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Thread: Arthritis, Tendonitis, Etc.

  1. #1

    Question Arthritis, Tendonitis, Etc.

    Hello once again. I've got a few things I'd like to by you all and see what kind of advice you have to offer. I've been a hardcore computer junkie for about 23 years now, and I've never had ANY problems with CTS or RSI. In my mid 20s (early 30s now) I developed a little bit of intermittent arthritis. I'd wake up in the morning and various parts of my left(fret) hand would be stiff. It would take hot water and on into the day before it regained mobility. This pain would come and go, sometimes not be there for months, and it would attack different parts of the same hand.

    When I was in my teens I was a semi-pro skateboarder. I never wore a wrist brace, and I usually broke my many falls with my left hand. I'm pretty sure I sprained it quite a few times, but never had any doctors check it out. I don't know if this is why my left hand seems to be plagued with problems, but I'm sure it didn't help. Just a little background info before I continue.

    I've picked up a guitar again about 3 years ago, but didn't start really practicing until about a year ago. I bought a 7-string shortly after my practicing got underway and I would put in about 2 hours 3 days a week or so. One day after playing the blues, my left(fret) hand started to experience pain in a specific area. It didn't seem like the arthritis from before, but something different. The pain is located in the red zone seen in the pic. This pain stays around for longer than I want, and just like the arthritis will be totally gone some days and totally back others. I don't know how to diagnose it. It seems like arthritis, but I haven't had it hang around like this coming and going before. I've practiced hard some days and it's been perfectly fine the next day, and also not practiced for a few days and it just shows up all of a sudden for no reason. If I heat it up the pain subsides a good deal, just like arthritis, but it seems to hang around longer than my arthritis episodes.

    I started to think that the 7-string was the cause, because of the wider fretboard, and because the pain seems to originate right where my the red zone is pressed against the edge of the fretboard. When digging into bends, etc. there has been a lot of pressure in that area. I've since tried to be conscious of pressure, placement, and overall technique when playing.

    I constantly massage my hands and try to keep them in good condition. My diet is pretty good (no carbonated drinks ever, lots of greens and grains), but I don't drink a lot of water. I'm not a big drinker at all, but sometimes enjoy an excessive amount of wine. I usually drink a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning. I know some of these things may contribute, but I'm not real clear on that.

    Anyway.. to describe the area in more detail. If you trace the index finger on the left hand down with a finger it will go over a small rise at the base right below the knuckle. Right below this is where the pain is located. I feels like it's up under the knuckle a little.

    I appreciate anyone who took the time to read this and offer advice!


  2. #2
    Modbod UKRuss's Avatar
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    You really need to see a doctor.

    I still have a recurring problem similar to yours, similar area, in my right hand which happens when I drum, which I'm fairly sure started after I had a snowboarding accident in the early 90s and bent my thumb right back.

    But it hadn't anything to do with my wrists which, like you I sprained many a time in falls. I drum only very rarely nowadays and it flares up after a while but guitar doesnt seem to bother it...

  3. #3
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    Somewhat unrelated, I've had pains on the top of my hand when I got back into guitar, right where the tendons are. It's gone now since I've been practicing on a regular basis. but a new thing I noticed is every now and then when I grab something at work just the right way, I feel a strong "pop" in my left wrist followed by a tingling sensation- similar to the funny bone feeling. Yikes.

  4. #4
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    Miles, first of all, see a doctor. Now, heres my two cents worth. First off, have you been diagnosed with arthritis? Usually arthritis will attack bilateral sides. In other words, if you have arthritis in your left shoulder you get it on the right as well. Not always, but usually. The area your talking about is right beneath the articlation of the index joint, and it could be two things, either a calcification of the joint or the tendon may be strained due to the pressure , especially from barring chords. Some things to watch for- sleep patterns- do you grind your teeth, move around alot, etc? Cause if you do you may be tensing your wrist and fingers as you sleep- its actually a common cause of "weird" problems that people arent aware of the cause. The fact that the pain comes and goes without even playing, and that your hand seems to inetrminant problems, it may very well be the cause. Also- GO SLOW. I dont just mean play slow, i mean build them muscles for playing up. If your muscles arent developed yet and you force your hand to do something anyway you will cause your joints and tendons to take up the pressure. Most of all- SEE A DOCTOR. please. You have more options right after something starts then once its fully developed.

  5. #5
    Thanks guys.. Yeah I need to get out and see the RIGHT doctor. I've never had any problems with the other hand, or the other side at all for that matter. I'm beginning to think it's just a case of tendonitis, because it isn't a joint that seems to hurt, but a muscle or tendon in the area indicated. I probably just worked it way too hard. It never really bothers me when I'm playing guitar, unless I try to do some crazy stretch or wide interval legato.

  6. #6
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    I got a similar pain in the same area except around the ring finger. I was diagnosed with pre-trigger finger. Which is basically a tendon problem. Go see a doctor and he'll fix you up. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to treat and the more damage you'll do to the affected tendon.

    Good luck.
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  7. #7
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    Hey Miles, how you doing. Something weird came up recently that might interest you, a friend of mine i give lessons to every once in a while told me he's having a pain alot like yours, so i did a little study of how he played and experimented a bit. It turns out he was using finger strenght to bar chords, play etc. In other wrods he wasnt supporting his fingers enough with his thumb. If you hold the guiatr try this- keep your thumb off the back of the guitar and play a bar chord notice how much pressure it takes to do so. Now lock your thumb and make it stiff, then plant it solidly on the back of the neck and push it into the neck with your arm, now play a bar chrod, notice how much less pressure it takes from the fingers? I think (with my friend i'm sure) that not enough support from the thumb was being given. So we worked on that, and he says he notices a difference. He wasnt even aware of it, so you may have to experiment a bit. Basically i told him to see a doc too, but he felt releif almost immediately. Just thought i'd drop a line in case this might help you, and wish you luck. Have you seen a doc yet? Let us know what happens

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ehvam
    Hey Miles, how you doing. Something weird came up recently that might interest you, a friend of mine i give lessons to every once in a while told me he's having a pain alot like yours, so i did a little study of how he played and experimented a bit. It turns out he was using finger strenght to bar chords, play etc. In other wrods he wasnt supporting his fingers enough with his thumb. If you hold the guiatr try this- keep your thumb off the back of the guitar and play a bar chord notice how much pressure it takes to do so. Now lock your thumb and make it stiff, then plant it solidly on the back of the neck and push it into the neck with your arm, now play a bar chrod, notice how much less pressure it takes from the fingers? I think (with my friend i'm sure) that not enough support from the thumb was being given. So we worked on that, and he says he notices a difference. He wasnt even aware of it, so you may have to experiment a bit. Basically i told him to see a doc too, but he felt releif almost immediately. Just thought i'd drop a line in case this might help you, and wish you luck. Have you seen a doc yet? Let us know what happens
    Hey thanks for the update! I've actually been paying very close attention to those things, and have found a few areas that I'm working on. I also bought this little panda bear thing that you stick in the freezer and use for ice therapy. It's small enough to grip in your hand and doesn't get all messy. After a good practice session one night (with the pain still there) I gripped it for about an hour and ever since have had NO pain at all. Hopefully that was all I needed, but I'm still knocking on wood.

    He's clear when not frozen. This pic is in the frozen state. You can find them near the front counter at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Best $5 I've ever spent.


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