Focal Dystonia

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...

Benessa - Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Wed Jul 27, 2011 4:15 pm

Here's my latest blog post about my struggle with focal dystonia

http://www.kateclassicalguitar.com/quit ... ar-part-4/
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Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Wed Jul 27, 2011 4:26 pm

I've been working on a blog about focal dystonia, including one post that mentions famous guitarists with the disorder: David Leisner, Badi Assad, and Leona Boyd. Through another thread I learned about Simon Dinnigan and Nicola Hall developing focal dystonia, as well. Does anyone know of other well-known guitarists who have suffered from this condition?
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Cherubini » Wed Jul 27, 2011 7:51 pm

What is/was Leona Boyd's dystonia?
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Thu Jul 28, 2011 12:00 am

Yes, Leona Boyd has hand dystonia and is now doing more singing/song writing.
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Blondie » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:40 am

British concert player Mark Ashford for starters:
http://www.markashford.com/2010/03/23/focal-dystonia/

Don't know how 'well known' you want, but:
http://www.dominicfrasca.com/lessons.htm

I know of another famous British classical guitarist who has a problem through a personal contact but I am not sure he would want the info broadcast. That's one of the problems here, admitting to something like this could obviously harm a career, its not the sort of thing you publicise, so we only hear about those who took time out to recover and made a comeback (not many as of course its financially difficult to do) or those who simply retired.

I keep meaning to write some material about FD for the web and one of the things i wanted to do was publish a list of guitarists who had suffered from it to raise awareness, so you are beating me to it :) The trouble is since I have virtually recovered I cannot spend enough time with the guitar and music, its like coming out of prison. My FD web project has taken a back seat.

I have come across many well known guitarists who have the condition over the years, especially if you include non-classical players too. And sadly the guitar related forums frequently have messages from players describing symptoms - a recent thread on Flamenco Teacher dot com being a good example.

Good luck with your blog, it will be a very useful awareness raising project but it will take some careful research. Focal dystonia is a real catastrophe to the serious musician, but it is possible to recover and retrain.

PS I guess this is you:
http://www.kateclassicalguitar.com/famo ... -dystonia/

PPS Its Liona Boyd
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Intune » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:11 am

Kevin Gallagher and Dominic Frasca reportedly have focal dystonia.
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Richard Christie » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:13 am

In the early 2000s, not long after he recorded the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, concert pianist Michael Houston battled F D and won. A television documentary was produced about it.
From his website:
http://www.michaelhoustoun.co.nz/archive_focald.html
and
http://www.michaelhoustoun.co.nz/archive_focald2.html
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The sobs of lost souls, escape from its round mouth.
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To snare the sighs,
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Richard Christie » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:28 am

Intune wrote:Kevin Gallagher and Dominic Frasca reportedly have focal dystonia.


I wondered about Kevin G, I knew he suffered from some kind of right hand problem. He went into a black hole for a while and had an internet diary about it.
It's good to see that he's back playing.
The guitar, causes dreams to weep.
The sobs of lost souls, escape from its round mouth.
And like the tarantula, it weaves a great star
To snare the sighs,
Which float inside its dark wooden cistern
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:45 pm

I'm so pleased by all the truly helpful responses. The links for Mark Ashford, Dominc Frasca, and Michael Houstoun are terrific - and all musicians I was unfamiliar with. There's some truly useful information on their sites - well worth reading! I had heard that Kevin Gallagher may have had focal dystonia but I haven't seen any place where he's written about it so I wasn't sure if it was just a rumor.

Blondie,
I also possibly have heard of some well known musicians who may have focal dystonia but don't want the information public. There's such a stigma to saying you have a musician's injury - we think it sounds like an excuse. I didn't tell people for a few years as well, but as I have not recovered I couldn't hide it any longer.
My blog is just that and I do hope it will raise awareness. I've been surprised by the number of hits my casual site receives from people around the world looking for any information they can find about focal dystonia. I'm sure the disorder is far more prevalent than anyone realizes. Once people realize that it only happens to accomplished, serious, disciplined musicians maybe the stigma will be reduced.
In the meantime, there's plenty of need for other musician's thoughts and links to research - I hope you will make your own site. I will be your first reader! Is there anything you can tell us about how you recovered?
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Praeludium » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:06 am

Well I don't really know what to write but I just want to react and to thank you - that was a very instructive and touching read.
I know it is easy to say that but if I were you I wouldn't stop playing : guitarists and musician who overcome this seems "stronger" than before, and they've find their own way of playing. Sure you can't play the way you played before, but why not consider different possibilities of approaching guitar or music in general ? (what you've already tried anyway. But giving up now would be sad...)
Cette dernière trahison m'a été également reprochée. Ce que je trouve à répondre, c'est:"merde aux conventions!"

