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Warm-up exercises before sculpting

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Howdy!

 

I'm working on miniature sculpting and realized the other day that I don't do any warm-up exercises prior to sculpting my figures. If I were drawing, I have sketching exercises and so forth I use to get warmed up, so I've started sketching different views of my figure just to get their shapes fresh in my head and spur some hand-eye coordination before I pick up any putty.

Do any of you have exercises or daily practices you do before you start working on a sculpt?

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I don't, but I think sculpting hands and fists as a warm-up is something I'll start doing now! 

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No, but I probably should.  I have been having a fairly serious issue that I suspect could be a repetitive stress injury. Essentially, after several minutes of sculpting (and truth be told, anything that uses my right hand gripped for longer than a few minutes) the middle and ring finger on my right hand begins tingling and go numb.  I notice that it is worse if my elbow is unsupported.  There is a popping feeling in my right shoulder when I stretch and I suspect the problem is coming from there.  I'm not sure what to do about it. :unsure:

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I spend a decent amount of time doing shape studies while designing my sculpts and I like to look over those in my sketchbook before starting in on my sculpt again. This reminds me of my design goals, gets my brain working on how to incorporate the character more into the individual elements i'm going to add etc. I also usually start working on less "critical" pieces at first (random folds, bigger shapes, tweaking existing areas) to get warmed up before tackling things like a face or detailed element. 

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On 6/24/2019 at 7:54 AM, TaleSpinner said:

No, but I probably should.  I have been having a fairly serious issue that I suspect could be a repetitive stress injury. Essentially, after several minutes of sculpting (and truth be told, anything that uses my right hand gripped for longer than a few minutes) the middle and ring finger on my right hand begins tingling and go numb.  I notice that it is worse if my elbow is unsupported.  There is a popping feeling in my right shoulder when I stretch and I suspect the problem is coming from there.  I'm not sure what to do about it. :unsure:


There are two vulnerable nerves  that handle sensation for your hand.  The radial nerve, and the ulnar nerve.   The ulnar nerve  handles the pinky, ring, and half of the middle finger.   The radial nerve handles the index and half of the middle finger.  Often people don't notice when the pinky finger is included in the lack of sensation.  There are a few places that the nerve can be vulnerable.

1.  In the spine.  The nerve leaves the spine and can often get pinched in the neck, or in the shoulder blades.   This comes from sitting for too long, with poor ergonomic conditions.  Primarily from your work area being too low, forcing you to hunch, though it can be from sitting twisted / tilted too.   

2.  In the shoulder.  If this  is actually the location, it is usually from an actual injury, not posture.   

3.  In the elbow.   The ulnar nerve actually extends around the prominent part of the bones for your forearm, in the elbow.  When you hit your "funny bone" this is the nerve you are hitting, and  where you are hitting it.   applying pressure to this nerve for prolonged periods can cause it to deaden.   Alternatively, twisting the elbow and forearm in a not so great way (like a keyboard that is not an ergonomic keyboard) for long lengths of time can stretch the nerve between this point and the wrist, pinching it at both ends and deadening sensation.

4.  The  wrist.  Famously, carpel tunnel.

USUALLY it is a combination of multiples of these places.   You should strive to resolve each one.   If the numbness still comes and goes, you should take immediate action.   Resolve any bad posture issues immediately, invest in an ergonomic keyboard (logitech and microsoft both make okay ones, but both are better for different body types so you should test before buying one.  They are expensive).   Start seeing a chiropractor.  They can dis-impact the joints that may be occluding these nerves.    

Failure to take action while it still comes and goes, will result in the numbness becoming invariable.   Once it does that, it can sometimes take years to regain sensation & strength.   Take it seriously, fix it.

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58 minutes ago, emmagine said:

They are expensive

 

Depending on what you get, they're actually not too bad. I've been using a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard for years, and the basic one is only about $30 and includes a mouse. The basic Logitech ergo keyboard is about $44 and also includes a mouse.

