How do you deal with loss in abilities?

I play an instrument, something that is extremely important to me and which I draw a lot of meaning and enjoyment from. I’m lucky in that I’m also in a good band with good friends and we’re able to develop what I consider to be some original work.

The issue is I’ve developed some repetitive strain injury for which I’m receiving therapy to fix. The therapy has helped but I’m constantly hampered by recurring pain. While it doesn’t hinder my ability to play I was told to stop playing my instrument whenever the pain is present, and that is a hindrance. This, when combined with stories of how these things can end playing careers, has had me really upset and depressed these past few months. While my therapist reminds me that I am still perfectly capable of playing my instrument I can’t seem to stop worrying about losing the ability to play (although it hasn’t been too bad this past week).

While there are other less physical instruments I can play I still prefer the one I play…it’s what I’m passionate about.

So how should I deal with this potential loss (especially since my therapist has told me I can and should still play to build endurance, and since she’s also told me I can still play despite my condition)?

I would say to take it slowly. If it’s painful, it might be best to stop playing for a while. You could try another instrument or another hobby if it gets so bad you can’t play anymore. But it might be good to stop completely for a while to allow yourself to heal. When you’re not in pain, come back to it. Or set a little time each day to allow yourself to play even if you are in some pain.

I think you need to adopt a long-term view of things. Not playing when you feel pain today might enable you to play tomorrow. Taking a one-day hiatus from playing each week might enable you to keep playing for the rest of your life. Pushing through the pain might force you to give up your instrument in the next 5 or 10 years. See what I mean?

I understand how difficult it is. My husband is a musician, and he suffered a brain injury in 2007. He wasn’t able to play music for a little more than 9 months because the two sides of his brain didn’t communicate the way they used to. He was extremely depressed and withdrawn during that time, because music is so much a part of him. The day he picked up his guitar and started playing again - spontaneously, just like he did before the accident - I cried, I was so happy. I thought it might never come back. A month an a half later, he was making up silly lyrics with our son the way he used to. A month after that, he was composing again. Now he seems to be completely healed and is back to playing all sorts of instruments (guitar came back first). Taking the time to heal wasn’t an option for him, but it is for you, and it will prevent you from losing what you love.

I think you should also get a second opinion or ask about seeing an occupational therapist who specializes in working with musicians. After my wrist injury, I worked with therapists who helped me not only get back what I lost but also learn how to use my wrist correctly so I could avoid future repetitive motion injuries. I am sure somebody could help you adjust the way you hold your instrument, etc., in ways that can reduce the stress. For example, if you are a guitarist like my husband, it might be shortening or lengthening your strap, playing in a seated position with your guitar propped differently on your knee, etc.

As a once upon a time dancer, whose body IS the instrument, I know all too well what you speak of. It’s so upsetting to not be able to do what you love, and enjoy. The mind is willing, the body… screams in terror.

Sadly, we can’t always get back to where we were. I think it’s wise to allow for other passions to arise. Not give up, but allow for more in your life. Expand your horizons so to speak.

And honestly… if you have a good PT… LISTEN TO HIM/HER… forcing through injuries… BAD MOVE… It’s a recipe for disaster…

I too can empathize with you. I have had a condition called spondylitis since I was 16 yrs. old. It is a spinal disease and I have had to give up so many things that I loved doing. It has become progressively worse over time. I am not able garden, do normal exercises, dance, lift anything over 5lbs.,read a book, or do a job. I had to retire very young. I have to change positions every half of an hour or else I get into trouble. I thank God I can still walk and use my computer where I alternate standing with sitting. I always wanted to have a musical talent or be able to dance.
The other posters have given you good advice regarding resting for a while and then starting out with short sessions. I go to physical therapy in a pool and sometimes I have to stay home ice/rest my spine. When I am able to go I have to be very careful not to do too much. I will pray that you are able to play your instrument like you did before this injury. God bless you.

onmyknees, you have totally pulled me out of my slump. I was feeling all mopey and sorry for myself because since I’ve been pregnant I pretty much have to sit around all day (no job). it’s too uncomfortable to do much else, and it’s very frustrating as I’m a runner and have always been very physically active!

