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Thread: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

  1. #1

    Default Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I have been playing guitar for a long time and switched to mandolin last Aug. Through improper technique I have developed wrist/thumb pain (primarily thumb) while fretting. I have since learned the proper technique and can now play solos and SOME chords without pain. However, the left hand has not completely healed.

    I am wondering if I should quit playing until the wrist/thumb is completely healed or continue playing as long as I am not experiencing pain while playing.

    What are your experiences?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    From my experience with DeQuervain syndrome, which is an inflammation of the thumb tendon, I followed the doctor's advice and stopped doing the things that initiated the pain. DUH. But I also learned that a dull ache is okay, sore stuff moving by sore stuff, as opposed to sharp pain, which is typically a small tear of tissue. But I have taken it easy to avoid a receptive stress injury as well.

    Less pressure on the back of the neck with the thumb is good, and so is warming up with scales slowly as finger stretching exercises. Keep the fingers down as long as possible without strain to gradually get a longer stretch.

    Caution is the better part of valor. You won't make progress by reinjuring yourself.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Thanks Bill.

    My pain is sharp when I do certain things, otherwise no pain at all. For example, most of the pain comes with trying to barre the top 2 sets of strings on chords. I have to exert a lot of pressure to hold them down and my thumb shoots pain.

    I can fret the G and D strings by themselves with no pain.

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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    When I started with the mandolin from guitar I had issues too. Mine were in the right elbow from incorrect pick technique. I had to quit playing for about six months before it completely healed up. I've had no issues since.

    BTW, I have been taking a herbal supplement for joint health for years now that I am convinced has helped me. It is by the company Solgar and it's called... 7. Here's a link to their site... https://www.solgar.com/products/solg...able-capsules/

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    If you haven't yet, see your doctor. I suffered for 6 months with pain much like yours, doing everything I could think of to include not playing at all to give the left hand a rest. Nothing worked. Finally saw my doctor and learned through an xray I have severe arthritis in the 3 bones in the thumb. Now with a prescription for diclofenac gel and heat therapy. It's better but will never go away. At least I did correct some incorrect hand positioning, but it will never take away the pain entirely. Its manageable with medication and Tylenol for now but may need a cortisone shot later this year.

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I had the same problem after some overly aggressive practice sessions. I bought a wrist support that I wear at night that keeps my wrist in a neutral position. It has helped greatly. I also cut my practices into several shorter sessions instead of one long marathon practice. Holding my mandolin with the neck at an upward angle ( keeping the wrist straight) helped a lot too. It took a few weeks but I am now pain free. Hope this helps!Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudcreek View Post
    I had the same problem after some overly aggressive practice sessions. I bought a wrist support that I wear at night that keeps my wrist in a neutral position. It has helped greatly. I also cut my practices into several shorter sessions instead of one long marathon practice. Holding my mandolin with the neck at an upward angle ( keeping the wrist straight) helped a lot too. It took a few weeks but I am now pain free. Hope this helps!
    I developed pain in the fretting hand. I wrapped my wrist and hand in an ace bandage at night for a few weeks. It made a big difference.
    Greg Fury

  12. #8

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudcreek View Post
    I had the same problem after some overly aggressive practice sessions. I bought a wrist support that I wear at night that keeps my wrist in a neutral position. It has helped greatly. I also cut my practices into several shorter sessions instead of one long marathon practice. Holding my mandolin with the neck at an upward angle ( keeping the wrist straight) helped a lot too. It took a few weeks but I am now pain free. Hope this helps!Click image for larger version. 

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    Me too. This really helps. I still use this as a preventative.
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I had this problem for a while. It was so bad that I found a physical therapist in Atlanta who had experience in dealing with--get this--stringed instrument musicians. It seems that he'd done PT work near one of the major conservatories. Violinists were always having disabling pain, because like mando/guitar/banjo players, their wrists are constantly twisted in all kinds of different angles. I had to stop playing for a while. I also had to adopt some exercises called "finger yoga" as a warm up before I played anything (which, like yoga, I just don't do as much as I should!). But the primary thing I learned is to prioritize my body's natural positioning over the instrument's apparent demands and fit my instrument to my body, not visa versa. For example, by letting my elbow drape naturally. By moving my fretboard waay, waay up at a much higher angle so that the natural descending line of my fingertips parallels the descending line of the fretboard. If you're not a professional musician, then you don't have to suck it up: you want to play less, play more carefully--because you want to play for many more years. The bottom line is: DON'T IGNORE IT. It isn't going to get better on its on. It will only get worse as you play more and (dare I say it?) as you get older.
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I've also had this issue with the left thumb palm area "the trapezius bone" I think anyway, I seen a Dr. and he gave me a cortisone shot but didn't help so I wore a hand brace every night at bed time and that helped, I'm full of arthritis in all my joints due to being sick with major health problems for over 10 years but I really don't have that pain much anymore in the left hand. It seems its better the more I got back into playing and rest at night.

