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phaeton Offline OP
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Tendonitis:
I've been battling with this malady for about 4 years now. I didn't get it from playing guitar, but from a job i had for a brief time. But now that I have it everything bothers it, including guitar (and verse vica).

I want it to go away. I had to take a couple of years off from the guitar, and i'm just starting to shake the emotional scarring from the *disease*. Now i want to play all the time again. I pick up the guitar and i can't put it down. I've been to a number of doctors (most didn't count because they were involved in the workman's comp claim) and they all suggest conflicting things, or surgery. There is a lot of material on the web about RSI (Repetetive Strain Injury) but most of it relates to sports injuries, and the few that do take musicianship into account offer (again) conflicting treatments that sound like speculations at best.
Surgery is not an option. It is for treating CTS, not tendonitis. Surgery usually only trades weakness for pain.

What i am asking for, is if there are any of you that deal with this too, or know someone that does? I'm determined as hell to rid myself of this. In contrast to the vague suggestions by doctors (that don't understand musicianship) or the web, i want to hear some Real World input from other musicians. Things that work or don't work for you guys (or gals).

Or am i just fscked? Will i always have days where i can play awesome, and then other days where it is like picking up the guitar for the first time all over again?

I realise that i'll probably never shred again (a la Dave Mustaine) but i'm ok with that. I just want to be able to play clean, a little fast at times, without excessive effort, and with more stamina than 30-60 minutes.

It's not the pain that really bothers me, it's the lack of dexterity. Fingers all cold, stiff and clumsy, and don't want to move. That really gets my goat.
I've been taking supplements of Glucosamine Complex and it creates a noticeable improvement, but it never seems to be gone.

Please please please help me if you can. This has ruined me for far too long. Thankyou.

And if any of you are experiencing something that might be the onset of a RSI, don't ignore it. This is serious stuff. Always practice responsibly- warm up, take breaks, if it ever hurts, stop immediately!!!

[ 12-06-2001: Message edited by: phaeton ]

[ 12-06-2001: Message edited by: phaeton ]


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Yeah... I've had CTS for years. The problem never goes away, but I've found some things that help a lot. I take vitamin B6 and Cod Liver Oil (which is also good for arthritis). Also, wear a wrist-splint when you're sleeping to keep your wrist staight. For some reason, people naturally keep their wrists bent when they're asleep. This really aggravates your CTS.

One more thing... notice which hand you use to grab your guitar off the stand. I bet it's your left. Most guitarists pick up the guitar by the neck with their left hand, and then use their right hand to swoop the strap over their head. Make yourself start picking up the guitar with your right hand, or with both. I've gotten into the habit of holding the neck loosely in my left hand, and lifting it off the stand by the strap with my right. It may sound stupid, but every time you use your left hand to lift something you're aggravating the condition.


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Phaeton,

I too have struggled with this problem. I gave up playing 10 years ago because of it. At its worst, my left arm was swollen below the elbow and fingers were tingly. I am now trying to play again. I am starting out very slowly trying to first build up some hand strength. I have also sworn off barre chords for now.

I got some advice from another player who has successfully beat this problem. He states the trick is relaxing your left hand as much as possible while playing. You are more likely to agrivate an injury when your hand is tensed up. I am also checking into the Lace Helix 20 guitar neck, which is supposidly designed to help with this very problem (check it out at http://www.agi-lace.com. Like the previous poster, I now where a wrist splint while I sleep as well as while I drive. Finally, I make sure to perform some stretches after I finish practicing each day. I am determined to not let this thing get the best of me again. I will either play or have the damn thing amputated! Good luck, man.

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tendonitis is there to stay...
i've had it for 10 years now...
just watch out with the cold...
and the best temporary cure i found
was accupuncture....
It really works....
it'll keep you healthy for at least
6 weeks or so....

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I don't believe it exists.


or I don't allow myself to anyway...my left wrist was crushed in a car accident when I was 15...it hurts sometimes when I play I just don't pay attention to it.

I might wish I did pay more attention in about 10-15 years but I really can't worry about it now...I have to play.

