A Nashville doctor specializing in the treatment of repetitive motion injuries is bringing relief to musicians coming to him with a common pattern of pain, tingling and numbness affecting their shoulders, arms and hands.
Nashville, long known as the capital of country music, is the home of many recording and touring musicians. It is also the home of Dr. Preston Wakefield, a guitar player himself, who is familiar with the musculoskeletal complaints that frequently plague musicians.
Local professional drummers such as George Lawrence, Trey Gray and Ron Ganaway have sought Dr. Wakefield out for relief of persistent carpal tunnel syndrome like conditions involving numbness and tingling into the hands. After Dr. Wakefield discovered the source of their problem the three became pain free without the need for surgery or drugs. In fact, he has effectively treated over forty drummers with a state-of-the art soft tissue technique system that he has been using with about a 90 percent success rate.
He and others in the field of treating musculoskeletal disorders have come to realize that carpal tunnel syndrome has become a “catch all diagnosis for repetitive injuries from the fingertips to the shoulders.” Dr. Wakefield’s experience has led him to conclude that 90 percent of carpal tunnel diagnoses are incorrect, and instead of the site of median nerve entrapment being located at the carpal tunnel at the hand, irritation could be occurring at any of nine primary locations along the course of the nerve from the spine to the hand.
Frequently, the patient suffers from tendonitis, a common response of the body to over use and repetitive motion injuries. The over use leads to imbalances between muscle groups followed by shortening of the muscles. Sustained contractions of muscle fibers can constrict blood flow and cause micro tearing. Inflammation develops resulting in the formation of scar tissue and adhesions.
The outcome is altered muscle function and reduced and painful ranges of motion. Tendonitis results in painful joint motion as the tendons become inflamed and weakened from being under constant tension. The nerves that run from the spine into the hands can become entrapped at areas where the soft tissue function has been altered.
Dr.Wakefield uses an elaborate soft tissue treatment system known as Active Release Technique (ART). The system has been developed and patented by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP and is effective in treating connective tissue problems involving muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.
Some repetitive and over use syndromes that can quickly be resolved with ART are headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fascitis, knee problems and tennis elbow. Dr. Leahy has successfully treated many professional and Olympic athletes with the technique.
Depending on the patient’s specific problem the Doctor can call upon any of 500 treatment protocols each of which is a combination of examination and treatment. The aforementioned tissues are manually evaluated for texture, tightness and movement and the abnormal tissues are then treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements.
Dr. Wakefield will begin by observing the musician’s basic technique for abnormal motion, excessive force or tension and possibly recommend some professional instruction at that point. He will then work at the site of pain on the prime moving muscle to release adhesions and then repeating the procedure on the opposing or antagonistic muscles. He concludes with advice on warm-ups, exercises and stretching to facilitate his treatments. The Doctor’s working diagnosis is validated if there is significant resolution in two to three treatments.
Depending on the tendency for reoccurrence in each case some musicians may return for tune-ups in the range of six weeks to six months. In the ten percent of cases that do not respond to treatment he finds that underlying medical conditions may be involved, surgery may be indicated or the patient failed to adequately follow through on technique refinements, warm-ups and exercises.
Dr. Wakefield stresses that although he has had great success with the ART techniques different health problems frequently require multi-faceted approaches. Whatever approach one chooses it is most important to seek out a health care professional as soon as possible in the case of any persistent abnormal symptoms before the tissues become permanently damaged.
1) Hoeft, Jennie. “It May Not Be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!” Modern Drummer Feb.2002: 132-136
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