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Thread: My thumb hurts...

  1. #1
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    Default My thumb hurts...

    Well, I've been playing about a year now, and I was really starting to make great progress with my picking, and low and behold...I start getting this pain in the joint where my thumb meets my wrist :-( It persisted enough, I finally went to the Doc, and he gave me some cortizone cream to rub on it 5 times a day, and told me to rest it as much as possible. So I cannot seem to resist, I enjoy picking so much, I cannot seem to give my thumb/wrist a rest. Thinking about a brace.

    Anyone else ever had this problem?
    Eastman MD-515
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  2. #2
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I deleted this reply now that I see it is your picking hand not your fretting hand. I incorrectly assumed it was your fretting hand.

    How firmly are you holding the pick? Try lightening your grip a bit.
    Last edited by Bob Clark; Jun-18-2015 at 2:12pm. Reason: Wrong hand!

  3. #3
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Picking hand or fingering hand?
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    oh I'm sorry, my strong hand (picking hand), right hand. Not my fretting hand.
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    *deleted, now that I saw it's your picking hand, not your fretting hand.

  6. #6

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Release your death grip on the pick a little. . You should be relaxed when you play.

  7. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I would look at how you hold the pick.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  8. #8

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I personally use a smooth Primetone pick, but have you tried a pick that is sculpted or has holes for grip. Maybe if the pick feels more secure it might be easier to relax your grip a bit.

  9. #9

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Definitely work on holding the pick looser, not so it's floppy, but it doesn't need to be super rigid. Also try unlocking your wrist, forearm, etc. Anywhere you have tensed-up muscles will lead to problems. It may not by your thumb that is the source of the pain, excessive tension can manifest in unlikely places.
    Don't play through the pain. Play as long as it's not painful. Then stop and rest as long as you can manage. It will be better for your picking in the long run.
    Consider getting a couple lessons on technique, or joining the Artistworks Mike Marshall school online which has an emphasis on ergonomic and effective technique for both hands.

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  11. #10
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Oh no! Pain is the worst. Others have said it -- don't play through pain. You wouldn't run through pain if you wanted to continue to run on a regular basis. You'll end up injured and could risk chronic or permanent injury. And boo to that.

    As others have said, consider closely examining your pick grip technique. Learn as much as you can. In addition to the resources others have shared, there are a number of useful videos on YouTube about the pick hold including, among others, one from Thile.
    Collings MT
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  12. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Bet you're squeezing the poop outa that pick; try loosening the grip, repositioning the pick against the thumb.

    But -- when your body hurts, there's a reason. Continuing to do something that routinely causes pain, is a good way to risk permanent damage. The mandolin will still be there a week from now, when you've rested and relaxed your hand and tried a variety of different grips and picking postures to minimize the strain on the thumb.

    Oh, and ice: warmth to loosen the hand, exercise to build strength and flexibility, ice afterwards to reduce inflammation. A year-plus of rehabbing a shattered left wrist has taught me a few things.
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  14. #12
    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I would suggest some hot cold therapy (alternating hot/cold packs). Then start on some motrin (Advil/ibuprofen) 400-800mg every 8 hours for 7-14 days. This medication provides quick pain relief but has good antiinflammatory properties if taken >7 days. As always take with food and if you're on other medications or have a history of peptic ulcers etc consult your doctor. Another thought would be to wrap your thumb with athletic tape. If done correctly you would aid in healing your thumb without stressing it more while playing (providing external support). Something like this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1ydvON1PmjE

    There's a lot you can do to aid in the healing process while still playing.

  15. #13
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Stop. Stop playing. If you make it worse, it will be worse.
    This is a dark road.

    Did I tell you to stop yet?

    Did you stop yet?

    Talk to your thumb - find out what it wants to do. Putting your thumb in charge of your thumb is obviously better than the not so good job you are doing. when your thumb tells you what's wrong, listen to what your thumb says.

    If it hurts all the time, you have gone over the edge. Stop. Rest. Talk to your thumb. I know this sounds funny. I don't care about funny. If you have a better idea, type it here.

    Did you stop the demands on your thumb yet?

    NSAIDS = Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs - aka ibuprofin and others might help - but you don't want to depend on that for a perm solution. Eliminate the cause, move to the solution.

    Cortisone is a steroid. It will make you think you are ready to pick again. It is a lie. Listen to your thumb. You need to stop playing for a month to allow the entire healing process to have a chance - possibly longer. If the inflame goes down, try very simple normal typical moves only. Do not move pianos, elephants, or anything strenuous for a while. Do not play mandolin until you know what's going on. Listen to the source; or try to find the source.

    If this happened suddenly, was there something else you forgot about that hurt you. And why would you want to move an elephant anyway.?

    Massaging your thumb will help communication; and will let it know that you paying attention.

    This is repetitive strain injury. It can lead to lame attempts at 'cure' such as carple tunnel surgery - it failed badly for a friend of mine - now it's constant pain and constant medication.

