Making the best of a bad situation

Making the best of a bad situation

The latest surgery on my right hand has left me unable to curl the last joint of my right forefinger. Perhaps the surgeon nicked a nerve or a tendon but I can’t get the finger to respond and bend which means that holding a pick to play the bouzouki has the finger hanging down and snagging on the strings. This is something that might recover with therapy, on it’s own or perhaps never, it’s too soon to tell. For the time being I need a glove that will allow me position my fingers curled like they would normally be when playing but velcro’d in place so that I can hold the pick normally. I could take a normal glove and sew the fingertips to the palm of the glove but I doubt it would be possible to put it on. Has anyone here ever dealt with a situation like this and would know of a glove or device that could help?

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

I’m sorry to hear that - and sorry I can’t offer a solution. I hope it rights itself in time, or you find some kind of therapy to improve matters.

As a temporary measure, perhaps you could try something like a finger or thumb pick, or a ‘thimble’ as used by some banjo players.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

can you tape it to your middle finger?

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Carl, I had an occcupational therapist who used low temperature thermoplastics to form splints for me.
She had sheets of plastic and would mold them on my hand, wrist, finger; whatever. They were easy to
reform as needed. That is the advantage of low temp. If you can get a sheet (from your hand therapist) perhaps you could fashion something to hold your fingers in place. With a bit of velcro to hold it on.
If you haven’t seen the splints here is an article with pictures of several different ways to use it. https://opedge.com/Articles/ViewArticle/2004-10_03

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Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Thanks Ben, that might be a good approach even to the point of encasing all of the hand except the thumb into a pick. I’m going to guess that few musicians have had two radial styloidectomies, two proximal row carpectomies, a debridement/disassembly of the left hand for an infected cat bite, a shattered right humerus with hardware installed with resulting staph infection, bone infection and then removal of all the hardware installed after the arm was broken because the screws were through the bone into the muscle and the rod was tearing at the rotator cuff. All in all, that’s about as much as anyone should endure in four years and now the dang finger won’t bend out of the way on its own. I keep bouncing back but each rebound isn’t quite as high as the last. If this pattern keeps up I’ll be going back to the hammered dulcimer with the hammers taped to my hands. Or taking up the harpejji. All is not lost, I have learned two tunes while wearing the cast by playing with my thumbnail. Next week the cast comes off and if I can hold the pick at all, the tunes become the therapy. Fingers crossed but not necessarily curled.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Its called the flexor tendon same thing happened me ten years ago washing machine accident 1st finger on my right hand. 2nd finger on the left hand .they never healed can’t bend the top of them for sh*t but can still pick away grand and use the 1st 3rd & pinky on the left hand

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

There’s always an alternative for those who persevere!

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Very sorry to hear of your latest hand problems and unexpected effect on index finger. Professional splinting would be your best bet. As well as setting the dodgy finger in position to play, you dont want the splint to be so bulky as to affect the rest of your hand, or catch on the strings itself. A bulky solution that affected the rest of your hand could create new hand trouble if used for hours: the last thing you want. I hear the professionals make the splint pretty much while you wait (because they make it on you), and even ask you what colour you want!

If you can’t get a professional job, next thing is someone who is handy to make you one from other materials. You can make a template to test a solution from cardboard, then tape it into position and see if it works. The temporary splint can be recreated when the cardboard breaks down (keep the original as a template), or used as a model to make from more permanent materials with a closure added. You could use leather or plastic from a food container. Things to avoid: bulk, sharp edges, hard surfaces concentrating pressure, adhesives on skin (eg tape or glue—chemicals irritate skin over time and break it down), or too much elastic or rubber bands to restrict circulation. If you can’t DIY, look for someone who sews, makes jewelry or models for example. I have had to use this method in the past but it was a simpler situation. A semi/rigid form to keep your finger bent might work, or elastic to curl your fingertip towards your first finger joint or hand come to mind. Very best of luck.

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Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Sorry to hear of your troubles and I hope your finger just gets better in time. This is a material that might be interesting to you: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mouldable-Plastic-Polymorph-Fantastic-Thermoplastic/dp/B00CAL4BRU I’m not advertising! You’ll find versions of it a lot cheaper if you search around. It’s plastic granules, when you heat them they they become very pliable and then cure hard. This material would mold around your own finger to make a splint I think.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Get the hospital you had the op to refer you to a hand specialist occupational therapist. And also insist they look into what can be done about your finger.
The OT will make you a splint to make it more possible for you to play. Take your instrument with you on the first appointment.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

My left hand third finger top joint popped its tendon a few years ago, leaving no control over the joint at all. I splinted it in an absolutely straight attitude for about three weeks, and the tendon thankfully regrew or reconnected naturally. Obviously no playing for the duration; patience was the key.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Good luck. It is awful when fingers let you down. Older people like me often suffer swollen joints which makes them less flexible. With an injury, though, you do need to rest it and let it recover. Is physio possible for fingers? Might be worth a try.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Have you the mobility to hold the pick between thumb and second finger, keeping first finger either extended or curled out the way? This is actually a common approach for a lot of rhythm guitarists. Not so natural for pickers but it works if your fingers can do it.

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Re: Making the best of a bad situation

The list of procedures and injuries sounds horrendous, Callison. Definitely get professional advice on the best way forward for any splinting, rehab programme, etc, including how soon you can or should try playing again.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

Carl I don’t know if this would be useful for your situation, but I’ve found a type of bandaid strip (it’s called Activ Flex) that is thin, strong & very adhesive, but breathable and skin-like in texture. I use it to cover dry skin cracks in various fingertips without losing sensation (it lasts for days), and you might try it instead of tape as a temporary aid to bending that joint. Although I’m not sure exactly how that could be done.

Anyway, lots of sympathy and best wishes for finding a workaround!

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Re: Making the best of a bad situation

@Calum: I haven’t tried that but it’s certainly a possibility. I’ll try after the cast comes off Monday.

And to all of the rest of the suggestions: Thanks guys, something is bound to work.

Take this to heart. We’re all players here so my earnest advice is to never fall on your hands and bend them backwards. Fall on your head, your butt, elbow - whatever - but not your hands.

Re: Making the best of a bad situation

> Fall on your head, your butt, elbow - whatever - but not your hands.

Spare a thought for us poor pipe band types whose members always seem to enjoy playing rugby and bl**dy shinty. Why is it never table tennis?!

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Re: Making the best of a bad situation

The cast came off today and the surgeon assures me that I will regain full use of that finger with therapy and time. Meanwhile, I’ll just wrap a loop of velcro around the finger and play.