[ 12-06-2001: Message edited by: Steve LeBlanc ]

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I have a little CTS-like symptoms. For me fat guitar necks help, as well as paying attention to my playing posture - wrist as straight as possible. I'm also paying attention to how I'm playing what I'm playing, and "Doc, it hurts when I do that." "Don't do that."

It's possible we're seeing more of this because we all push ourselves to increase out technical ability. Sometimes now, rather than working on speed, I'll work on tone production, vibratos, or creating new licks & motifs - slowly.

I switched to bass about a year ago (not for this reason) and have found it's a great break from guitar for me.

Take care of yourself, don't get into denial - there's medical help out there. Good luck.



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I've become acutely aware of my physical limitations associated with getting older. And yes I do tend to "save" my left hand from doing mechanical things such as opening doors, lifting, or prolonged hand strain from a variety of tasks. The reason is it takes forever for ANY injury to my hands to heal. My biggest complaint has been stiffness and weakness in the muscle of the thumb on my left hand. I bought the chinese balls, hand gyros, and squeezy things to exercise...but BIOFREEZE has been a Godsend. That and Motrin. Bad as I hate to admit.
My hearing is starting to dull in certain frequencies as well.......
It sure sucks getting old.


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I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my left hand 4 years ago which almost forced me to give up the guitar. The classic "pins and needles" pain in my thump and first two fingers was so extreme that I could only play the guitar a few minutes. However, an orthopedic surgeon fully cured the problem. CPS is caused by scar tissue building up around the "tunnel" in your wrist that the median nerve goes through which connects to your fingers. The surgery was a snap - out patient in the hospital with a local anesthetic in which thay make a small incision in the base of your palm, remove the scar tissue, stich it up and in a few weeks you're as good as new. The bad news about CPS is that if you don't get it fixed surgically, it generally gets worse and the pressure on the nerve eventually will cause permanent damage to the nerve and some loss of use of your fingers.

My adive is that if you have CPS, get it fixed without delay before it's too late.

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phaeton Offline OP
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Scott- yeah... it's the little things sometimes. I take that into account alot. Where i work, the parking lot is sloped, and i do ascinine things like park a certain way so that opening the door of my truck is helped by gravity, instead of hindered by it. Good call on picking the guitar up. I had to actually stop for a sec and think about how i do that. I think i'm 50/50 using my left hand only or using both.

Ziggy- true that- i absolutely *must* practice scales with a metronome or i start rushing and get all tensed up. Have you played a Lace Helix 20-equipped guitar? I'm real interested in checking one out. Thanks a billion for that lead! $5 says that the guitar plays beautifully whether you're injured or not.

cerumen- Does the acupuncture take the stiffness away, or just the pain?

Steve- Thanks for the encouragement and understanding. Careful though- i used to scoff at people too... "oh how bad could that be? Quit cryin like a lil girl.."

Chad- Was bass less stressful? Even with 1-2 notes at a time, they are heavier and the stretches are farther. I want to get a bass also, (just because jazz bass is k-cool) but wasn't sure if that was a good idea or not.

strat0124- Biofreeze, is that like IcyHot or Ben-Straight er.. the mentholated sports rub? Wasn't sure if the squeezy things would aggravate or help, much to the effect that most doctors are divided on it. What kind of store do you get those at? I;ve been unsuccessful all day. Yeah, i open the doors of dept. stores and gas stations with my forearm mostly. That's a full fledged habit by now.

Thanks you guys for your help and input, and also thanks just for the positive reinforcement that i'm not alone. I'm not happy that you guys have injuries, but i'm glad to hear that you guys still play in spite of it.


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Quote:
Steve- Thanks for the encouragement and understanding. Careful though- i used to scoff at people too... "oh how bad could that be? Quit cryin like a lil girl.."


hehe, I didn't mean it like that at all...just stating my own experience...the doctors all told me I'd never play guitar or piano again...well that wasn't an option so I play through pain.

I don't think tendonitis, CTS, RSI or whatever is effecting me yet...I don't know for sure but I don't think so...I imagine it will later (I'm only 29 now), I'm just not sure how.