    I got it also from machinery vibrations. My doctor said I would have to change jobs, it could hurt me for the rest of my life. He did not tell me to talk to my thumb. My thumb insisted I listen - except it was also painful in hands, wrists, forearms, etc. One day I walked off the job - that was the day I learned the meaning of "walk on water".

    Work your own miracles.

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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I would look into making adjustments to correct the problem once you are certain that there is no physical damage. I have moderate/severe rheumatoid arthritis, I am constantly making adjustment to work around the pain. Picks, strings, setup, sitting and or standing position. If I did not play because of pain I would never play again but then again I know what my problem is and that playing will not make it worse.
    Pickin therapy is great for the soul...and other various things.

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  18. #15

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruckmanite View Post
    oh I'm sorry, my strong hand (picking hand), right hand. Not my fretting hand.
    Years ago I went to a thumb pick for my mandolin picking. That way I can ease up on my grip without the pick dropping to the floor. I got the idea from watching Russ Pahl play his Telecaster with a thumb pick, but holding it like a flat pick.
    "Those who know don't have the words to tell, and the ones with the words don't know so well." - Bruce Cockburn

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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    I know this might seem extreme to some, but ask your doc if you could have an xray done. I had pain in the same place (left hand) and after an xray, it was determined that my wrist was really screwed up...so much so, that a partial wrist fusion was recommended. I had the surgery done last month (3 screws in my wrist). I get my cast off in 4 days and am faced with weeks, maybe months, of PT and have almost totally lost my callouses. Four years ago, I had a carpectomy done on my right hand...same symptoms, different surgery, and am now pain free. I know surgery is not for everyone, but for me, no amount of meds or cortizone shots would permanently fix the problem of carpal bones in the wrong place, so it was my only choice.
    Looking forward to picking up my mandolin and guitar and getting those callouses back!

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  21. #17

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Have you tried playing for shorter periods/taking frequent breaks ? That helped me when I got/get aches and pains...

  22. #18
    Troy Shellhamer 9lbShellhamer's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Without knowing much else, I'm guessing you might have De Quervain's Tenosynovitis, also know as De Quervains' syndrome. I got this last january after a marathon 12 hour picking session at a jam. (this was after I'd been playing about a year as well...)

    I wore a thumb spica brace for about two - three weeks and stopped playing for a month.

    I've now been playing PAIN FREE for about a year and a half and I can play for over 6 hours a day with no pain. As others have mentioned, you might need to loosen your grip and become much more loose in the forearm. Tension is a huge barrier to speed and good clean tone anyways...

    As someone who had to take a month off I know the pain...I worked on my singing and other aspects of music and came back stronger as a musician and garnished a better technique as an end result.

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  24. #19
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    It could very well be basal joint arthritis. I have it, and apparently nearly everyone with opposable thumbs has a good chance of getting it eventually, from what I've read (hint, than takes in all humans who have all their digits). I had a chiropractor diagnose mine, he X-rayed my hand and showed me the problem. He then showed me how to adjust the joint to gradually push it back into position. Now, between adjusting the joint and learning what not to do, I hardly ever have pain.

    So... did the Doc diagnose the problem and tell you what it was, or just "give" you (or prescribe) topical medication for the pain? If it was the latter, maybe seeing someone else is in order.
    (Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, I don't play one on TV, take my advise in that context please.)

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    Registered User Robbie Hamlett's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    If part of the problem is holding on to your pick too tight I found these nifty little sticky things at the music store. I was always dropping my pick and got these things and now I have trouble putting it down! They are little jell like things that you stick on your pick and they stick to your finger (I use the finger side but I suppose your could stick it to your thumb.) I don't remember what they are called but they come in a package of maybe 10 and one lasts a long time.

  27. #21
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Sunburst may be on to something. I've had a little arthritis for the last 5 years or so, mostly at the base of the thumb and in the palm on both hands. Fortunately, it hasn't affected the fingers yet. I guess it comes with age. I won't say I'm old but Roosevelt was president when I was born (Franklin, not Theodore).
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    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

  28. #22

    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    It could very well be basal joint arthritis. I have it, and apparently nearly everyone with opposable thumbs has a good chance of getting it eventually, from what I've read (hint, than takes in all humans who have all their digits). I had a chiropractor diagnose mine, he X-rayed my hand and showed me the problem. He then showed me how to adjust the joint to gradually push it back into position. Now, between adjusting the joint and learning what not to do, I hardly ever have pain.

    So... did the Doc diagnose the problem and tell you what it was, or just "give" you (or prescribe) topical medication for the pain? If it was the latter, maybe seeing someone else is in order.
    (Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, I don't play one on TV, take my advise in that context please.)
    I have the same thing --about 15 years ago a Doctor I went to see suggested surgery. I never did it and the problem would come and go and was related to the weather. About 6-7 years ago as part of my $90,000 broken arm I spent some of that money on physical therapists and an acupuncturist. The last two earned and deserved their very small percentage of that money. I really don't think any of the people and institutions the received the bulk of it did me a particularly great service. In the process of getting acupuncture for the really bad stuff that happened to my arm the acupuncturist worked on some other problems including the arthritic problem with my thumbs. I have had no problems ever since. I also discovered that I had dupreykins(sp) contracture which also disappeared ---he said he could fix it and he did! The Doctors give you pills and salves and then they cut. Physical therapists ,acupuncturists ,and maybe chiropractors I have had the most luck with.