    Also I've found that deep V necks compound the pain, I love a small rounded neck the best but have adapted pretty well to my 24 Loar F-5 as that has a slight V in the back of the neck. A really healthy diet will also help as I've found out. All best O' luck.

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  17. #11

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Thanks for all the info. I think I might just have to see a dr to find find out what is wrong.

    I do have a wrist support I wear. Doesn't seem to help much, but I am in the early days of wearing it.

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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I wish you the best of luck with this, you have a lot of sympathetic ears here, including mine.

    It's worth mentioning, some things can't be reliably fixed, so sometimes the best option is simply to find other ways of doing things. Lots of very well known and successful musicians have had to take this route.
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  20. #13

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    I wish you the best of luck with this, you have a lot of sympathetic ears here, including mine.

    It's worth mentioning, some things can't be reliably fixed, so sometimes the best option is simply to find other ways of doing things. Lots of very well known and successful musicians have had to take this route.
    That is exactly what I have in mind if nothing else works. Thanks.

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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    ...Another thought about your problem-- I never play with my wrist bent. I have the mandolin (or guitar) positioned so my forearm and hand are straight. The tendons that control the fingers connect at the elbow so any twisting or bending of the wrist shortens and constricts their ability to move. For example, with your wrist straight wiggle your fingers energetically, then gradually bend your wrist while continuing to wiggle your fingers. You'll see what I mean.

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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Eat more protein and mega vitamin s,more like a body builders diet..

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    Exclamation Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    curling up my index fingers tightly with my right hand holding the pick all these years,
    and with the left, getting those 1st fret notes , has taken its toll..

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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    curling up my index fingers tightly with my right hand holding the pick all these years,
    and with the left, getting those 1st fret notes , has taken its toll..

    Those details sound very familiar. Best of luck to you!
    -- Don

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    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."
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  30. #18

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Packard View Post
    ...Another thought about your problem-- I never play with my wrist bent. I have the mandolin (or guitar) positioned so my forearm and hand are straight. The tendons that control the fingers connect at the elbow so any twisting or bending of the wrist shortens and constricts their ability to move. For example, with your wrist straight wiggle your fingers energetically, then gradually bend your wrist while continuing to wiggle your fingers. You'll see what I mean.

    Billy
    I searched the web for left hand technique a couple of days ago and found I was bending my left wrist on some notes/chords.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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  32. #19
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    BG - I did a workshop on RT. hand technique and I'd be happy to send you the text from it if you like. PM me.

    Billy
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  33. #20
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Donít mean to hijack the thread, but I just started playing a week ago and Iím already experiencing left wrist pain. Is this normal for just starting out or am I possibly using improper technique? Should I start wrapping my wrist at night now? I desperately donít want to have to stop playing! Thanks all. -El

  34. #21
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    elbent, see my posts above about keeping a STRAIGHT WRIST. Don't bend your wrist when you play. Get a strap and adjust it so you don't have to support the mandolin when you play it. Have it hang so you can access the neck and fingerboard WITHOUT BENDING YOUR WRIST! Bending your wrist will cause all kinds of problems. Pm me if you want to talk more...

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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I've been experiencing something called cubital tunnel syndrome... of course that's completely a self diagnosis based on a google search... but it fits. ... It's like carpal tunnel, causing numbness, pain and weakness in the hand and pain in the elbow. Like carpal tunnel it is caused by "over use" of a joint where the nerve passes through (here it's the elbow) which creates inflammation causing the nerve get pinched. For me it has mostly to do with sleeping with my elbows bent. Ive been wearing a brace while I sleep and favoring it. Certain positions make my hand go numb or hurt and it definitely makes it hard to play without experiencing discomfort in my right hand. It doesn't have to do with my playing position, but it definitely effects it. I haven't been playing much due to a busy schedule anyway.... I've experienced it before and it will pass.
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    100 % see a physician who deals with athletes and musicians. Repetitive stress injuries have a habit of becoming worse if you play though them. Dull aches can be nothing, but sharp pains and numbness are an indicator that your body is displeased. Sometimes all that is required is rest and immobilization, and perhaps minor tweaks in ergonomics. Stretching and strengthening never hurts either.

    After having inoperable ulnar compression end 35 years of guitar, I literally feel your pain and frustration.

    Best of luck!

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  38. #24

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by elbent View Post
    Don’t mean to hijack the thread, but I just started playing a week ago and I’m already experiencing left wrist pain. Is this normal for just starting out or am I possibly using improper technique? Should I start wrapping my wrist at night now? I desperately don’t want to have to stop playing! Thanks all. -El
    There should absolutely be no pain when playing. You need to develop good technique.

  39. #25
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Some thumb pain is the result of pinched nerves in the C-6 area of your neck. I do daily neck-stretching exercises to control it, usually reasonably well. If your pain doesn't clear up, you might want to consider consulting a physical therapist.

    Sorry to hear about your problem. Good luck with it.

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