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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Blondie » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:15 pm

Theres a LOT I could tell you about how I recovered. I really could write a book to answer that question. Difficult to know where to start really, but here are a few pointers, in no particular order:

-a good understanding of whats happening in your hand helps. But do you really know whats happening? if you have a finger curling tightly into the hand, it may not be the problem finger, it may be doing that to overcompensate for its neigbour, the real culprit.
-slow down therapy was key - using a metronome to measure the FD threshold and retraining below that. See the paper published by SAKAI for the details (I think Mark Ashford links to it). I started with the most basic of movements, painfully slow, and bult complexity and speed gradually as the months progressed. Charted my progress ona big spreadsheet and could actually see the progress I was making as the months went by. Hit a brick wall and you try something different, always move forward. it was at least a year before I tried any (basic) studies.
-I did a fair bit of research and read the stories of those who had recovered and asked myself 'what are the common threads?' How can I link what David Leisner did with what others have done? How can focussing your attention on the large muscles in the small of your back/shoulder whlst gently plucking a string help? What might it have in common with reciting the alphabet backwards whilst also playing a string gently? (try it) Noice any improvoement from actually focussing on your fingers whilst you try? Why do you think that is?
-Read up on Dr Farias approach : http://www.focaldystonia.net/ (get his book and video) and also Joaquin Fabra : http://musiciandystonia.com/Musiciandystonia/Home.html Two people who have had a lot of success helping those with FD. Not surprisingly, their philosophies have things in common. Both have before/after therapy videos on youtube, check them out.

This is good:
http://thepoisedguitarist.com/articles/focal-dystonia/

This can be helpful: http://www.dystonia-bb.org/forums/mwd/index.html
I have written many long posts there which others have found useful, particularly on the psychology of it. My name on the board is guitarist.

Ever tried putting on a latex surgical glove and playing? Try it and tell me what happens.

Another interesting approach is to play just with your right hand, open strings, very slowly and using your left hand gently tap the middle knuckle of a problem finger before it plays. Thats one to play around with and it really depends on what your hand is doing, but its all about sending a little sensory input just where its needed.

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while!
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby Luis_Br » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:34 pm

Maybe not very famous outside, but here in Brazil there is a famous guitarist and teacher who had focal dystonia and he developed some techniques to surpass his problem and now he is playing back again. His name is Luiz Claudio Ribas Ferreira. He won some important prizes here in Brazil and also some international prizes in the 80's. His career was interrupted by the focal dystonia, but now he is able to play again, with some limitations, but someone who is not a guitarist maybe won't even notice. I've recently watched a lecture he gave about focal dystonia and it was great. His concert was also amazing. He developed some exercises and techniques to avoid the problem. Maybe you can try contacting him through his website. Here you will find his website:
http://www.luizclaudioribasferreira.com
Here a more or less recent video of him playing Albeniz and a Zamboni sonata:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYpBJqXWzpE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Anl2m0R2wJQ

Send me a private message and I can give you his e-mail.

good luck with your blog,
Luis.
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:00 pm

Thanks for the encouragement NewModder. I'm definitely not quitting, but during the time period I was writing about it seems I had quit without consciously deciding it. I've been getting back to teaching and playing little by little. I also posted under the thread focal dystonia in the classical guitar technique/ergonomics section and got some great advice from blondie.
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:09 pm

Blondie, I can't thank you enough for tremendous amount of information. You SHOULD write a book! I have noticed the common thread of slow practice/relaxation with others, as well. And I also have been thinking about making a chart and will try to find a way to post it or describe it - I'd appreciate suggestions for improvement. And have asked my husband to bring home some latex gloves from our restaurant. Once our little person begins full day school in the fall I should be able to get started in earnest.
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Re: Focal Dystonia

Postby benessa » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:16 pm

Luis, Thanks for the link to Ferreira. I will contact him. The more information I can gather the better! Are the videos from after he recovered? That would be very exciting.
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