  29. #23
    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    Quote Originally Posted by barney 59 View Post
    I have the same thing --about 15 years ago a Doctor I went to see suggested surgery. I never did it and the problem would come and go and was related to the weather. About 6-7 years ago as part of my $90,000 broken arm I spent some of that money on physical therapists and an acupuncturist. The last two earned and deserved their very small percentage of that money. I really don't think any of the people and institutions the received the bulk of it did me a particularly great service. In the process of getting acupuncture for the really bad stuff that happened to my arm the acupuncturist worked on some other problems including the arthritic problem with my thumbs. I have had no problems ever since. I also discovered that I had dupreykins(sp) contracture which also disappeared ---he said he could fix it and he did! The Doctors give you pills and salves and then they cut. Physical therapists ,acupuncturists ,and maybe chiropractors I have had the most luck with.
    Well said. The Doctors support BIG PHARMA and if they can't fix it they start CUTTING OUT PARTS.
    I often tell people the body knows how to look after itself. If that's not true, how did we get this far?
    MD is severely limited by it's obligations/oaths/recognized diagnoses etc etc which fall under the label MD. Leave MD, and you get branded QUACK. Quack fixes it and MD /PHARMBOYS get the profits/benefits of the socalled "health care system" They deal in disease - they don't deal in health. There's more money in finding something they can LABEL. Once you are labelled, that's what you are - and it's worse in psychoLogic/psychoCiatric. I forget what they call their big book of labels - but they gotta fit you into some LABEL, otherwise, they aren't recognized. No money.
    Stamp - and they do, and have done it for decades. It's about the $$$$$$$.
    Lately, the big money is in obesity. DUH - we are apparently all very stupid - you eat too much sugar fat junk food and you become unhealthy - did I miss something? And yet, it's LEGAL to sell food that kills people. Fascinating genocide. The ultimate label.
    They have their place, and their useful services - but there's more money in the legal scam. Have another chickenburger w extra fries and a coke and a sugar-laden thing to finish you off.
    Fasting is better than that. Education is non-existent in this area. I had friends who did their own research, and educated me.
    Garlic, cayenne, onion, ginger, small meat portion, veggies, heavy bread, cereal. Seek protein sources. Multivitamin/multimineral.
    CHROMIUM - glucose tolerance factor - offset to low blood suger. Avoid white sugar, also other sweeteners.
    Cleansers. the master cleanser. and others.
    Discover complex carbohydrates.
    Diamond - 'a new way of eating' also 'fit for life' (it's about combiniations)
    Would you put ice cream on a burger?

    = The Loar, LM700VS c.2013 = "The Brat"
    = G. Puglisi, "Roma" c.1907 = "Patentato" - rare archBack, canted top, oval
    = Harmony, Monterrey c.1969 = collapsed ply - parts, testing, training, firewood.


    "The intellect is a boring load of crawp. Aye. Next wee chune".

  30. #24
    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    The health care system has its flaws, believe me I work in it. But I would argue that it does more good than not. There are thousands of pathologies that can be treated successfully today. No chiropractor ever removed a meningioma from a persons brain. Nor has one treated type 1 diabetes or repaired the malformed heart of a day old baby. Nor have they made advances in arthritis or dementia treatment that we are seeing today. Seeing a doctor you trust is a part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Who else is going to catch your prostate cancer? Eating right, exercise etc is a part of that lifestlye also. There is more emphasis on maintaining health in "health care systems" now more than ever. For example health coaching is huge as are dieticians, most of this teaching and coaching is free also. You know what else is gaining popularity in healthcare? Music therapy! Especially in the elderly with dementia etc. Helps with all that associative memory stuff... Our healthcare system is a capitalistic model you're correct. However, without a business generating money and success they cannot afford to or have incentive to invest in the research and development of say prosthetic limbs or drugs that break up the collagen in your dupuytrens contracture. Physicians and "pharmboys" in this country have done more for society and humanity than a QUACK ever has. Ive never seen an acupucturist decrease the inflammation in a childs airway during an asthma exacerbation. How did we get this far? If not for our developments in healthcare everyone would die at age 40-50 as they did hundreds of years ago. Lots of mommies and babies would die in labor for one. The body does know how to take care of itself and when it cant do yourself a favor and go see a doctor you trust. Its legal to sell food in this country and youre free to eat until you blow up or not. Genocide? Seriously? Maybe we should all eat the same legally mandated oatmeal every morning? Thats a totally different can of worms. OK off my soap box, very sorry for the "wondering away" from the OPs topic of discussion. Back to thumb treatments to play mandolin and heal the world.

  31. #25
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: My thumb hurts...

    What do you do for you Living? that may be the root cause and the playing a minor re-aggravation.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
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