Curing The Stiffness In My Hands
[dropcaps_dark] F [/dropcaps_dark] or years I struggled with sore, stiff hands while playing guitar. The problem began in college as I started playing many more hours a day, and it only worsened over the years as I grew older. Doctors told me it was tendinitis, or fatigue, or arthritis, but never had a useful solution. My fingers felt like I was trying to run through sand--every little movement took extra effort for less results. My hands were exhausted by the third set on a gig, and I would shake off certain songs like a starting pitcher in late innings. I developed an intense guitar warm-up routine to keep my fingers limber, and that helped to a certain extent. However, I didn't always have an hour of warm-up time before a gig, and without it, my playing suffered. I stretched, iced, soaked my hands, but nothing was a permanent cure.
Finally, this year, I found the solution. Diet.
Our bodies natural reaction to, well, everything, is inflammation. Sometimes it's good. Our body uses it to fight infections and injuries. Other times inflammation is bad, for example, when we have an allergic reaction or an asthma attack.
After seeing a nutritionist, I learned that my body was sensitive to certain foods, most specifically, gluten. About a month after completely eliminating gluten, along with processed and refined foods from my diet, I was playing guitar with no stiffness or pain in my hands. I gradually allowed certain foods back into my diet to see how I felt. When I added gluten, the stiffness returned.
Now, I don't have celiac disease, which is the most commonly known allergy to gluten. Instead, my body has a relatively mild sensitivity to gluten that causes inflammation in my joints. Because I play guitar for a living, and like most of us use fine motor skills when typing at a computer or using a smartphone, this inflammation because a noticeable problem.
Gluten, for those of you that don't know, is found in wheat (and it's varieties), rye, and barley. Avoiding it can be a chore, especially for a musician in NYC, and especially for a vegetarian. No beer. No pizza. What!? Anything that uses flour contains gluten, and it is also hidden in many packaged foods.
I had to really start reading labels on my food to know whether or not I could eat it, but you know what? That also made me eat a whole lot healthier. A nice side effect from this shift in my diet--I'm 25 lbs. lighter!
Luckily, there are many gluten-free options available today in whole and organic sections of grocery stores. I've even found plenty of gluten-free junk food to endanger my weight loss accomplishments.
In addition to avoiding gluten, here are some things that worked for me.
- Avoiding nightshades, a group of vegetables that contain the chemical solanine, which can be highly inflammatory. In fact, I try to avoid these foods most during the summer, when the heat exacerbates inflammation. Nightshades include white potatoes (beware of anything containing potato starch!), tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and paprika. Here is a helpful article on nightshades and inflammation.
- Eating a largely plant based raw diet. This has not only lessened inflammation in my hands, but has just given me more energy and focus.
- I've started taking probiotics and other supplements to balance the chemistry in my gut. Healthy bacteria is a vital part of digestion and reduces inflammation.
- Practicing yoga. Exercise is very important, but for me, yoga has really helped heal my body. The movement, balance, and breathing exercises in a good yoga practice are excellent for the overall health of any artist. I highly recommend yogaglo.com, which is what I've been using to practice at home.
Finally, be sure to see a doctor or medical professional before making any drastic changes to your diet. I'm not trying to offer medical advice, rather share my experience to motivate you to seek a cure for any ailments that might be holding you back.
I wish you all the best health for a creative and expressive career!