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Left Hand Pain Causes?

billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
in Technique Posts: 627

I've seen this subject come up several times over the last few months, but always in asides. Usually, some of the older players talking about how they can't play certain neck shapes or chord fingerings because of left hand pain. Sometimes that is arthritis. Sometimes that is something else.

Wondering if those folks would chime in here to see what advice they might give their younger self. Was it poor technique that caused this? If it was technique related, what specifically? Thumb chord fingerings? Death grip fretting? If it is something that is preventable, maybe some of the younger players can benefit from these experiences, so they aren't doomed to make the same ones?

Everyone talks about sharing licks and tips for navigating certain chord changes, but I don't often see a lot of discussion on properly warming up muscles or how certain choices can have consequences much later on. Thanks in advance!

BucorudolfochristBill Da Costa Williams

Comments

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,130

    I would advise myself to keep the left hand relaxed and not grip too hard because it's not necessary and causes pain and fatigue. Also, don't destroy your wrist skateboarding when you were 19 years old dummy!!

    billyshakes
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    edited December 2020 Posts: 295

    I'd say it's just age, but since my left hand has more problems than my right, I suspect that 60 years of bad habits are the distinguishing factor. I can feel similar but lesser effects in the middle joints of my right-hand fingers, so different actions have different effects, right?

    I have always had strong hands, and even in my 70s I don't have a lot of general arthritic discomfort, but for several years the muscles and joints at the base of the left thumb have been getting uncomfortable, and the middle joint of left index finger has started to object to some fully flexed positions (a thumb-over F chord, for example). That suggestst that the finger-thumb clamping action is the culprit, which in turn suggests that my folky thumb-over technique (on some guitars I can fret the E and A strings with it) is not a good long-term approach. And of course that's one of the keys to "authentic" gypsy chording. I'm primariy a fingerpicker, and I note that when I play straight swing rhythm with shell-chord shapes, I use fewer thumb-over shapes, and my hands don't object as much. (The neck profile on my Eastman helps, too.)

    So I'd say pay attention to what classical players do: keep the left thumb centered on the middle of the neck, watch your posture, don't flex the wrist, and so on. Probably develop a warmup and exercise regimen that includes arms and shoulders as well as hands. Don't try to crack walnuts with your fingers, as I used to do.

    billyshakes
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    edited December 2020 Posts: 627

    Too late for me on that one! Except I was 14 years old. I had broken radius and ulna when a runner behind me tripped me during a track relay exchange. 3 months later, I got the pins removed and was in a brace, but couldn't wait to get on my board. Of course, at some point I fell and cracked my weakened wrist. Good to know I'm in such good company, though! 😉👍️

  • MatteoMatteo Sweden✭✭✭✭ JWC Modele Jazz, Lottonen "Selmer-Maccaferri"
    edited December 2020 Posts: 387

    Well, who knows exactly what to do and what not to do? We're all different. I developed very bad problems with my left hand finger joints when I was in my twenties, after having been playing too much guitar. Finally, I wasn't able to play at all. So I switched to the trumpet and didn't even touch a guitar for five years. Then, little by litte, sometimes two steps forward, one back, I got back to playing again. I took years and years. Working as a journalist, a web editor etc. typing at a computer most of the day, didn't exactly help. But I had discovered Django and I felt I just had to learn how to play in that style. Aways balancing on the edge, sometimes having to stop and recover for a while, i kept on practicing as well as I could. But at one point I gave up. It was just too disappointing to get to the point again and again when I had to stop playing because of pain. I went back to the electric guitar for a while because it was much less demanding physically. Then one day, I stumbled upon a short scale d-hole guitar in a shop and discovered it was easier to play than the oval hole guitar I had. I absolutely didn't plan on buying a guitar right then but happened to have some extra money at the time and finally decided to buy it after all. That got me back on the right path. A couple of years ago I found myself looking for a different sound and bought a new oval hole guitar. It took a while to get accustomed to, but now, at 55, my left hand is stronger than ever. The lesson is perhaps not to be too eager and overdo it. Steady and slowly works better in the long run. If only I had known when I was younger. How long will this last? Who knows? Just in case, I have already bought a lap steel guitar, to have something else to play if my left hand fingers stop to cooperate.

    billyshakesBill Da Costa Williams
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited December 2020 Posts: 1,675

    i would advise myself not to try to paint the house myself... just spend the #$&* money and hire a #$&* painter...

    And I would offer every other musician that same advice....

    !-)

    billyshakes
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • QuadropentaQuadropenta New England USANew
    Posts: 108

    Arthritis is a variety of different conditions causing swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. I wouldn't assume you did something wrong to cause it to happen. That can't really be proven, and beating yourself up achieves nothing. I'm primarily a violin player, and have been for 50 years. I have arthritis in both hands, and my bowing hand has been almost completely free from strain or pressure. Yet it is affected. I suggest Aleve and a hot water soak before playing, and time to warm-up slowly. The condition is chronic, but I have been able to adapt with some loss of ability. Freddie Green chords on guitar are still there. I always assumed folk guitar chords would be, but that style is impossible to play now. Its a matter of adapting music to your abilities, whatever they may be. They are now "less is more" :^)

    BucobillyshakesBill Da Costa Williams
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,130

    As I've mentioned before, pot works the best for me but then you are stoned so I only use it when I do something really bad to cause the arthritis to flare up since I can't sit around wasted all the time. Ibuprofen works OK but it really plays havoc on my stomach so I stay away from it. Generally I try to avoid OTC or prescription meds since I don't do well with the side effects.

    billyshakes
  • I have tendinitis in my right arm and gout slowly moving up my body into my joints. I try to control my gout as much as possible by limiting the things that trigger my flare ups and I drink a boat load of water. Peeing clear is good advice for all of us.

    More relevant, over use injuries...listen to your body for the signs of these. Look for common stretches before and after playing and try to be good to do these, especially after long gigs, jams, practice session. I use these and they help me come out of of active pain and prevent oncoming bouts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d8c-ZKF1Ns. I modify based on time and need, but it is important, as it is with playing, to try to do these exercises without tension.

    Thank you for bringing this up.

    BucoBill Da Costa WilliamsBonesbillyshakesrudolfochrist
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