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Thread: Thumb Pain

  1. #1
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Thumb Pain

    I did a "thumb" search in the Cafe, but what came up didn't seem relevant. I know lots has been said about thumbs and thumb pain specifically. If someone can direct me to a particular post, I'll be glad to look for it.

    I know I press too hard with my thumb, but, try as I do, I can't seem to let up the pressure. I would appreciate suggestions for overcoming this problem. I might add I'm noticing the pain more as I'm learning 2nd position; however, it was first evident when practicing 3 finger chords.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    I have to be careful about this, so I try to point my thumb parallel with the neck, so I’m not gripping it. I also try to keep my wrist straight and not fold it backwards which leads to gripping, for me.

    This may not be the best way to manage, but it’s helped me avoid straining the thumb tendon, which I have done in the past.

    If you search using Google ‘site mandolincafe.com: thumb pain’ you get results. You can also search on ‘tendinitis’.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Various parts of you will hurt as you progress. These are signs of things to watch out for, but don't worry that it will be a permanent problem.

    Partly it just is toughening up needed, but the deeper issue is normal and inescapable. At first your fingers and muscles lack precision, of course. So it is normal to use extra effort. As you progress you will naturally use less effort. It helps to try, but one can only pay attention to one, or a couple of things at a time. So as you try to use minimal effort, you start making more mistakes. Then you switch attention back to getting notes to speak, and things start to hurt from the excessive pressure.

    This challenge is felt by all players at every stage. I still deal with it when practicing new material, or trying to get familiar but not perfected tunes to sound clean. I've been plying violin, viola, or guitar, and mandolin of course, for 65 years, and the issue is always present for me when learning new stuff. When ai got my first 10-string I was so excited to learn cool things I could do that I got blisters on the inside of left hand thumb and index side knuckle. I had to wear a fingerless glove to practice.

    It gets better. Don't try to play through hurt, though. Back off and wait a bit, or practice just being loose. You can't everything at once, and do watch out for pains, especially arm joints.
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  6. #4
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    If you search using Google ‘site mandolincafe.com: thumb pain’ you get results.
    Thanks, Bill. I just used this approach to search "chord notation." It seems with a slash(?) chord, generally the top chord is played.

    Looks like I stepped on my own thread.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Sherry: are you working with a teacher or on your own. I am not sure why you would feel pain in your thumb unless your action is too high or you are positioning your noting hand improperly. I would consult with someone who can assess your hand position. Perhaps one video lesson might be helpful if you haven’t already.
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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Sherry: are you working with a teacher or on your own. I am not sure why you would feel pain in your thumb unless your action is too high or you are positioning your noting hand improperly. I would consult with someone who can assess your hand position. Perhaps one video lesson might be helpful if you haven’t already.
    My teacher is a professional violinist. She says to let up on the pressure. I'm trying.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    My teacher is a professional violinist. She says to let up on the pressure. I'm trying.
    Does your teacher play Mandolin professionally? Sorry but mechanics for playing violin are very different for mandolin. Your teacher may be excellent and is probably correct but it might be advantageous to consult with a professional mandolinist especially if you continue to have this pain. Even one video consultation with someone who can diagnose what it is that you are doing wrong would be fine. No one here can truly help you. The most we can do is guess.
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  11. #8
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Does your teacher play Mandolin professionally?
    She does not, although she is an excellent teacher. She plays in 2 professional orchestras and has had her teaching studio for many years. She was my son's violin teacher for about 8 years, over which time we became good friends.

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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Sherry let the neck rest in your palm right between your thumb and your index finger. Try playing that way, your thumb will go along side your neck and not really have any pressure on it. As Jim says it's different with a violin and a mandolin doesn't need the thumb behind the neck.
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Here's the way to do it, by Mike Marshall: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NmagoBQunZI
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  16. #11
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    I will try some of these suggestions. I haven't mentioned I have osteoarthritis in both hands. Thankfully, the left hand isn't as bad as the right. It might be a contributing factor, though the trouble started when I tried focusing on 3 finger chords. I probably should not have kept playing through the pain.

    I did the search today that Bill recommended. Has anyone tried WonderThumb?

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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Hi Sherry. Cafe member Pete Martin teaches fiddle and mandolin. His website petimarpress.com specifically mentions ergonomics. He has a video on Minimum Left Hand Pressure. I’ve purchased some of his books but I have never taken his lessons. Great books! Pleasant, knowledgeable fellow. NFI on my part.
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coronado View Post
    Hi Sherry. Cafe member Pete Martin teaches fiddle and mandolin. His website petimarpress.com specifically mentions ergonomics. He has a video on Minimum Left Hand Pressure. I’ve purchased some of his books but I have never taken his lessons. Great books! Pleasant, knowledgeable fellow. NFI on my part.
    Thanks, Peter. I have some of Pete's materials, specifically relating to double stops. Been thinking of brushing the dust off them

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I have to be careful about this, so I try to point my thumb parallel with the neck, so I’m not gripping it. I also try to keep my wrist straight and not fold it backwards which leads to gripping, for me.
    I think I'm pretty good about keeping my wrist straight. I tried the thumb adjustment you suggested, which was a subtle change, but really seemed to help.

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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Have you got a good setup on your mandolin? String height at the nut influences how "stiff" the strings feel, and how much pressure you feel you need to exert in the left hand. A good set-up will minimize this.

    It's not as important as the hand position is, but instruments do feel better with a good setup.
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  21. #16
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    Have you got a good setup on your mandolin? String height at the nut influences how "stiff" the strings feel, and how much pressure you feel you need to exert in the left hand. A good set-up will minimize this.

    It's not as important as the hand position is, but instruments do feel better with a good setup.
    Thanks, Dave. Wish setup were the problem, but that's been ruled out.

  22. #17
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Hey Sherry, it's possible that the strain in your thumb might be from compensating for finger strength. Have you tried exercising your fingers with one of the resistance finger exercisers?

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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    It's pretty simple to find all of the threads on this forum referencing this... and some about thumb wheels. Click Advanced Search, enter "thumb" (minus the quotes) and select search titles only. There's a reason Google is a multiple billion dollar company, the greatest landing spot on the internet and the makers of this forum software, not. The default search field on every Forum page is just not that useful on a forum of this size. The software makers of this forum are only slightly better than yours truly at search programming. This forum's default search is not intuitive, does not perform auto correction, and has zero artificial intelligence, but if provided the proper instructions is actually quite good at finding content, and in this case returns a pretty amazing amount of information if drill down to all the results. I lean heavily on Google's search tools as well, but many times get better results doing this. YMMV. See example below.

    Name:  search.jpg
Views: 311
Size:  46.7 KB
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Aug-17-2020 at 9:40am.

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  25. #19
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    Hey Sherry, it's possible that the strain in your thumb might be from compensating for finger strength. Have you tried exercising your fingers with one of the resistance finger exercisers?
    Thanks, Jon! I wondered if you were "listening!" Especially after following the "Double Standard" thread, I'm now afraid not to try my own research before posting. Now if I can just remember to do that, considering I'm not a good researcher. Anyway, I've now done a search on resistance finger exercisers, which I'd never before heard of. They seem like a good idea, especially for developing finger independence, which I'm also working on. I don't see a particular recommendation for an exerciser. There is an old post from 2004 where a guy said he overdid it with an exerciser and couldn't play for months. I'm willing to give it a try if you, or someone, can recommend a particular one. I have a ball I use to strengthen my hand - when I think about using it.

  26. #20
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    It's pretty simple to find all of the threads on this forum referencing this... and some about thumb wheels. Click Advanced Search, enter "thumb" (minus the quotes) and select search titles only. There's a reason Google is a multiple billion dollar company, the greatest landing spot on the internet and the makers of this forum software, not. The default search field on every Forum page is just not that useful on a forum of this size. The software makers of this forum are only slightly better than yours truly at search programming. This forum's default search is not intuitive, does not perform auto correction, and has zero artificial intelligence, but if provided the proper instructions is actually quite good at finding content, and in this case returns a pretty amazing amount of information if drill down to all the results. I lean heavily on Google's search tools as well, but many times get better results doing this. YMMV. See example below.