 

There are much more expensive keyboards available, some of which are pretty wild to look at, that might solve different problems or solve the same problems better.

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Honestly, I have no issue at work typing/mousing all day (this is where @Rainbow Sculptor is going to tell me to embrace the Z).  It happens mostly when I sculpt, paint, or make jewelry.  I recently figured out that it is not as bad if I have something to rest my elbow on.  I really think the issue is my shoulder joint. I have double-jointed (shallow cupped) shoulders and have dislocated that shoulder many, many times when fencing, so that is likely coming back to haunt me. Occasionally, if I would do a hard right parry just a bit wrong while lunging, my arm would keep going at the end of the lunge and pop right out of the shoulder cup. Hurt like hell, but I could always just grab the now limp arm and swing it up and back into place with a bit of a pop and keep going. 

 

@emmagine: I'm sure it is the ulnar, thanks.  My pinky gets warm and tingly when the other two feel deadened.

 

My issue with sculpting is that I need the sculpt about 3 to 4 inches from my eyes.  I am very careful not to hunch too much so I need to raise the sculpt up.  This puts all the weight of my arm and tools on that shoulder.  I'm not entirely sure how to fix this.

 

 

Back to the original topic which I realize now that I totally misunderstood (sorry @CivilDungeoneer); no I don't do any sculpting art exercises either.  Frankly, I sculpt everyday and really don't have time to spend on non-productive motions.  I guess the action of roughing in a section of putty and bringing it to shape is my workout.

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1 hour ago, Doug Sundseth said:

There are much more expensive keyboards available, some of which are pretty wild to look at, that might solve different problems or solve the same problems better.

ErgoDox comes to mind, but they're..... A lot more expensive.   Sure do look nice though. 

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Doctor appointment has been made.  I sculpted at lunch today and it got really bad, painful even.  I had to stop and shake it out every 5 to 10 minutes.  This is very annoying, especially with the amount of sculpts I have on the docket right now.

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Hey TaleSpinner, in my experience if I lean on my elbow while working (i.e. making art) I become prone to ulnar nerve compression. The ulnar nerve runs around the back/inside of the elbow and then across the forearm (ulna bone of course!) . I have to sit in a chair without arm rests and make sure not to lean my elbow or forearm on the table. My table has a rounded edge which helps. 

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There are actually three nerves that innervate the hand- the radial, the ulnar, and the medial. The medial nerve is the one that gets compressed when you have carpal tunnel syndrome, and symptoms are felt in the palm, thumb, pointer finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger (the half that faces the middle finger). Symptoms are also primarily felt on the palm side of the hand rather than the back of the hand. 

 

If it is carpal tunnel sleeping with your hands in wrist braces will also help, as will nerve glides, stretching, icing your wrist, resting your hand (hard to do, I know) and watching your posture. 

 

The thing to keep in mind is all three nerves actually originate in your neck, thread through your brachial plexus (which is just under your collar bone), and split in your armpit to run down your arm to your hand. In theory repeated shoulder trauma and dislocations could injure any or all of them.

 

If you think about doing a karate chop straight down into a bowl of water, pinky first, until your ring finger is halfway submerged you have a good idea of where the ulnar nerve innervates. This nerve can get caught in the cubital tunnel in the elbow, causing symptoms that could be worsened if you rest your elbows on a table like you are describing.

 

It's worth noting that bad posture can increase pressure on all three nerves. Unfortunately we all are guilty of bad posture when painting or sculpting. Doing chin tucks to reverse forward head (aka text neck), stretching the sides of the neck, stretching the pecs (doorway stretches and laying on a foam roll are great for this!), strengthening  your scapular retractors aka the muscles you use to pinch your shoulder blades together, and stretching the middle part of your spine (aka thoracic spine) into extension (backwards vs hunching) may help with nerve impingement and general back pain. 