Not scoffing just offering my perspective.

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phaeton Offline OP
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Steve-
ahh.. ok.. \:\)

Yeah.. the wrist is a complicated piece of work. I'm glad that you are able to overcome that accident and continue the dream. An ex-bandmate/ex-friend of mine literally shattered his right arm in a car accident. With pure determination he was writing songs and playing again. Then there's Iommi, Django, ect.
And then there's Yngwie. I don't think he ever came back. (all my opinions aside).

I don't intend to stop playing. I only did for a couple of years because it was literally impossible. I had no feeling in my hands at all, and couldn't hold onto a pick. I couldn't find strings by touch so i had to watch what i was doing. Even fingerpicking (which i used to be exceptional at) i couldn't watch both hands at the same time.

I hope that it doesn't get worse for you, but age is something to consider too. I'm 27 now and i can feel the difference from even 5 years ago. GoodLuck, and no hard feelins.
\:\)

Edit- dern auto-smileys... too used to oldschool BBS progs..

[ 12-07-2001: Message edited by: phaeton ]

[ 12-07-2001: Message edited by: phaeton ]


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Here's something to try. No I'm not a doctor, just something that I found that works for me. Blood flow. A few concepts.
When you do something repetitive it can build up and strengthen the muscles quite often at the expense of the other muscles in the area. It's like they get out of balance. Also I think the swelling tends to block and constrict the free flow of the blood.
Anyway. Here is something that helped me to solve some of the tendenitis etc. problems I have had over the years.
Grip your hand tight straight up as hard as you can then slowly, very slowly rock it forward until you feel pain stop at that point and wait until it stops hurting then continue the movement until it hurst again then stop until it stops the pain again. Do this in all directions slowly stopping where it hurts until the pain stops. It causes the blood to flow right to where the pain is and the damage. Your body feeds and repairs itself through blood.
Also alternate between gripping as hard as you can and relaxing your hand completely. It's about trying to reestablish a balance with the other muscles too.
It's a cheap unsubstantiated opinion, maybe it'll help.

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phaeton,
accupuncture reduces the swelling...
i had a bad case of tendonitis...
my wrist would swell up at least an inch...
and twice i had cortizone shots...
until i found out two things...
cortizone is a pretty stupid drug..
and accupuncture has the same results
as cortizone....except for the side effects, of course..
try accupuncture....it's great...
i've been doing it since 94 and
it's down to a minimum....
my wrist is not 100% but i'll take
whatever relief and playing ability
i can get...!!

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Phaeton,

Bass, in my experience, IS less stressful, or at least stressful in a different way, which is just as good. The stretches get easier if you take 'em easy, and you're doing a similar BUT NOT THE SAME thing with your hand.

The danger area for me on guitar is repetitive scales & arpeggios. I have and do play them on bass, but not fast, more just to limber my hands up (I play fingerstyle bass)and work in clean execution. Then I work on bass lines for songs for my band.

I do play a J-Bass, and if you set it up right you don't need to crush the neck to play the notes. I've also found that with a fairly low action I turn the bass up, pluck lightly, and it doesn't take much effort to get a phat note out of it. (This is why God created volume controls.) This leads to a much more relaxed technique which is better for you hands AND your head.

Good luck!



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phaeton Offline OP
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MisterMe-

Yes, your bloodflow theory makes sense... Although, when you say `grip your hand' do you mean grab one hand with the other, squeezing it as tight as you can, using it to flex the wrist fore-aft and side to side?

Not sure i understand how you mean, here. Sorry \:\(


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No you're not alone...damn!
I've had this condition for +/- 8 years. Not sure if it comes from my upper back (always pain between the shoulder blades) or the back of my neck or the wrist. Can't play in the morning for sure!! Less difficult at night. Accoustic guitar is the worst...fingers get numbed and cold and etc. Or fast playing. Sometimes it hurts up to the elbow...BUT it does not stop me from playing. Being well warmed up is definitively a plus.
Dom Barone got me scared though. Is it really going to evolve permanent damage??
I don't like the idea of having someone cutting and playing with knives in my wrist!!!

