Monday, August 22, 2011

Focal Dystonia.

Folks who didn't know me in my younger days have no idea that I was - if I do say so myself - a fairly decent guitar player. Most specifically, I had a talent for slide guitar, electric and acoustic styles.

Some years back, I started developing a numbness in the two smaller fingers on my left hand (ring and pinky). The problem was, more or less diagnosed as neurological though no one was willing or able to give the condition a name. One surgeon told me the problem stemmed from a nerve being pinched at my elbow.

Developing arthritis in my right hand hasn't helped, though the arthritis could be eased with pain medication - nothing seemed to help the problem with the fingers on my left hand.

I attempt to play occasionally. Instead of playing for hours at a time as I once did, I'll pick up a guitar once in a blue moon.

After years of wondering what the heck was going on with my fingers, I figured out that my problem has a name, at least. Focal dystonia.

Heading out to Walmart this afternoon, to return a pair of shoes my wife bought for me, I turned on the radio. I happened to listen to most of a 10 minute interview of guitarist Grey Reverend on NPR's All Things Considered .
From the NPR story,

"Larry "L.D." Brown, an acoustic songwriter who performs as Grey Reverend, suffers from one of the worst ailments a guitarist can have. Some years ago, he discovered he had focal dystonia, a neurological condition that causes muscles to constrict involuntarily, and which eventually caused Brown to lose the use of his left ring and pinky fingers."

Grey Reverend has managed to adapt to playing his guitar without the use of his left ring and pinky fingers. His first length CD, Of The Days is available on The CD can also be heard on Spotify.

Doing a Google search, I find that Reverend and I aren't the only musicians with this ailment. Guitarist Billy McLaughlin has it as well.

I may never be able to play as well as I once did, but listening to Grey Reverend and Billy McLaughlin gives me encouragement.