uncontrollable thumb

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uncontrollable thumb

Post by kc-wso » Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:50 pm

This is my first post and I'm not quite sure where it should go but, here goes.
It is actually for a friend with a RH thumb problem (I have a RH thumb problem as well which I will address in another post).
After some years of playing steel string and lots of years of weight lifting, my friend has switched to nylon string and is learning CG. His right hand thumb is almost completely uncontrollable unless it is actually touching a string. While not on a string, it twitches and jerks unpredictably. For want of a better description, it is like Parkinson's but just of the thumb. Speed does seem to make it worse but even playing slowly does not completely solve the problem.
We study under the same instructor on the same night-he in the period before me so I can often hear parts of their discussions about the thumb. Our instructor has never seen anything of this magnitude and the three of us have not been able to come up with a solution.
Is anyone familiar with something of this nature? Hand injury due to years of weight lifting? Thoughts?


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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by lagartija » Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:16 pm

Perhaps it would be a good idea for your friend to see a neurologist. They may have a better idea what the cause might be and what one can do about it. If nerve injury, there may be nothing one can do.... if it is due to other causes, they will know which tests to do to confirm it or rule it out.
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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by italian_job » Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:58 pm

I think we need a video, get it filmed!

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by Mike Atkinson » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:24 pm

I am reminded of the "Evil Hand" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer ...

I would just place my thumb on the string, until such time as it is needed to pluck a string.
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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by Lorette » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:00 pm

...Or Dr. Strange love. :lol:

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by Lorette » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:07 pm

Not funny, really. I am concerned for your friend. Go with lagartija's advice.

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by BellyDoc » Thu Sep 07, 2017 9:38 pm

For reference, there are tremors associated with Parkinson's but they are resting tremors. The initiation of voluntary motion tends to suppress them. Other conditions are associated with intention tremor where voluntary movement initiates or accentuates the tremor, but I don't think this is going to be an example of a tremor if he's able to play a guitar!

There are ways in which different kinds of body movements can be ingrained as group together into a unit intentionally or unintentionally and once grouped together, they can be forgotten. You don't think about the gas and the brake, you just drive. You don't think about the keyboard, you just type. Sometimes those connections can be well conditioned and difficult to separate. Think of how a dog kicks as if scratching themselves when you find "the spot".

An exam by a specialist may or may not be revealing but still reassuring, so it's not useless. Please note that many insurance plans require a referral from primary care for a specialist, so that's often where to start.

However in the future, without another clear direction to go, there are many sources of info on finger dexterity exercise. Basically any of them that are made difficult by this particular condition may be directly applicable to its treatment.
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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by hesson11 » Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:52 pm

I second the suggestions of a visit to a neurologist. I have peripheral neuropathy (along with various nerve entrapments), and my thumb has a mind of its own. I certainly don't want to diagnose over the Internet, but I think it would be worth considering. Don't even get me started on my handwriting!

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by Peter Frary » Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:37 am

I have no medical qualification but have taught classical guitar in a studio for a few decades and had many weight lifting students over the years. Most of them had no problems with moderate weight toning (including myself) but some of the hardcore lifters suffered hand tremors. These students seemed to think the extremes of their routines took a toll on their hands. Also, a couple of my serious wind surfer students had similar tremors and difficulty with small movements.
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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by bear » Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:21 pm

Don't screw around nerve damage can become permanent, see a neuro.
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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by dory » Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:14 pm

Your friend HAS to see a doctor. Hopefully his problem can be mitigated or fixed. If it cannot be, I will give the same advice I gave to a friend with focal dystonia in his right thumb. Learn to play left handed.

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by kc-wso » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:33 pm

Thank you all for your advice. If I see my friend at lesson tomorrow night I will pass it on. Will also try to make a short video.
It seems that even when playing slowly that as soon as the thumb plucks the string it starts to jerk, quiver, etc. so much that he is not sure where his thumb will land.
Again thank you..

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by scubarookie » Mon Sep 11, 2017 3:34 am

I'm new to forum, but concerned. I do calisthenics in the mornings, before starting my day. I consider it private time, to align and tone my body, for better performance. Stretching is a major factor in keeping limbered and flexible. I do get joint pains occasionally, and have been active all my life. I'm 43 now and still keep an active lifestyle and move antique furniture with some friends. When did you notice it starting? I do get occasional involuntary movement with limbs and fingers, but not all the time. I would have a neurologist check it out, when you can.

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by oriventura » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:17 pm

sounds like focal dystonia. search for youtube videos and see if it is similar. it can occure in different fingers / hands.

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Re: uncontrollable thumb

Post by Andrew Fryer » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:35 pm

Check out Scott's Bass on youtube. He wears a glove on his left hand because anything touching his hand stops the jerking. Obviously some other kind of method will have to be found for CG, but it's the sensation of touching that is needed.
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