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Squeezing the hand by itself (make a hard fist through the whole routine), Then do this real slow; the movement is in one direction just move it until it hurts then stop the movement momentarily not relaxing the fist until it stops then move a little more until it hurts then stop, etc. until finally come back to straight. Do this for forward then backward then side to side stopping at straight.

Another routine. Tighten the hand (make a hard fist) for like 30 seconds without movement then relax very slowly to open fingers and relaxing completely (let the arm and hand go limp and dead by your side for 30 seconds. Repeat.

The theory works for anybody part by tensing it tight and slowly move thru a motion it would go through stopping motionless where it hurts and when it subsides moving further thru the motion. Don't extend beyond what the part would normally travel.

Example routine for tennis elbow. Grip the hand by itself (make a hard fist) and this will cause all the muscles in the lower arm and some in the upper arm to tighten. Put your arm out straight (making the fist) slowly turning the fist (left to right) stopping momentarily when pain happens (not relaxing the fist) ; when it subsides continue moving slowly until it hurts, stop until it subsides, continue on etc. Next while still holding the fist and doing this routine bend the arm partially toward the soldier and repeat the routine. Then bend the arm more towards the should and repeat the routine. etc. Until you have the arm and hand next to the shoulder. Now keep going back with the arm in the other direction back to straight stopping at increments while doing the routine.

Example routine for the whole lower arm, wrist, and hand.
Have your hand completely open rocking left to right slowly as you move your arm slowly in towards your shoulder then out straight. Repeating. When it doesn't hurt learn to flutter the hand through this motion. It's the same as a Clapton type vibrato if you thought of your index finger being on a fret of guitar or a boogie woogie octave flutter on the piano.

Example routine for the back (in less their are real problems).
Put your arms straight out horizontal to the ground; now slowly twist at the waist rotating fixed arms; right arm in front /left arm in back then twist at waist to opposite right arm in front /left arm in back. Slowly back and forth. This causes the vertebrae in your back to slip horizontally and flatten themselves out. Works on back pain. Background. I have had some mid and lower back problems from having lifted more weight in my youthful exuberance then I should have. I would bend forward and backward trying to get this pinched nerve to release. Didn't work. Finally figured out this lateral movement routine. Gets rid of it for me real well when ever I get some twinge going in my back.

About diet. Cut out as much sugar as you can live without. I read at the time I would have these problems that their was correlation between to much sugar and calcium loss. My opinion is that you need all types of vegetables (of all colors) for the minerals, especially for trace minerals. I believe if a given mineral is not present or deficient the body will not be able to complete the molecule chain. I can burn real well on meat and potatoes but I need the vegetables for repair.
For those of you that have problems preparing meals; eat at the buffets where they have a big salad bar. Eat anything at the salad bar (all the different colors of vegetable). Do this first then go for the meat / potatoes etc. after. Actually this is a good tactic to keep you trimmer. I'm allergic to milk products (gives me poison oak symptoms and makes my immune system act like I've got a cold and I also start getting the problems that we are all discussing here) so I definitely have to stay from all things milk (unfortunately 'cause nobody loves cheese cake and pizza then me). The benefit is that it definitely makes it easier to stay trim. Also broil don’t fry. Drink sufficient amounts of water at regular intervals.
The diet is especially true for any of you that are detoxing from doing to much heavy drugs (especially speed / cocaine). You’re body will be really depleted of minerals which will cause you body pain as well as nervous system imbalance (mama he’s crazy now).

FInally. You guys with this problem learn to practice up to your pain then stop and let your arm and hand (body also) relax completely. Make your body work knowing where it needs to be repaired and let it have the time undisturbed to repair itself. I have had these problems before. They can go away. Really don't have much problem with this stuff now; at the first sign of a problem I start doing these exercises or when I happen to think about it. It's kind of like stretching really. When the pain has most subsided is the best time to do these routines.
At night try to immobilize the arm completely (lay it on a pillow) leaving it completely relaxed. Sleep is when your body repairs itself. Make sure you get plenty of rest. Think of a nice play to go in your mind. I like the mountains and streams.

