In light of what is going on in the world right now, Austin hand surgeon Dr. Alton Barron has been holding a weekly “Musician Monday” livestream with the goal to offer musicians a virtual avenue to ask health-related questions that they may normally ask a doctor in-person. This blog serves as a recap of the questions asked by musicians around the world and Dr. Alton Barron’s responses.
Today we’ll focus on one of the hand and wrist related questions!
I have a trigger finger on my middle finger on my left hand. This interferes with my ukulele playing. I have been icing it on and off, using strain-counterstrain type stuff and gentle movement to keep it loose. I am doing some fascial stretching of my inner forearm and that helps. It is better but still inflamed. I am not taking anti-inflammatories as I heard it was contraindicated in the case of getting COVID-19. Any other suggestions?
There were some studies that showed that Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) seems to exacerbate the respiratory symptoms of COVID patients, and so it was recommended not to use it. In fact, we don’t recommend it. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Aleve which is Naproxen Sodium, and it’s certainly not the case with Aspirin. So yes, usually what I recommend is one week, round the clock of an anti-inflammatory, and that’s remarkably effective…
Most people that come to me with these types of symptoms say “Oh yeah, I’ve been taking Ibuprofen” and I ask “How often do you take it?” and their answer is usually “Well, I take it maybe once every other day, one dose.” So, a full dose of ibuprofen, I’m not saying take it now for COVID reasons, but a full dose of ibuprofen is 400 to 600 milligrams, which is two or three tablets, four times a day. So, I don’t even use ibuprofen because you can’t possibly remember to take that many pills over the course of the day. I prefer Aleve, which some people don’t like and say it hurts their stomach more or doesn’t work. Everybody’s physiology is a little different, so it’s best to take what feels best for you. I like Aleve personally and that’s all I take because you can take two after breakfast and two after dinner because it’s a different medication, has a different dosage and you only have to take it twice a day. Or with Aspirin, you can take two or three Aspirin three times a day. Anyway, that’s very effective, and you should take it even if you’re not having a lot of pain because you’re trying to get a full anti-inflammatory dose. If you take it randomly and intermittently, then you’re just getting a pain-killing effect, and that’s going to be very temporary.
There’s another item called a “flex bar,” and it’s a heavy rubber thing which is very good. Alternatively, you can also wring out a dishtowel in the water, and wring it out one direction then wring it out the other direction. That’s really good strengthening for the forearms and the elbows, which is where the problem arises with tennis elbow. You want to look for the trend, obviously, if it’s getting better you want to avoid those things that you know might have set it off…
Dr. Barron is a board-certified, fellowship-trained shoulder, elbow, and hand surgeon who has been operating out of New York City and Austin, TX since 1996. He's here to answer your orthopedic questions – ask away in the comments!
Posted by Dr. Alton Barron on Monday, April 20, 2020
We hope these virtual Q & A’s with Dr. Alton Barron are helpful, especially during this time. We will continue to share the results of these livestreams in hopes that it will help musicians stay healthy and keep the music playing!