This month marks the third time I've gotten thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which the muscles in the neck cave in on the nerves, causing fatigue and loss of feeling in the fingers. With auditions a month away, you'd think I'd be freaking out, which I am, but not as much as even I thought. Rest isn't required in most cases, but particular stretches and exercises are to be done daily and often. In my case, fatigue is the biggest side effect, making lifting cymbals or playing timpani very difficult after a certain period of time. Even soft playing, as the majority of my technique stems from my back and shoulder, is very frustrating because of the lack of weight support and loss of feeling. I actually had two lessons this weekend, and as I played, none of my phrasings or dynamic extremes came across. So, I had to "work harder." It was very frustrating.
Tuesday, I'll be doing a mock audition, in preparation for the Chicago Civic Orchestra audition, and rather than physically practicing, I am working on my stretches, eating fruits and veggies, and mentally going over the music through reading the page and meditation. It's funny that this should happen now, as I was planning on doing a new meditation regimen anyway, so it gives me a reason to start a little earlier. Still, I do miss being at 100% and I do get frustrate that I can't play stick control for hours, but while the body may be out of commission, the mind is still active and can be put to good use. I highly recommend mental practice. The last time I had this condition was my senior year of college, and I had to play a recital with it. So, I mentally practiced everything, ran through what I could, including Casey Cangelosi's "White Knuckle Stroll" and Pius Cheung's "Etude in D Major." Fortunately, by taking breaks and doing stretches in between pieces, I was able to play the concert.
This injury isn't painful, and is remedied fairly quickly, but if I had to stop everything and just stretch, I would. Depending on what may come our way, as far as physical injury, the most important thing is a correct diagnosis and a healthy recovery. I haven't practiced at all this weekend, other than my lessons, and I don't plan on practicing today. However, I do plan on walking into my mock audition and playing very well, because I trust my preparation and my strategies of metal practicing. If you've done the work, all you have to do is trust and let it happen. Adjustments can be made throughout the rounds and even during the pieces themselves, if need be, so keep your ears open, and your body and mind flexible enough to react. Know your body, listen to it. If you have to stop, stop! Don't ignore signs of anything that is unusual and get it checked out as soon as you can. When you have to recover, don't rush it! Rather take the time now than have something permanently be a problem.