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I've been playing drums for about ten years and have recently started playing more long gigs (3+ hours, with breaks). Sometimes, as the night wears on, I'll get intense pain in one wrist; it's happened to both right and left, but never simultaneously. I've fallen into the habit of holding my sticks in something like a hammer grip (thumbnail facing up, palms in) and I am hoping that changing my grip to a proper matched grip (palms down) will help mitigate the pain.

Has anybody else had experience with this? Or does playing for that long inevitably lead to some pain?

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5 Answers

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You should record yourself and see if you are changing your grip throughout the songs. Especially if you are in the mood and enjoying yourself, you might want to bang harder but that might cause the change in your grip.

Just set up a very simple camera that would record you in the last segment of the gig where you start having pain. Check what is exactly happening. It might happen that as you wear out, you tend to play from the arm and that creates a lot of torque on the wrist.

What I always do is to use the straight beats as a pit stop and switch completely to fingers. I play almost only with the thumb and the index finger (with slight support from the rest of the fingers). So I am almost snapping. But that requires some practice to get used to and build up power. Try single stroke exercises everyday for 20 minutes and you will improve in short amount of time.

Lastly, be aware of the time. Don't burn yourself out in a song that you like to play. Efficiency is the key of the real professionals which I also try to obtain a certain level of ability for that matter.

Jo-Jo Mayer is my idol in that sense and here is a wonderful video of him to build up some more stamina.

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I like the snapping technique, very energy conservative. I'll have to try out the JoJo technique. Thanks! –  spbots Sep 28 '11 at 16:23
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  • Stretch your wrists before and after you play. You can find several wrist stretches on the web.

  • Changing your grip occasionally while you play may help.

  • Ibuprofen (or other NSAID) after you play may help. It will be hard on your stomach if you drink while you play, though.

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Thanks for the stretching suggestion, I haven't been very diligent about preparation. I have been taking ibuprofen post-show, but I'd prefer to prevent the pain rather than just cover it up. –  spbots Sep 28 '11 at 16:30
    
Actually, ibuprofen isn't just pain relief. It reduces inflammation, which can cause problems by tightening things in the carpal tunnel. (A Dr. would know for sure -- don't just listen to some yahoo on the internet.) –  xpda Sep 28 '11 at 16:56
    
+1 for stretching, -1 for ibuprofen –  maxl0rd Feb 7 '12 at 15:44
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My advice would be to think back to the nights when you don't get the pain and look at anything which may have contributed to this. For example:

Did you have a reasonably healthy meal an hour or two before playing?

Did you resist the temptation to have a beer before playing, or taking one onstage?

Are you taking plenty fluids on board in between songs?

Did you warm up?

Any sound problems which caused you to hit harder?

The reason I ask is that in my experience as soon as I start to run out of gas, technique goes out of the window. As soon as your technique starts "failing" the risk of discomfort, pain or injury increases.

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Warming up would definitely help, I think I tend to just jump in with minimal prep-work. I also play a lot of rimshots and I'm thinking this could be causing stress too. Thanks! –  spbots Sep 28 '11 at 16:29
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There might be something that has changed (this is where filming yourself helps, as suggested), but to me it just sounds like a technique issue. You might have gotten away with it before when you played less, but the longer shows you're playing nowadays made your body react.

Is your grip too tight? Is your hand/arm at an unnatural angle? How is your set positioned? These are all things that I would look into.

You can get away with bad technique when you play for shorter periods of time, or when you play less notes. As the duration or speed increases (or both!) the amount of repetitions go up and you're starting to see all the problems. They were there before, you just didn't notice them.

There are many great books and videos regarding technique, from Joe Morello to Jojo Mayer. As for the pain, if it doesn't go away, I would look into visiting a physiotherapist, doctor or some other specialist. Bring your sticks and show them exactly what you do. Might look goofy, but hey, they can't help you unless they know exactly what you're doing! :)

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I'd suggest you look for medical advice, preferably with someone used to sports or musical practice induced pathologies. You could be developing a tendinitis or something else, in which case it is important to diagnose and treat the problem first (and this means resting and no drumming for a while), before reeducating your wrists and looking more closely at your position and technique, warmups and stretching.

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