People respond to injuries in a number of ways. My own personal response has always been to get analytical and search for a solution. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s just a waiting game. The general rule for injuries though is to avoid them at all costs. Injuries have a way of multiplying themselves. In fact the surest predictor of a future injury is having preexisting injuries. Whether this is due to a general lack of toughness or a consistent set of bad habits, I do not know. But I have come to learn to trust expert opinions on this topic rather experimenting with dynamite.
Given my recent bout of cello related injuries, my teacher proposed an idea that dropped a rope ladder down into the well in which my practice sessions have fallen. While she is pleased with my “rapid” progress, she also noted that I am her only student that suffers from these kinds of unusual injuries – which points to practice volume as a culprit. To keep the proverbial “well” from becoming a “cliff”, she is suggesting stepping back from the 20+ hour practice week and dialing things down to a slower, steadier, and safer pace. Since bad form tends to exacerbate the injurious effects of overtraining, she also suggested that we spend a whole lesson breaking down my bow stroke to it’s elements. As it turns out, the list of things I was doing wrong is too long to post here in any detail, however I will post a brief list of the broad categories:
- Exaggerated Wrist flexion/extension at frog and tip
- Pinky Finger was resting on tip rather than the knuckle between the last two joints
- Fingers were too rigid rather than extending loosely near the tip and rolling in near the frog
- Joints were locking up during a bow stoke rather than flowing into the proper alignment
- Shoulder would elevate with the elbow
- Relying too heavily on the Pinky finger to unweight the bow
- General inconsistency in bow form, as opposed to using a specific bow grip, contact point, and bow section to get a specific tone color.
I have rather narrow long mirrors in my practice room, so I rearranged them to better see my right hand throughout the entire bow stroke. This was an eye opening experience and everything my teacher observed was confirmed during my two hour practice session. The upside is that even though my rehabilitated bow stroke was like an unfolding lawn chair, and bad habits persisted, there was little or no wrist pain during the entire practice session. I can only hope that I haven’t ingrained bad habits beyond the point of no return. I can already feel that there is a great deal of potential for increased control with the correct bow technique, but right now it almost feels like I’m holding the bow for the first time.
My teacher suggested I try these exercises to re-acclimate myself to the proper way to hold the bow. I had originally worried that these exercises might have been the vehicle for my wrist injury, but no, it was simply a shoddy bow grip all along, and the medicine is also the diagnostic tool that determined there was a problem that need addressing. Thanks to CelloDiary for posting these wonderful exercises!