 

There are basic tests that your doctor can do right away in the office, such as evaluating finger/grip strength, putting your arms/wrists into positions that could potentially aggravate your symptoms, and tapping on your wrist or funny bone to see if you feel anything. You may very well need to do an EMG or nerve conduction study. Basically a doctor puts small needles into your nerve pathway and runs and electric current through your nerve to see if conduction is slowed. Ideally they will do this all the way up through the back of the neck. I've had to have three of these done, they don't take long and are more uncomfortable than painful. Not fun but invaluable in figuring out where an impingement is- no sense in operating on the elbow or wrist if the problem is higher up.

 

I'm glad you are seeing a doctor! Having to shake out your hands is a sign that you need to get your hands looked at! This isn't something that you want to ignore. I hope all goes well!

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8 hours ago, TaleSpinner said:

Doctor appointment has been made.

 

This is good, I'm proud of you, and it saves me from having to tell you the saga of my own hand/arm problems while I repeatedly hit you over the head with a foam pool-noodle (hey, I can't damage the man who makes the goods, ok!). I like you too much to have to subject you to that.

 

To @CivilDungeoneer I am extremely new to sculpting in general, I mostly do bases and gap-filling, but I am wanting to move onto trying a figure. With regards to specific exercises, I just do things to get my hand's dexterity warmed up. I take a bit of polymer clay, knead it up, and just spend a few minutes making/smoothing lines and shapes with each tool I plan on using that session. Nothing long, maybe five minutes tops. And I can reuse the polymer clay the next session, so no waste of materials.

 

It gets my hand adjusted to the weight of the tools and starts building/awakens muscle memory. It also helps me remember how each tool cuts/pulls/pushes, though I do have to keep in mind that there are some differences to how my tools interact with clay vs epoxy putty.

 

Again, I am a rank novice, but maybe it'll help.

Edited by ManvsMini
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14 hours ago, MedusaMiniatures said:

Hey TaleSpinner, in my experience if I lean on my elbow while working (i.e. making art) I become prone to ulnar nerve compression. The ulnar nerve runs around the back/inside of the elbow and then across the forearm (ulna bone of course!) . I have to sit in a chair without arm rests and make sure not to lean my elbow or forearm on the table. My table has a rounded edge which helps. 

 

Mine is doing the opposite.  I get it when my elbow is unsupported. Providing support for my elbow seems to elevate the issue somewhat, but also usually results in me having to hunch forward to see (I'll probably nee to rebuild my studio ergonomics, but won't until I know for sure what is going on.  We'll see what the doctor has to say.

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40 minutes ago, TaleSpinner said:

 

Mine is doing the opposite.  I get it when my elbow is unsupported. Providing support for my elbow seems to elevate the issue somewhat, but also usually results in me having to hunch forward to see (I'll probably nee to rebuild my studio ergonomics, but won't until I know for sure what is going on.  We'll see what the doctor has to say.

 

In the vein of useless speculation from the untrained, I wonder whether your repeated shoulder injuries might not have left some slop in the joint. Then when the elbow isn't supported, the proximal end of the humerus starts to sag down and allows something to impinge on the nerves as they run through there.

 

Sorry; I'm constitutionally unable to not speculate when someone has an "interesting misery". :rolleyes:

 

Good luck with the doc.

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6 hours ago, Doug Sundseth said:

 

In the vein of useless speculation from the untrained, I wonder whether your repeated shoulder injuries might not have left some slop in the joint. Then when the elbow isn't supported, the proximal end of the humerus starts to sag down and allows something to impinge on the nerves as they run through there.

 

Sorry; I'm constitutionally unable to not speculate when someone has an "interesting misery". :rolleyes:

 

Good luck with the doc.

 

This wouldn't surprise me. Repeatedly dislocating or subluxating your shoulder can put stress on the nerve bundles in the area and can cause the ligaments holding the shoulder in place to become damaged or stretched, causing the weight of the arm to pull on the nerves if it isn't supported. 

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