Tendinitis is a particularly nasty injury because it's mostly caused by inflammation due to improper usage or prolonged use of certain parts of the body. If you ignore it, most likely it will get worse. Left untreated, you will get scar tissue which will cause more pain and discomfort. Tendinitis takes a long time to heal. As the tendons become inflamed, they can press on nerves. One particular nerve which is susceptible to tendon inflammation is the median nerve in the wrist. The pain and numbness resulting from that is often called carpal tunnel syndrome. That problem has been around for centuries and has been called many different things, usually associated with occupations which are repetitive. Pain is the body's way letting you know it needs something or that something worse is about to happen. Never ignore pain. Continuing to stress it will only cause more damage and more pain. When the pain becomes excruciating and you finally seek medical help there may be more damage than can be corrected.
It is actually quite easy to heal through movement modification because proper movement promotes healing. I had tendonitis and I was in so much pain for a six month period that I couldn't sleep. I couldn't even pick up a piece of paper. I drove with my knees. Monday through Friday I did absolutely nothing (well, I got a great tan) and saved myself up for playing the organ for six Masses on the weekend only to find myself doing hours of contrast baths every Sunday evening to ameliorate the agony from the weekend abuse. It wasn't until I sought the help of a woman who "healed" me in minutes. At the very least, she had me playing the piano pain-free. After an hour of special exercises, she asked me how my hands felt and for the first time in six months, they felt normal. Of course, it took six months of intensive re-training to actually heal but, I healed. The really cool effect was that I began experiencing snapping sensations in my forearms as scar tissue was releasing and healing.
Healing does not have to be some elusive elemental thing. Many people think that surgery is a quick and easy solution for median nerve entrapment - provided you don't continue doing the movements which caused the problem in the first place. Surgery solves the symptom but the underlying problem still exists and the problem is that we are simply moving incorrectly. Current medical treatment consists of rest, medication, shots, physical therapy or surgery. The best analogy I can come up with is if you have a nail in your shoe which is causing you pain and bleeding in your foot, you can rest until you heal. But the moment you begin walking again, the nail is still there and the symptoms of pain and bleeding come back. You can "walk it off," work through it or try to build up muscle but that won't work. You can take off the shoe and put on a band-aid but, the moment you put the shoe back on the problem will still be there. You can take medication so that you don't feel the nail and its attendant pain but, the nail is still there. The only solution is to remove the nail and the foot will heal.
If your car is out of alignment you will eat through your tires. The worn tires are the symptom of the poor alignment. You can always put on new tires but those will wear, too. The solution is to fix the alignment. Our bodies are fulcrums, levers, pulleys and rubber bands. They are designed to work at prodigious efficiency. Can they work inefficiently? Absolutely. Poor posture and misalignment has a respectable place in our repertoire of movement. Misuse isn't the problem, overuse isn't the problem; it is when we combine both misuse with overuse that we cause problems.
Surgery will open up the carpal tunnel so that our inflamed tendons are no longer be pressing on the median nerve. The pain and numbness will go away but you still have inflamed tendons. What happens when they become even more inflamed? How many surgeries can we have to open up the tunnel more and more? For someone who depends on fine and efficient movements such as a musician, at what technical cost is there in changing the landscape of this efficient and tightly compact design? Think of removing the miles of intestine within our gut, then packing it all back in. Sure, it can be done. Will it be the same?
Anyone who fishes knows that you can't cast a broken fishing pole. Sure you can tape it together but it won't work as efficiently as an unbroken one. Musicians all have the capacity to enjoy pain free virtuoso techniques but first we need to undo the motor memory of the very first flawed times we touched our instruments. Not many of us had the right teacher at our first lesson. Pianistically, this teacher would have been someone who only let us play one key, with one finger, for several weeks before we were allowed to employ a second finger.
As I said, I was suffering from a bout of long flexor tendinitis as result of overuse and misuse. It was actually while building a deck in my back yard when I first noticed a twinge of pain. Eventually, as I played the piano I was occasionally charged with a stabbing pain in my forearm. It started off intermittently but then became constant with every use of my fingers or hands. I went to see the doctor and he started me on a course of anti-inflammatory drugs. They actually helped for a brief period. The problem with these drugs was that they were taking away the pain or, masking the symptoms but not solving the problem. The problem was that I was misusing my hands. Since the drugs relieved the inflammation which was causing the pain, feeling better, I continued to misuse my hands. This made my tendonitis worse. Eventually the pain became bilateral and my arms were in pain 24 hours a day. My doctor sent me to see the physical therapist who prescribed more movement which only made my symptoms worse. In addition to the constant aching, I was unable to perform the simplest tasks. I couldn’t pick up a pencil, I couldn’t brush my teeth, I couldn’t comb my hair, holding a fork was painful, flushing the toilet, zipping a zipper, driving, tying my shoes. Everything caused pain and exasperated my symptoms.
After about a year of therapy, drugs, and rest, I thought my career as a piano player was over. Movement re-education gave me my life back. Mind you, I was not cured, rather, I just discontinued misusing my hands, proper movement put everything in natural alighnment and my body healed itself. Every once in a great, great while I get a twinge of pain when I thoughtlessly revert back to my old way of moving but a quick readjustment of my alignment fixes everything. I actually found that moving properly not only permitted me to move again, but it made me feel better in everything I did. It took over a year when I realized that I forgot that I ever had the pain. Those lessons have since been transposed into every aspect of my moving life. Everything about me improved. My music, skiing, hiking, even driving my car.
As I asserted earlier, I do not heal people anymore but, know that there are alternative and amelioratative ways to mitigate this apparent failure of medical enterprise. Having been there, I am very disappointed that the medical community has not embraced the over 300 year old solution but continues to perpetuate false dogma. Although, I suspect the blame lies with those of us who want a solution now, at whatever cost - along the path of least resistance.