Sunday, October 30


happy_halloween_1024x768I’ve been having a horrifying Devil time at work these past few weeks, so I can’t record anything before few more weeks. In the meantime, in the spirit of fear and dread that go with this holiday, let me discuss the worst demon of our time, causing the most distress and ruining more lives in musicians and everyone that uses a computer: office posture! Vampire bat

IMS Update – good news:

My treatments are now once a month and things are going relatively well (my last recording shows how comfortable my fingers are playing). Now, after a treatment, I can get severely sore in the places treated during the afternoon. But the soreness does not last long.

This time I got some needles in the shoulder and lower back.  IMMEDIATELY after the 1st needle on my left shoulder, it relaxed and dropped something surprizing – it felt wonderful! The right shoulder took 3 needles and the dropping was not as dramatic, but still great.

I get rather bad back pains, especially in the morning: I’ve been getting these for well over 15 years, so I always thought I have a bad back. In fact, X-rays over the past couple of years show disc-degenerative-disorder (including arthritis) in the back and neck. This is normal for my age, but I thought it explained the pain. Well, no it does not explain the pain, and that is the good news! My physiotherapist did a good examination and concluded that my pain is due to nerve compression caused by tight muscles: these can be stretched back into shape!

pumkinEaterReal Demons Possessing us:

Get it straight: sitting down all day is the single worst thing you can do to your body, period!

I’ll be drawing diagrams later to how seated posture is responsible for back pain in:

  • office workers
  • taxi, truck and bus drivers
  • heavy machinery operators
  • students and musicians.

In the meantime, here are some pictures to show how using the computer keyboard an mouse can injure your arms, cause horrible recurring headaches and seriously compromise your oboe playing! Here are also pictures to show the right way to use computer input devices so you won’t hurt yourself.

keyboard_tray_ergonomics WRONG way to sit at the computer!
  1. Shoulders behind the buttocks weakens the belly and causes compression on the lumbar nerves.
  2. Pressure from the keyboard tray on the wrists leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  3. Pressure of the chair arms irritates the arm nerves causing weakness and debilitating pain.
  4. Monitor below the eye-line causes you to move head forward and down which weakens the neck muscles and constricts cervical nerves.
  5. Leaning on the arms raises the shoulders which shorten the muscles and leads to severe headaches.
  6. Keyboard angled upward requires wrists pulling back the hand: extra force required to type.
wristrest1 ABSOLUTE WORST:
  1. The whole weight of the body on the arms against the table corner lead to serious irritation of the nerves and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  2. Shoulders in front of the buttocks shortens the leg-lifting muscles which will cause a “beer belly” and curved back: serious back pain!
  3. The wrist rests for the keyboard and mouse restricts free movement of the tendons.
  4. Only way to make it worse still: have the elbows on the table: cause strain on the neck.
ONLY_GOOD_WAY The single best posture:
  • Natural position and motion angles for elbows, fingers and wrists (see next image).
  • Shoulders directly above buttocks keeps back straight and encourages strong belly.
  • Keyboard just above the knees so elbows are in line with spine (encourage muscle relaxation), not forward, not back.
  • Keyboard and mouse should angle down (like this picture) never up!

See a study from Cornell University (click here).

How to improve even more:

  • Keep the monitor close and at eye level: favour an easy neck position.
  • Remove the chair arms: prevent the temptation to lean on them – it’s really best to just let the shoulders drop.
liftedFinger Opposing forces:
This image shows how the need to keep the finger up creates extra force. So pressing the mouse means not only resisting against the mouse, but also fighting against the upward force. It is not only the finger that strains, but also the wrist and forearm, as those muscles participate in the lift: they shorten over time. Opposing forearm muscles participate in the click motion and must work even harder when the wrist is crooked this way.

This principle is also applies to the elbows, shoulders and neck. Take some time to observe how your body strains and you will realize a great deal about how computer posture is the single worst contributor to pain in modern life!

Ghouls and Monsters in the “free world”:

Keeping a good posture that encourages your strength is a very simple issue. Apart from a good keyboard tray, no expense is needed. Be very careful: marketing people are really good at convincing health benefits of new gadgets that can actually cause pain and injury.

By definition, capitalism rewards people who have the most capital with even more capital (wealth). The dark side of capitalism is that there is no reward for actually helping people – if people get better, they don’t need to buy more gizmos! halloween-wallpaper-large005Marketing makes its companies look like good Samaritans who really want to help you; they will incorrectly quote studies that were incorrectly conducted to begin with: all for the soul purpose of making money, not helping people in pain!

This is precisely why lawyers quote the principle “caveat emptor”: buyer beware!

Happy Hallowe’en!

Monday, October 10

Tribute Recording of Gratitude!


Thanksgiving is a great holiday in terms of faith. It reminds us to reflect on the fact that, though many things are wrong in the world and need correcting, in virtually every circumstance there are always aspects that lend really good helping hands in life that provide hope for the potential of fulfilment. In my opinion, people who complain “How can an all powerful God allow such horror in the world” are guilty of reading only what they want from the Bible and other religions… they fail to realize that the troubles in this world come from people much more than God, and that people are also the biggest hope and potential for beauty and grace! Maybe that’s the actual purpose of our existence in this world…

The origins of the holiday are contended (see Wikipedia), but 2 things remain clear:

  1. The name suggests gratitude,
  2. it is celebrated at the end of harvest time.

#2 explains why we celebrate it in Canada a month and a half before the U.S.A. Being “The true North, strong and free”, our harvest ends much sooner than down south… does it ever actually end in Florida or Texas?

In terms of home, there are many things I am grateful for, that will remain at home. In terms of the oboe, the focus of this blog, there are 3 things for which I am really grateful this year:

  1. physical therapists and fitness professionals,
  2. social media on the Internet,
  3. a good job and God’s blessing for apparent job security!

These have been really instrumental in motivating me to practice diligently and strive for the sound, technique and musical expression I know I am capable of. Right now, I cannot play as many hours in a day as I would like, but what I can play, the only obstacle remaining seems to be concentration: as long as I keep diligent with physio. exercises, I can re-train my technique to play as fast as I need. My mind keeps interrupting my fingers, but my fingers are capable again!

Facebook, You-Tube, Twitter, the Blog and the BBoard

I cannot overstate my appreciation for Mark Charette (at the BBoard – visit here) and the creators of Facebook groups (in order of when I joined them), Ivan Di Bello (visit here), Sergio Manu + Ambrogio Gentili (visit hereand Frédéric Moisand + Shi Li (visit here) for starting amazing communities where we can all share opinions, tips and tricks and examples of our favourite performances: I dedicate this recording to you! (I hope I do you justice!)

Thank you BBoard and Facebook people!
Such interaction, sharing and exposure to the greatest musicians was not available when I was a student. It really increases our panoramic perspective of how a piece of music can sound like and what can be done with our fantastic instrument! What a wonderful thing to live!

Thanksgiving Recording

In keeping with my observation of the last couple of posts, I did this recording without really feeling ready for it. But apart from lacking maturity, the single worst thing was a wandering mind: the more comfortable I get playing, the more my mind wanders and the worse I mess-up. This is nothing new: I also experienced it in the best of my days. But somehow, playing with others in concert sort of removed most of the problems. Playing with a recording of myself – with nothing at all when recording the 1st part – the mind is free to wander! In a concert, exam or audition, I would be told to have trouble with technique, but in fact, the faults in rhythms and fingerings here is due to concentration problems (and fatigue…).