suggestion about David Leisner. He is a professional guitarist whose career was sidelined with focal dystonia. He apparently conquered it or learned a way to deal with it—through methods he personally developed. I saw him perform, and he is top notch. He is also a nice guy and approachable. You may want to contact him directly and ask for input. He has a website and Facebook page, and teaches at the Manhattan School of Music.
http://davidleisner.com/articles/

Oct 15, 2020 - 10:13:14 AM

kat eyz

USA

1105 posts since 10/1/2003

Sorry to hear this Jared.... I have fought focal point dystonia for 20 years or so now . Each case is different in some ways . My main issue is the thumb not being able to alternate from string to string without it curling in . I was determined to keep playing and i still do ....my thumb stays on the fifth string most always and i play a lot of third and fourth string with my index finger . I hope you find a way to make things better ...its tough i know . On another note over the years i have noticed people texting on there phones holding it in there hand and texting with the thumb and are very fast in doing so .......comparing the number of active musicians compared to the number of people texting these days i cant believe there is not a focal dystonia out break among people texting ...seems to me its very similar to playing musical instruments .

Oct 15, 2020 - 10:28:09 AM

56047 posts since 12/14/2005

Never having been Very Good at fancy picking, I cannot imagine the frustration of going from Very Good to so inept (due to medical problems) that I would just stop.

While waiting and working and searching for a workable treatment, how about setting up a guitar to be played flat, like a lap steel, and just dragging your right hand across the strings, just to be doing SOME kind of music?

In any event, Best Wishes for the best possible recovery.

Oct 15, 2020 - 2:38:38 PM

9 posts since 1/3/2015

quote:
Originally posted by kat eyz

Sorry to hear this Jared.... I have fought focal point dystonia for 20 years or so now . Each case is different in some ways . My main issue is the thumb not being able to alternate from string to string without it curling in . I was determined to keep playing and i still do ....my thumb stays on the fifth string most always and i play a lot of third and fourth string with my index finger . I hope you find a way to make things better ...its tough i know . On another note over the years i have noticed people texting on there phones holding it in there hand and texting with the thumb and are very fast in doing so .......comparing the number of active musicians compared to the number of people texting these days i cant believe there is not a focal dystonia out break among people texting ...seems to me its very similar to playing musical instruments .


I'm sorry that you've dealt with FD for 20 years however you seem to still be able to play and that's great I'm glad to hear that you've found a way to minimize its effects. In my case, it struck me so young only 23 and I'm 26 now. It has affected all the fingers of my right hand now, it affects people differently but I have it pretty severe. For me it's involuntary movements with my index and middle fingers. The index finger extends outward and the middle finger wants to curl under into my palm, it's a disaster and very disabling. It also in turn made it difficult to articulate the pick while flat picking. I only play rhythm guitar now, also bass in jam sessions. I've been dealt a rough hand to say the least and it never goes away. At some point I was fed up with trying to fight it because it was a losing battle every time. Thankfully there are things I can still do from a musical standpoint so I have to be greatful I didn't lose everything. 
 

Jared

Oct 16, 2020 - 9:26:37 AM

kat eyz

USA

1105 posts since 10/1/2003

Jared i totally understand you pain and frustrations You seem determined and thats good . Over a long span of time i have tried so many things to help my situation ...some helped others hindered . i encourage you to keep investigating things that might help your situation. Another banjo player with dystonia several years back talked with me often and it was a big help comparing ideas . One thing he told me was that a decongestant for a plugged up nose often but not always would help his playing . i have had dystonia all through the years of playing in a band and one day a half hour before a show i ate a candy bar and took a decongestant and i played better than i had in 2 years . The next time i took meds the out come was not as effective . Iam not encourging you to take drugs just letting you know . i asked the other player why this happened and he said his doctor suggested that decongestants trick your brain into making the mucus in your head release and drain ....this brain tricking might also have some kind of effect on the dystonia too. Hang tight and i hope you find things that help you .

Oct 17, 2020 - 8:24:47 AM

9 posts since 1/3/2015

quote:
Originally posted by kat eyz

Jared i totally understand you pain and frustrations You seem determined and thats good . Over a long span of time i have tried so many things to help my situation ...some helped others hindered . i encourage you to keep investigating things that might help your situation. Another banjo player with dystonia several years back talked with me often and it was a big help comparing ideas . One thing he told me was that a decongestant for a plugged up nose often but not always would help his playing . i have had dystonia all through the years of playing in a band and one day a half hour before a show i ate a candy bar and took a decongestant and i played better than i had in 2 years . The next time i took meds the out come was not as effective . Iam not encourging you to take drugs just letting you know . i asked the other player why this happened and he said his doctor suggested that decongestants trick your brain into making the mucus in your head release and drain ....this brain tricking might also have some kind of effect on the dystonia too. Hang tight and i hope you find things that help you .


Its complicated and so far I've tried several different options but nothing was beneficial. It affects people differently and in my case I've got it more severe so it makes it even more difficult to treat and manage effectively. I do appreciate the well wishes thanks.

 

Jared

Oct 17, 2020 - 6:57:17 PM

kat eyz

USA

1105 posts since 10/1/2003

i think someone mentioned switching to left hand ...with that in mind one day i flipped my banjo upside down and put my picks on my left hand ...even tho i had no dexterity in that hand i could tell the left hand was stable and was willing to do what i wanted with practice . I never found time to go for it and iam not a spring chicken anymore ...also heard it could go the left hand over time ...well now would'nt that suck ...just like dystonia

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