I do agree with other posters, though - pushing through an injury, while some people are lucky enough to be able to do so, most people will just hurt themselves even more severely and for a longer period of time. I’m assuming you have some sort of tendonitis or joint inflammation/arthritis? I apparently am prone to tendonitis - I would get flareups in my wrist (as a result of an old injury) every once in awhile. they weren’t ever bad enough to not play, but I never played excessively, so wearing a brace the rest of the time would clear it up. I’ve managed to get tendonitis in my feet/ankles after marathons, and would need 1- 2 months of gimping around in a boot to clear it up.

at least baby isn’t interfering too much with my ability to play. we have padded chairs, and a 2.5 hour rehearsal with a break, but I still have to shift around a lot and I can’t sit with correct posture anymore. annoying, but at least I can bs most of it!

on a more serious note, sometimes I think, how would I react if I was in an accident and ended up in a wheelchair or worse, or got one of those awful diseases where your body says screw you but your mind is still perfectly alert… or any number of other scenarios. I’m pretty sure I’d need to be praying constantly or I’d turn into a miserable wretch… cause I’m a big complainer. :blush:

From my handle, you can obviously see that I deeply sympathize. It can be highly frustrating not to be able to play as you would normally.
I had tendonitis in my right arm (elbow radiating down to my wrist). As a pianist with multiple church services to play in a week, as well as teaching school and private students, it was horrible. It lasted for about 6 interminable months.
I finally realized that I simply HAD to let the right arm recover, and put it in a sling - not because I really needed it, but to remind myself to take it easy with that arm.
Don’t despair; play the max amount time you are advised to; remember you can also compose and do research during this time.
I will definitely put you on my prayer list.

Insideitall, I too think how much more suffering it would be if I had to be in a wheelchair or had a stroke where I could not move or speak. This really helps me to be grateful for what I can do! :slight_smile:

Thank you for the advice, everyone. As for playing, I was told a max of 5 to 10 minutes at a time or until there was pain. So that’s what I’ve done is play until there is pain and then stop so that I can build endurance. I just hope that’s the right way to go about it. I hope that I’m not inadvertently causing more damage. Part of the problem is that my job is very hands-heavy so I have no choice but to use them constantly.

Does your therapist know what kind of work you are doing? I really think you might pursue occupational therapy that will help you use your hands correctly at work and while playing your instrument to avoid stressing the injury.

What is the condition? Is it in your wrist?

In my wrist, forearm, and elbow. And I’m not sure what it is, we never figured that out. I was just recommended for physical therapy after some tests showed nothing.

That’s a shame, Lotus. I remember that you play bass. The forearm and elbow issues sound to me like they are related to your job, this makes them a recordable occupational illness under the OSHA standard. You really need to see an occupational health physician.

EDIT: I just remembered we can’t give medical advice, I had to take out 3/4 of my post. See an occ heath doctor! FWIW, I do ergonomic assessments professionally.


Follow the therapist’s instructions. It sounds like you are doing as you wish because you are frustrated. In you original post you mention concern of how this problem has ended playing careers. Until you are living off of you playing, take it easy. It sounds like you are concerned about loosing a favorite activity. If this brings you that much pleasure (be careful about too much pleasure), take care of it. Try not to live for now, but forever.

Here in my 40’s I wish I had not had such a passion for playing sports 20 years ago. I can no longer play and am in pain every day - all for fun.

When trying to figure out how to deal with a loss in abilities, consider the many people with severe losses and their struggle to re-learn how to care for themselves.

Peace brother!

You need to face reality. Father time catches up with everybody.

He’s 23 years old… You need to face reality that this is an illness caused by repetitive strain/ repetitive motion.

I’d agree if I was older, but as a 23 year old this condition is highly unusual and abnormal. As my boss told me, “I’m too young for this to happen”.

And as much as I love bass I’m wondering if its best to give-up on the instrument. Granted I’ve been depressed lately so this may be depression speaking, but I have little hope this’ll get better. I’m debating switching to something else, although sometimes I just want to give up on music in general.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit