Physical therapy is a wonderful thing. It has helped me continue to play dulcimer and hammered dulcimer as well as standing at the bench and working with hand tools.
I have a chronic physical challenge I have to deal with but many aging musicians, woodworkers and luthiers face a similar issue; doing something you love causes or aggravates physical discomfort.
Working with a good physical therapist taught me how to use my body in ways that work better. At times the learning curve was frustrating. The switch from playing hammered dulcimer standing up to sitting down and having the instrument at a steep angle was awkward at first. Over time I found I can play longer and with less pain.
I’m still experimenting with the height of my workbench.
My style of playing slower tunes on the hammered dulcimer often involves using my hands independently. As a result my left arm is extended more than the right. The muscles in my left arm and shoulder work much harder than those in my right arm.
When hand planing wood I have the opposite problem. My right arm gets a wonderful workout but the left arm does not.
A physical therpaist will evaluate and treat each person’s unique situation as needed. A common theme is to help people use their bodies symmetrically.
One exercise I do is to simply reverse the way I do things so the other overworked side of my body gets to relax while the weaker side gains some strength.
At the hammered dulcimer I have worked up some pieces and exercises where I lead with the right hand instead of the left.
At the bench I have been learning to do some left handed planing (I’m right handed). I would not do anything critical at the bench leading with my non-dominant hand at this point. I have found planing scrap lumber left handed entertaining, amusing, humiliating and a great work out for the weak muscles on the left side of my body.
Give it a try!