Hopefully you get some value from my two cents.

If you really THINK your dying, here’s what a kind doctor told me.

Repeat. “I leave myself in the hands of a loving and caring God”.
;\)

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MisterMe,
Thanks once again.... appreciate the explanation. Sounds like you've done quite a bit of study into this.
Mmmmmm vegetables. I love beshtables anyways.
About drugs- thankfully those are no longer a part of my life.
About the quote from the doctor: I'm not quite on the good side of a loving, caring God yet, but i'm working on it! \:\)

And another round of thanks and good will to everyone else who has responded.... I'm sure that with the combinations of every response here, I (and most others who suffer from this) will find success....
Keep em coming if you've got em, and if i find something new i'll be more than happy to share.. \:\)


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This is serious stuff - when I was in music school, I knew a number of really amazing players who had to stop playing and switch careers entirely. There are different approaches to dealing with CTS and tendonitis, but the players I know who came back from it did a combination of things:

1. Altered diet/lifestyle (i.e. increased sleep - your connective tissue rebuilds more quickly with sleep, and certain vitamin supplements and subtractions of specific foods).
2. Changed practice habits (lots more warm up, specific exercises prior to technique-heavy practice).
3. Changed their technique. There are lots of ways to play a guitar/bass/violin/etc. - but some hand positions and shifting techniques are really hard on a player's joints. And most players develop bad habits along the way that can make playing even harder on the wrists/hands/arms. Furthermore, all this varies from player to player - which is not surprising because different people have different sized hands, different shaped joints, etc.

Here are three websites that might get you started in looking for resources on the above. A note of caution though - a whole cottage industry has grown up around CPS/Tendonitis, and you run the risk of spending a lot of money and wasting a lot of time on hocus pocus crap. If you have trouble figuring out if a plan/program/approach is "real" or bogus, and there's a music college nearby, I'd talk to students (particularly violinists) or teachers there. I'd bet money that people at the music school know of other players who have dealt with CTS successfully, and would also know what bogus treatments in your area to stay away from ...

http://www.engr.unl.edu/ee/eeshop/music.html
http://www.alexandertechnique.com/musicians.htm
http://www.carpal-tunnel-questions-and-answers.com/

Good luck - it ain't fun. But it is possible to beat it.

[Oh - and if possible, cut out the typing, or at least get a better keyboard.]

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Quote:
Oh - and if possible, cut out the typing, or at least get a better keyboard.


HAHA, yep, believe me I've been on myself about it lately (typing too much).

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I started to develop pain and swelling in my left thumb. I sensed it was from years of acoustic (and electric) guitar, as the pain was worse when I played. Went to the same orthopedic surgeon who rebuilt my knee. He examined my thumb and immediately grabbed my right hand to see if I was getting it there. He said it was a bone spur and that he could remove it but did not recommend it, as the area is very complex and fragile. He also said it might just come back. I was really down and didn't play much for a decade. I tried going to keyboards, but couldn't keep the inspiration. Then a buddy at work asked me to come jam with his band. I brought my old Telly and a simple Yamaha keyboard... It was great. I find that the bone spur, though still there, is not nearly the roadblock it once was, and I've become much more proficient on the keys, too. That was ten years ago and I'm more into music now than ever before. I just started taking piano lessons for the first time in forty some years and it's expanding my horizon further.

Remember, Django Reinhart had what, three fingers on his left hand (including the thumb). Beethoven was deaf. Stevie Wonder is blind. I used to jam with an old blues guy who had been a switchman for the railroad. He had several fingers missing on both hands, but could rip the piano to shreds. You might try getting a tech to set up your axe for a very light touch and strings. This does change the tone, but you might like it.

Peace on Earth

Namaste

Henry


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Is busy dyin'.

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I seen a slide player playing at a street fair in San Francisco once who was missing his right hand. He had a special attachment on his wrist to hold a pick. He played the hell out of it.


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