Left hand fingertip numbness

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
Ira

Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Ira » Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:06 pm

I currently have a student who has been experiancing numbness in the left hand fingertips. He has only been playing guitar for about a month and studying with me for 2 weeks. Any suggestions on how to diagnose this problem. Any possible reasons this may be happening.

Thanks

av8t0r

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by av8t0r » Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:47 pm

Numbness is almost always a sign of nerve damage, and should be diagnosed and treated, not ignored; nerve damage is permanent. I work on the computer a lot, and I notice that I lean on my left arm, which has resulted in some loss of feeling in the little finger side of my hand all the way to the fingertip.

Rockasaurus

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Rockasaurus » Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:32 pm

Or a circulation problem, maybe, if he's holding his hand too high above the level of his heart?
We talkin' about a geezer, here like me? or an otherwise healthy looking specimen...

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muirtan
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Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by muirtan » Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:58 pm

Hi Ira there have been a couple of posts on this recently.

viewtopic.php?f=71&t=42302
viewtopic.php?f=71&t=43968

Are all his fingertips affected or just some? As a general rule little finger and little finger side of ring finger is the ulnar nerve, the remaining fingers median nerve. There are things that can be done but it needs to be diagnosed properly as other things apart from nerve damage can cause it.

I am not a doctor but have had ulnar nerve problems as had my teacher.

Ira

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Ira » Fri Sep 25, 2009 4:29 pm

Thanks for the replies, I will check for any reasons circulation may be being cut off. Feel free to give me any more updates or insights about this problem.

fjjoung

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by fjjoung » Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:55 am

Gees there can be many reasons why a guitarist may have a numb fingertip....

Most likely it is from a impingement or irritation of nerve somewhere. Just being VERY broad this can come from (and not exclusive to):

1) the wrist (?excessive angle)
2) forearm (?excessive tension)
3) elbow (?incorrect angle -> ulna nerve impingement is indeed common and seems one of the most common amongst guitarists/violinist/cellist etc)
4) middle back (?poor posture)
5) neck (?poor posture)

The location of the numbess is one of few crucial clue - which fingers? just on fingertips? how about the whole hand?

Without any more detailed info, it is most likely to be from elbow or middle back I'd say....

Let us know how you get on.

Francis

Ira

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Ira » Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:30 pm

My student has stated he gets numbness in all of the fingers but the middle finger is the numbest

fjjoung

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by fjjoung » Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:04 pm

Hmm... all the tips of the fingers but middle is the numbest eh? Then maybe elbow isn't it.

Then I think one of two possibilities:

1) nerve irritation from the costovertebral or intervertebral joints from the thoracic spine - i.e. where the rib joins the spine. This would most likely occur in your student if he was in an incorrect posture for a length of time. Most common is having the shoulder blade placed too far away from the midline - which in turn occurs if the left hand was too far forward / guitar pointing too far away / slouching etc.

If the above is the source, the numbness will ease within few minutes if he corrects the posture AS SOON AS he feels the symptoms.

2) nerve compression from the wrist or forearms. As you might be aware, the two most common reason for this is: 1. incorrect alignment of the wrist (i.e. too much angle) and 2. excessive tension of the forearm (i.e. "gripping"). If this is the cause he probably will find that pieces involving more awkward left fingerings such as barring gives him the numbess more quickly and severely.

These are two amongst many possibilities but should get you started.

All in all, stress the student the importance of addressing this issue since nerves, unlike other tissues in the body such as bones and muscles, do NOT heal well.

Let us know how you get on.

Francis
(Registered Physiotherapist of Victoria, Australia)

Bonita

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Bonita » Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:44 pm

I know this is going to sound really dumb......

Maybe it is his callouses?

Once I develop a good set of callouses my fingertips lose feeling (and dexterity when I have to pick up small objects). There is just too much dead skin between the outside environment and the nerve receptors in the fingertips. Maybe this feeling is being interpreted as numbness.

Okay, I know this post is pretty lame, but this is the first thought that came to my mind when I read the post. :desole:

Harry Kiesel

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Harry Kiesel » Mon Oct 19, 2009 3:12 pm

Three nerves innervate the hand/fingers. Ulnar, median, radial - the fingertips(the soft,fleshy part) reflects median nerve for p,i,m,a, and ulnar for c. Is the numbness permanent or does it resolve after playing guitar? If it is permanent, then there nerve injury. If it resolves after not playing guitar, then it is probably median nerve impingment and may reflect too much wrist flexion, in which case altering wrist position may solve the problem. Most of the time such a problem goes away by altering wrist mechanics. Wearing a resting wrist splint at night for a week or so can sometimes reduce nerve swelling/inflammation and solve the problem. If the numbness is permanent, see a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. Circulation failure in the arms is EXTREMELY uncommon - I've only seen it in folks who have had diabetes for many decades - usually type 1.

I like to do work around the house - carpentry, ceramic tiles, etc. When I do someting that requires a lot of work with my hands, I usually have some tingling in my left hand for a few days when playing but it resolves.

Harry Kiesel

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by Harry Kiesel » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:57 pm

Ira wrote:My student has stated he gets numbness in all of the fingers but the middle finger is the numbest
If the tip of the little finger is involved it is not carpal tunnel syndrome alone. BTW, impingement syndromes involving the neck usually cause pain as well.

BarbBarth

Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by BarbBarth » Mon Nov 08, 2010 9:57 pm

Interesting thread. My lefthand fingertips have been numb since I started playing the guitar... I was sick last year and could not sit and play for longer periods and the fingers regained sensation... Now that I'm playing regularly again, my fingers have a small area of numbness at the very tips. It actually makes me happy, because it means I'm back to playing longer at a time. It really is just the very ends... to me it is just an interesting oddity I notice when I press on my finger tips.

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Re: Left hand fingertip numbness

Post by simonm » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:08 pm

Bonita wrote:I know this is going to sound really dumb......

Maybe it is his callouses?

Once I develop a good set of callouses my fingertips lose feeling (and dexterity when I have to pick up small objects). There is just too much dead skin between the outside environment and the nerve receptors in the fingertips. Maybe this feeling is being interpreted as numbness.

Okay, I know this post is pretty lame, but this is the first thought that came to my mind when I read the post. :desole:
Not dumb or lame at all. If someone has never experienced callouses on the finger tips before this could be how they would describe the sensation. BarbBarth post just above describes exactly how the callouses come and go even though the word callouse is not mentioned.

That said, if it truely was a "numbness" they it needs to be investigated.

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