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  • Al Watsky 1:47PM
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Hand cramps during gig; solution?

robertsaundersrobertsaunders Brookline, MANew
edited January 2009 in Technique
Was doing a gig yesterday, and toward the end of it my left hand cramped up between the thumb and forefinger for a few moments, so I had to stop playing and relax, shake it out, then resume. It did it off and on for the next ten minutes or so. I recovered and finished the set. The difference between this gig and others is that this time I was standing up, also I was playing a different guitar, a slim body electric. I noticed that forming chords with my thumb seemed to be the origin of the cramps.

The keyboardist and drummer told me afterward that there's an infallible cure for cramps: potassium. They've had cramps, and said that eating a banana beforehand worked like a charm. Taking potassium in pill form could also work, banana is just better tasting. Anybody have experience with this cure? Any other cures?

~Rob

Comments

  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, Mexicoâś­âś­âś­âś­
    This used to happen to me a long time ago with thin neck guitars.
    Hot Club Mexico - Jazz Manouche
    http://www.myspace.com/hotclubmexico
  • A.K. KibbenA.K. Kibben Tucson AZ USANew
    I believe your cramping!
    Hydrate!
    Drink water!
    This advise comes from and old concrete finisher / guitar / bass player...
    Thin neck guitars has nothing to do with it!
    Look at your life style. Not your guitar neck!
    Chime in all you doc's of wisdom...
  • A.K. KibbenA.K. Kibben Tucson AZ USANew
    I believe your cramping!
    Hydrate!
    Drink water!
    This advise comes from and old concrete finisher / guitar / bass player...
    Thin neck guitars has nothing to do with it!
    Look at your life style. Not your guitar neck!
    Chime in, all you doc's of wisdom...
  • A.K. KibbenA.K. Kibben Tucson AZ USANew
    My bad...
    I posted twice...
    Oh well...
    Hit me with your best shot...
  • La GitaneLa Gitane Llanelli, UKNew
    Sorry to hear about your hand problem Rob

    Cramps can be caused by a number of things.
    Too much water and/or too little sodium ("hyponatraemia") can contribute.
    Too little potassium ("hypokalaemia") and dehydration can cause muscle weakness, but not usually cramps; so although bananas and citrus fruits contain a fair bit of potassium and are good for treatment of mild hypokalaemia, I'm not sure that they are the answer in this case.

    The most common cause of cramps in musicians is lack of a proper warm-up routine combined with increased muscle tension due to the anxiety of performing. Excessive or repetitive stretching or barre chords add to muscle tension and fatigue - that's another reason that GJ players use triad chord shapes instead of barre chords: economy of effort. If you're jamming away for hours at a time it's much easier to play triads rather than barre chords.
    Also a cold environment can reduce circulation to your fingers and can allow build up of lactic acid causing cramps.

    I've long since grown out of listening to prog rock & neoclassical shred metal, but a lot of the techniques used by these guys (technically demanding fast solos, sweep picking, arpeggios, diminished runs etc.) are shared with (or derived from) Gypsy Jazz...
    The guitarist John Petrucci's "Rock Discipline" instructional DVD:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/J-Petrucci-Rock ... B00006L57W
    spends the first 25 minutes or so explaining how to avoid injury and muscle cramps. He demonstrates a systematic stretching and massage routine to eliminate tension from the neck to fingertips, followed by some warm up exercises for both left and right hands. Whatever your preferred style of music, the DVD is probably worth watching for this information alone - maybe try to rent a copy or buy it second hand from eBay...

    Other rare causes of hand cramps include extreme hyperventilation which can upset the calcium balance and cause your hands and feet to cramp up ("carpopedal spasm"), and the myotonic dystrophies: inherited conditions which cause your muscles to fatigue easily and have trouble relaxing after contraction; but we're getting into small print stuff here, so don't worry yourself about these things.

    Keep well hydrated, but don't overdo it.
    Maintain a good balanced diet, maybe with a little more salt than usual if you are anticipating losing a lot of sweat.
    Keep your fingers warm (wear gloves if you're setting out for a gig and its cold outside) and do a thorough stretch and warm up routine before playing.

    Hope this helps.
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