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Thread: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

  1. #26

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Went to a chiropractor a couple of weeks ago and he made an adjustment and said it should be ok in a couple of weeks.

    No joy. Decided to make an appointment with a hand surgeon for next week. I should get a definitive diagnosis then.

  2. #27
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    When I went to the hand surgeon he commented that he operated on hands not as bad as mine. Didn’t hurt unless I bumped it back toward my wrist, then writhing in agony. But I followed his guidance, took the very strong prescription NSAIDs to reduce the inflammation, wore the brace and in 3 months I was fine. Worked the whole time as a cabinetmaker, very carefully, left thumb braced, but I’m right handed. Wasn’t playing mandolin then. When it gets irritated now, I’m very cautious because it’s a slow road back.

    So there’s a good chance you can heal without surgery, but it may take a while. Tendons are notoriously slow to heal.

    Good luck.
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  4. #28

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    When I went to the hand surgeon he commented that he operated on hands not as bad as mine. Didn’t hurt unless I bumped it back toward my wrist, then writhing in agony. But I followed his guidance, took the very strong prescription NSAIDs to reduce the inflammation, wore the brace and in 3 months I was fine. Worked the whole time as a cabinetmaker, very carefully, left thumb braced, but I’m right handed. Wasn’t playing mandolin then. When it gets irritated now, I’m very cautious because it’s a slow road back.

    So there’s a good chance you can heal without surgery, but it may take a while. Tendons are notoriously slow to heal.

    Good luck.
    Thanks Bill. I hope no surgery as well. I also hope I can still play mandolin while it heals. I just want a specialist to tell me what is wrong and if I
    can still play while it is healing. Otherwise I will go a little loopy.

  5. #29
    Registered User usqebach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    belbein,

    I sent you a PM.

    Thanks!

    Jim
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    " Amateurs practice until they get it right - professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."
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  6. #30
    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Tendons do indeed heal very slowly, and unfortunately sometimes never heal entirely back to normal. But not overusing it makes a big difference. I've had a little tendinitis in my left wrist (ulnar side), almost certainly from getting careless about technique and/or overdoing it with upright bass. I've found huge benefit from a few things: 1) controlled exercise of the extensor and flexor muscles in the forearm using very light weight (2lb), 2) being mindful of technique and not get lazy, 3) if you feel pain, you're doing it wrong: stop! re-evaluate, 4) eat an anti-inflammatory diet (see Dr. Andrew Weil), 5) make adjustments to your posture, instrument, etc... I still get occasional dull pain in that wrist, and once I notice it, I quickly pull my attention to what I'm doing that might be causing it. Chances are, it may never heal entirely though.

    To add to the fun, I also have a torn labrum in my right shoulder (from playing tennis when I was younger - very common injury for tennis players) and some arthritis in my cervical vertebrae. These things combined cause a bit of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This can affect the nerves running down your arm. I've noticed a bit of numbness in my right pinkie and ring finger when playing mandolin for a while, and that's directly related to nerve impingement higher up in my shoulder.

    Since I'm totally new to mandolin, this is going to be a trial-and-error exercise for me as far as being positioned properly to avoid aggravating that nerve. I've ordered an arm rest for my instrument which I'm hoping will help by raising my arm slightly and also avoid the rather sharp edge of the instrument from putting direct pressure on my ulnar nerve. We shall see how it goes.

    I'm not even 50 yet, but I can already say getting old sucks
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  7. #31
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I would talk to a doctor and/or occupational therapist.

    There are things that can cause pain that none of might think of.

    I had severe pain in my index finger and back of my hand (left hand) and could not play for more than half an hour. An unrelated physical check up revealed that I had diabetes, and my blood glucose was out of control. A week later I had corrected my blood sugar through diet and medication, and the pain went away. Entirely. Has never come back. I can and do play for hours.

    I am not suggestion you have the same problem, just that there are all kinds of things to consider, many of which we can easily miss for not being trained.
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  8. #32
    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I would talk to a doctor and/or occupational therapist.

    There are things that can cause pain that none of might think of.

    ...

    I am not suggestion you have the same problem, just that there are all kinds of things to consider, many of which we can easily miss for not being trained.
    Agreed - I should have mentioned that I have a bit of a medical background (I'll leave out the specifics), plus worked with a doctor and physical therapist on these issues, so it's not just anecdotal advice. I'm otherwise healthy (labs always look good, etc...). But yes, getting professional input is important - not many people would realize that an old shoulder injury can cause numbness in your fingers in certain situations, for example, but a good PT should be able to point you to the right exercises for the right areas.
    "Same old moon, same old sun, same old race that we've always run." - Jeff Black

  9. #33

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    I went to a hand specialist today. He said I have arthritis in my left wrist and the base joint of my thumb.
    Pretty much all I can do is manage the pain. I got two steroid shots and he wants me take naproxin twice
    a day for 2 weeks.

    I should be able to continue playing. I might have to skip some barre chords, but that is not a big thing, imo.