    Name:  search.jpg
Views: 311
Size:  46.7 KB
    Thank you. I tried to search how to bookmark this post. Is there a way to do it? If not, I can always refer back to my threads; however, I figure everyone except me knows how to bookmark in the Cafe.

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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Thank you. I tried to search how to bookmark this post. Is there a way to do it? If not, I can always refer back to my threads; however, I figure everyone except me knows how to bookmark in the Cafe.
    Click on the number with a hashtag in the upper right hand corner of the post next to a number. In this case it'd be #19. That's the exact URL or web address of that post. Or just click this and bookmark it. It's not exact a well known feature I'd speculate, but it's an easy way for folks to link to an exact post.

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  29. #22

    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    There are two valuable exercises I have found regarding finger pressure to help train your hands and brain how hard to not push. These both changed my understanding and conception of finger pressure.

    The first is to touch the string with no pressure at any particular fret position. It is good to try this exercise at a variety of positions. Pick back and forth on the string course getting a muted click. You should be damping the string with no significant pressure. As you pick back and forth clicking gradually increase the pressure till the note begins to sound. Once it sounds with no buzzes or rattles that is all the harder you need to press. Anything more wears the frets, wears the strings, hurts your fingers and joints, pulls the strings slightly out of tune, slows you down, makes your tone worse; all of the effects bad and no good results to trade off. You can reverse this exercise by pressing normally then gradually letting up pressure till the note just begins to rattle. Just before the rattle is all the harder you want to press. Most people find it takes far less pressure to get a good sound than they had ever thought. I do this every so often if I find myself gripping too hard. I heard this exercise third hand but it originated from a guitar clinic someone took with Pepe Romero. I found this approach works better than just saying "Grip lighter" because it gives an actual pressure to shoot for.

    The second exercise is to place your hands above the first four fret positions. Lightly touch the positions one at a time moving up and down at all four fret positions and across all four strings. Do not pick with the right hand, just move the left hand. The goal is to place the finger properly each time, just behind the fret, and to move the string course as little as possible, just touching it and not moving it. Move up to the second four frets and repeat up and down all strings. Do this for a few minutes each day moving up by positions or until you get bored. This will help train your fingers to touch more lightly.

    Of course proper finger placement, just behind the fret, not on top and not in between is necessary. Most people try to make up for finger placement being a little off by pressing harder. Then it becomes a vicious circle.

    Good luck and I hope some of this helps.

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  31. #23
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Thanks, Jon! I wondered if you were "listening!" Especially after following the "Double Standard" thread, I'm now afraid not to try my own research before posting. Now if I can just remember to do that, considering I'm not a good researcher. Anyway, I've now done a search on resistance finger exercisers, which I'd never before heard of. They seem like a good idea, especially for developing finger independence, which I'm also working on. I don't see a particular recommendation for an exerciser. There is an old post from 2004 where a guy said he overdid it with an exerciser and couldn't play for months. I'm willing to give it a try if you, or someone, can recommend a particular one. I have a ball I use to strengthen my hand - when I think about using it.
    Some of the exercisers are graduated in the degree of resistance. I would suggest trying the model with the least resistance first. Is it just your thumb that hurts or do your fingers hurt as well?

  32. #24
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    Some of the exercisers are graduated in the degree of resistance. I would suggest trying the model with the least resistance first. Is it just your thumb that hurts or do your fingers hurt as well?
    Just the thumb.

  33. #25
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb Pain

    The resistance exerciser doesn't involve your thumb. If you try one of the exercisers. I think you'll find it works different muscles than exercise ball. Don't expect overnight results. You know how exercise is. If you want to discuss at length email me or we could talk at a convenient time.

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