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  • Mehran s 9:26PM

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Pinched Nerve in Cervical Spine Area Affecting Picking Hand

ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
in Technique Posts: 265
I was recently diagnosed with some nerve impingement in the neck that may or may not require surgery (arguments for and against abound, but conservative initial management is generally agreed upon). Symptoms included burning pain under right shoulder blade and radiating down right arm. Most annoying, however, is weakness in the pinky finger--but also critically, for any guitarist--in the thumb and first joint of the index finger.

This has resulted in weakness turning a key, using chopsticks, kitchen knives, etc. I can live and adapt to all that. The one I'm having trouble with is controlling the pick. Things have improved with some physical therapy and cervical traction, thankfully. Also, I should be grateful that it's not my left fretting hand.

I have been compensating by changing the grip on the pick and reverting, occasionally, back to the wider Wegen gypsy jazz pick. As a follower of Stochelo, I had worked my way into playing with his pick, the smaller Wegen Big City pick. Even before this problem arose, I had started attaching little silicone grip circles to my picks because my fingers just seem to be too slippery. This had proven a very successful strategy. (I have mentioned the product before: "Monster Grips," available from Amazon for about 9 bucks for a set of 16.)

I've grown to like the sound of the 2-2.5 mm Wegen picks, and I've recently ordered a pack of the Wegen 250's to try to them in the current mix. I also have some the thinner Wegen Gypsy full size picks to try.

Needless to say, I'm working hard to overcome this issue. Some who have heard me play this music after studying it for the last two years say I sound pretty damn good. But, I can tell where I'm having problems. It may be too much to ask to regain these extremely fine motor skills, but the music spurs me on. After all, Django played all that music with just 2 1/2 working fretting fingers . . . .

So, I'm checking in the community to ask whether any of you have struggled with this problem, or know someone who has. Comments and advice are appreciated.


  • AppelAppel ✭✭✭
    edited July 2015 Posts: 78
    I've been through something like what you've described, and I go through it again, thankfully at lower pain levels, depending upon what I've had to do with by body. The details aren't that interesting ... knocks and bangs from construction work, primarily, with two nasty cycling accidents thrown in - but I can offer a couple suggestions.

    I had pinched nerves in my neck and left shoulder that made my left arm feel as though I'd just struck my "funny bone", extremely hard ... except non-stop, for seven months, and that's what it felt like when it was at its lowest; when it was peaking, it was overwhelming, couldn't sleep or think, even blocked my vision sometimes. And I had no feeling at all in my left hand, though I could move it if I thought about it. I was seeing a physiotherapist, doing strange neck extensions and some kind of electrical therapy, but that all seemed to make it worse. Finally, I stopped the physiotherapy and tried acupuncture. I was taken by a friend to an acupuncturist who worked out of her home, and she spent almost two hours on me - sometimes running mild electrical currents from one needle to another, sometimes heating the needles - and in the two or three days following that first treatment, the pain dropped to about 60%. Two more treatments spread over the following week and it was reduced to below 10%. I saw the acupuncturist once every few months after that, and over the next year the pain went completely away, and I got almost all the feeling back in my hand. Even after the pinch was treated and removed, it still took the full year before I could really feel and control my hand properly again. It was as though the hand had to learn to feel things again ... very strange and interesting experience.

    Perhaps you can find an alternative treatment that will keep you out from under the knife. That is the last resort, though no doubt a good surgeon could give you back many useful years.

    I've also had good luck with chiropractic treatments, though I had to really look around; finally, a professional dancer (a real dancer, ballet and contemporary performance - just in case you wondered :naughty:) recommended a chiropractor who could work on the neck. Not every chiropractor I've seen has helped, but I did find one that did. I see him once a year or so for a tune-up, and every few months I visit an acupuncturist, too. I suppose I am suggesting you talk to people you know who use their bodies to extremes - maybe older performing artists, pro athletes, even construction workers - what kind of therapists they know and use for themselves. Get names and try people out. In New Orleans, there must be any number of good people who could help you reduce or even clear up this pinch.

    Also, when I can, I take restorative yoga classes, and that helps. I practice a bit on my own, too. I get reminded, in those classes, that we are mostly fluids and that sore spots are places where the movement of fluids is blocked - but those spots can be worked on and opened up a bit again, sometimes enough so you can do everything you need to do.

    Best of luck in your search, wishing you well.

  • I had nerve problems, acute subachromial ??itis a combination of chiropractic, massage and physio had me cured after a year. Yes cured. Now I just have to remember to keep my shoulders back and down and not round over when I play.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Posts: 2,574
    Sorry to hear that man.
    It's nothing like your problem but recently, maybe about a year ago I started having this pinching pain in my left shoulder, kinda between shoulder and neck. I'm pretty sure I caused it during my practice by being in some position that my body doesn't like. I still haven't figured out what exactly I'm doing that I shouldn't. I try to keep a straight posture and relax my shoulders.
    A visit to acupuncturist helped a lot so I can vouch for that.
    After a while I can tell I'm still causing it because I feel it occasionally but it's not as bad as before the treatment.
    Good luck to you!
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • So sorry to hear about your problems, buddy! I also had a pinched nerve in my neck which didn't cause much pain but had my hand and lower arm tingling as of asleep for months! This was my fretting hand, which also is a bit arthritic! I had to play on faith as I couldn't get a normal feel. Chiropractic and neck massages as well as a neck traction device helped or it just went away. VERY annoying and distracting. Often, if not severe, these things seem to work themselves out. I hope you get better quickly!
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 265
    Thanks for all the helpful comments and advice, guys.

    Fortunately, the pain is gone thanks to some ongoing physical therapy and cervical traction. What remains is the slight awkwardness with the pinky, index, and thumb. Even that problem, however, seems to be improving.

    The long and the short of it is, there is no cure for this condition other than surgery. But, physical therapy, cervical traction, and even acupuncture can go along way toward beating back the symptoms. Trust me, I've been doing a lot of research ever since this flared up. I do appreciate, though, the first-hand accounts and expeiences of fellow players and how you have made adjustments and come backs to play the music we love.

    Will keep y'all posted on my progress. Thanks again for everyone's comments and good wishes.
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