  10. #34

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by BG_Dana View Post
    I went to a hand specialist today. He said I have arthritis in my left wrist and the base joint of my thumb.
    Pretty much all I can do is manage the pain. I got two steroid shots and he wants me take naproxin twice
    a day for 2 weeks.

    I should be able to continue playing. I might have to skip some barre chords, but that is not a big thing, imo.

    I have the same problem, arthritis in the thumb joint and it causes a lot of pain in the left wrist. I cannot take certain OTC pain relievers due to a previous stroke, so I'm stuck with Tylenol. I did get a diclofenac gel RX from the doctor, and it does help but not eliminate the pain. I mostly rely on Tylenol, heat (helps most of the time), and skipping a day of practice/play about every third day. Seems that daily play aggravates it the most. I adjusted my playing technique/hand posture but it looks like I'm going to be bothered long term by this. I haven't had any steroid shots just yet but may have to if I can't mitigate the pain over time. Good luck on your course of treatment. Getting old is not for sissies, as it's said.

  11. #35

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    My issue as well - base of the thumbs. I gave up fretted strings as a result. I can play lower-tension strings like oud, charango, violin..

    I went to harp, fiddles, free reeds and woodwinds .. although flute is more ergonomically challenging given the thumb support required.

  12. #36
    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    I went to harp, fiddles, free reeds and woodwinds .. although flute is more ergonomically challenging given the thumb support required.
    As a flutist, I cannot recommend these highly enough: https://www.fluteworld.com/product/thumbport-c-flute-2/ I've been using these for about 6 years now and, while they took a little getting used to at first, once I adapted to them, they've really helped. There is also one available for left-hand 1st finger - I use both.
    "Same old moon, same old sun, same old race that we've always run." - Jeff Black

  13. #37
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    That’s good and bad news. My wife prolongs the time between steroid shots for that issue in her right thumb with exercise. She went from 3 month intervals to 5-6 months after she started lifting weights with me.

    Again, be careful and good luck.
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
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  15. #38
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by BG_Dana View Post
    I went to a hand specialist today. He said I have arthritis in my left wrist and the base joint of my thumb.
    Pretty much all I can do is manage the pain. I got two steroid shots and he wants me take naproxin twice
    a day for 2 weeks.

    I should be able to continue playing. I might have to skip some barre chords, but that is not a big thing, imo.
    I've been taking Naproxen twice a day for years to cut the pain in various arthritic joints -- including the bases of both thumbs. I hope that works for you.

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  17. #39

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by rickbella View Post
    I've been taking Naproxen twice a day for years to cut the pain in various arthritic joints -- including the bases of both thumbs. I hope that works for you.
    I have been concerned about taking too much of the stuff over time. I need to get more info. Doc told me to take as needed after 2 weeks.

  18. #40
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by BG_Dana View Post
    There should absolutely be no pain when playing. You need to develop good technique.
    I might disagree with just this statement, Dana. Some of us older folk have pain in the hands or fingers whether we play or not. I find that playing helps with maintaining range of motion, but does not help with pain. Also, I've found that sometimes when I learn or practice new things, I can develop pain from using/over-using tendons or muscles that are not normally exercised much. In cases like that, I have to allow rest for those mechanics for healing, and work gradually to gain the use I want from them while avoiding injury.

    At least in my case, "absolutely no pain" is not an option. Some pain is inevitable, and caution is required to avoid injury while working through some discomfort.
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  19. #41
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    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by BG_Dana View Post
    I have been concerned about taking too much of the stuff over time. I need to get more info. Doc told me to take as needed after 2 weeks.
    I've been able to cut back over the years. I now take one 220mg tablet twice a day. Ten years ago, I was taking THREE twice a day, along with horse-pill aspirins. My doctor wasn't thrilled with me, but I couldn't play mando long enough to improve.

    I no longer need the aspirins at all -- thank God. Every few months, I cut down my Naproxen to see if I can quit entirely. So far, that hasn't worked, but I'm about due to try again.

    You have my sympathy.

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  21. #42

    Default Re: Playing with wrist/thumb pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    I might disagree with just this statement, Dana. Some of us older folk have pain in the hands or fingers whether we play or not. I find that playing helps with maintaining range of motion, but does not help with pain. Also, I've found that sometimes when I learn or practice new things, I can develop pain from using/over-using tendons or muscles that are not normally exercised much. In cases like that, I have to allow rest for those mechanics for healing, and work gradually to gain the use I want from them while avoiding injury.

    At least in my case, "absolutely no pain" is not an option. Some pain is inevitable, and caution is required to avoid injury while working through some discomfort.
    I understand what you are saying, Mark. You definitely HAVE to find out where the pain comes from. I know a good classical guitarist who taught himself, used bad left hand technique and now cannot play. Bad technique continues to injure and pain tells you that. If a newcomer to an in instrument is having pain then it is USUALLY from doing something wrong.

    In my case, left hand pain came from both bad technique AND arthritis.

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