I noticed that “jimmy 9410” posted a topic on his basal joint arthritis and received some advice regarding interesting forms of relief from other posters on this forum about a year ago, so I thought I would post a comment regarding another kind of arthritis that struck my left hand several months ago, specifically the knuckles of each of my index fingers. The left was by far the most bothersome and prevented me from not only forming chords but from playing easy pieces that I had been playing for decades. It was depressing.
I finally consulted my primary care physician, who thought it was a type of gout, which usually strikes the feet but can also manifest itself in other joints as well. Turns out, I have rheumatoid arthritis. The trick is finding out what you have. Not getting proper diagnosis is what can lead to incorrect assumptions and feelings of helplessness and despair. Rheumatoid arthritis is painful and causes swelling and great difficulty in playing classical guitar and ultimately prevents you from playing entirely. The key is to seek a consultation with a well-established specialist, so I first saw my orthopedic with the assumption that he could treat me with perhaps some type of injection or something in the affected area, but that was not the approach he took. He first wanted to rule out gout and needed fluid from the sore joint in order to send the specimen to a diagnostician who could provide decisive information back to the doctor. But the orthopedic surgeon was unable to collect any fluid to do this, so he recommended I see a rheumatologist. Of course, here in the U.S., a rheumatologist usually requires a referral from your primary care physician or from another specialist, but fortunately my medical insurance, thanks to my university where I teach, shared the bulk of the expenses.
In such a case, the rheumatologist will subsequently run standard tests and procedures, and unless your regular doctor has already done so, this will usually include checking for a build-up of uric acid and subsequent gout or gout-like symptoms. Of course, if you test positive for gout, the treatment is quite different. Once tests have confirmed it is not gout, however, your rheumatologist will continue with further testing. Fortunately in my case, it did not take long for the specialist to reach a diagnosis before starting me on a weekly dose of small amounts of Methotrexate before increasing it to the maximum dosage of seven pills, 2.5 mg each, per week. In approximately two months, my symptoms have disappeared and I’m back where I was before the pain compelled me to seek medical help.
My advice is if you think you might have RA, do not delay in getting help from a qualified doctor. There is a great deal of literature on the Internet that you can pursue to find out more about this debilitating medical problem, which can cause a guitarist to feel his/her days of playing are quickly coming to an end. At 59, I am lucky a doctor caught it when she did, and I have resumed my rather intermediate level of playing accordingly.
I hope this might help others out there suffering from similar medical problems. RA is no fun, but it is treatable.
Last edited by rburns on Tue May 17, 2011 2:17 pm, edited 3 times in total.