Following my little motorcycle incident, I’ve not been able to play my bass at all for the last four weeks. I damaged a ligament in my thumb and chipped a tiny piece of bone from the thumb socket and they put my left hand in a cast to let the ligament heal.
This was pretty frustrating, as you can probably imagine, and it meant that every little thing I did was taking about twice the time. Pulling my trousers on every morning was about the worst thing, and anything involving water required wrapping the cast in a plastic bag…
Still, it wasn’t my dominant hand, and I found ways to do most things, although I wasn’t able to drive so relied on my girlfriend to ferry me about.
After the four weeks was up, I was driven back to the JR Trauma Unit where the cast was removed. The first thing you want to do after removing a cast you’ve had on for a month is stretch and wash the area, but washing was almost too painful to do. Just touching my hand was quite a shock – the pain was almost like I’d left it out in the snow for a couple of hours and then put my hand too near the fire (even as I’m typing this I know it’s not quite how it felt, but it was a similar degree of tenderness – maybe I’ll think of a better description later)
When I looked at the damaged hand, my thumb had about an inch at the base which looked like skin and bone.
While I waited for the doctor to come back and examine the hand, I felt nervous and shaky – my teeth were chattering and I was shivering. I think this was partially the shock of seeing my hand, and the realisation that although the cast was off, there was a lot more work left before I’d be back to full strength. My girlfriend could see I was worried and told me to “Think unscary thoughts” which made me think of this (she knows how to make me smile).
After examination, both the doctor and physiotherapist told me that the ligament has healed nicely, and the stiffness and pain is due to the cast immobilising my hand and wrist for so long. It’s apparently perfectly normal, and if I’d been your typical boy and broken something when I was a kid I’d probably know that already! What looked like muscle wastage now appears to have simply been compression where the cast was, because after a few hours the thumb looks almost normal again. Now I’m trying to use it again it is a bit swollen in places, and the base of the thumb looks a little wrinkly (like the muscle isn’t quite as big as it was) but mostly normal.
So, I have exercises to do to gently stretch the muscles and tendons and I’m to keep moving the hand as much as possible without overdoing it. A bit of pain is inevitable, but as long as it doesn’t hurt for more than 15 minutes I won’t have done any damage – so gently at first and moving up gradually.
As I’m writing this the cast has been off for 3 days and I actually played a bit of bass today; just a bit of gentle noodling to start with, but it’s a great relief to know it all still works!