Diabetic student experiences numbness in fingers.

Vanessa Gordon said: Jan 24, 2017
Vanessa Gordon
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
3 posts

I have a 12 year old student who is diabetic ( type 1.) He has been complaining that his fingers feel numb quite frequently. It has been more apparent during his violin lessons and has not come up during the piano lessons yet. He has been playing the violin for about three years, and started piano lessons about 6 months ago. He also experiences the problem sometimes when doing other activities with his hands such as whittling and handwork.
Has anyone encountered this with diabetic students?
Do you have suggestions?
Thank you,
Vanessa Gordon

Vanessa Gordon

Irene Mitchell said: Jan 25, 2017
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
114 posts

hi Vanessa!
A diabetic child should not be having this symptom. I would first question whether or not his blood sugar is in tight control (meaning he checks his blood sugar 4-8 times a day and gives insulin). If not, he needs to see a doctor immediately, because what you are describing could be neuropathy.
The next possibility is that the shoulder rest/chin rest combination is not adjusted correctly for him so that he is experiencing a pinched nerve in his neck. I would suggest a large PolyPad and a Wittner chin rest.
If that change doesn’t make a difference, the student probably needs a physical therapist. I would ask the parent to take the violin to that appointment and have the student demonstrate how he holds the violin and moves.
Best wishes, Irene

Irene Mitchell

Vanessa Gordon said: Jan 26, 2017
Vanessa Gordon
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
3 posts

Thanks, Irene.

I think it is neuropathy.
From the little bit of reading I’ve done, it can occur in children although statistically it is more likely to occur in adults.
He has this symptom while doing other activities ( whittling, handwork * and piano playing. ) Not just when he is playing the violin.
The numbness occurs in both hands, not just left hand.

He does already use a polypad.

They check and monitor his blood sugar several times a day.

His mother asked wether it is better to let him keep doing the other activities , * or limit them.
The doctors have not been helpful in answering this question.

Vanessa Gordon

Alan Duncan said: Jan 27, 2017
Suzuki Association Member
81 posts

It certainly could be diabetic polyneuropathy. Among children and teens with Type I diabetes mellitus, neuropathy can occur. A proper evaluation by an endocrinologist should be done.

On the other hand, most diabetic neuropathy is a length-dependent phenomenon. The nerves with the longest axons are those in the lower extremities; and those are usually affected before the hands. The child’s endocrinologist could render an opinion about that by carefully looking for evidence of neuropathy.

Diabetics are also at higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. You might be of help in sorting out the problem by having the student clarify which fingers are affected. If all fingers are affected equally, it is more likely neuropathy. If it is the fingers on the lateral (thumb) side of the hands, carpal tunnel syndrome may be more likely.

As far as the question of whether continued activity can help or hurt, it depends on the cause. If it’s carpal tunnel syndrome then repetitive activity can worsen symptoms.

Anne Brennand said: Jan 29, 2017
Anne Brennand
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Boulder, CO
55 posts

Hi all. I’m sorry to hear about a young person suffering this. I’ve had to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome all my adult life, as a professional cellist. If that is what your student is suffering, here are some strategies I’ve found effective:
I’ve found great relief by wearing a cloth splint while sleeping, and by being careful about aggravated wrist use in day to day life (after a day of heaving lifting such as a house move, for instance, numbness is a given). I also know B vitamins, particularly small frequent doses of Thiamin (B1), and acupuncture/Chinese herbs, to be a great assistance. —Anne

Anne Brennand, cellist and cello teacher

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