Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

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

Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by Ed Gerrard » Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:38 pm

I have been taking CG lessons for about 4 months now and, almost from the beginning, have been having pain in the base of my left (fret board) thumb, where the metacarpal joins the wrist. I practice about 2 hours a day and try not to push too hard with my thumb. I have asked my teacher about it and he cannot see anything I am doing wrong. The pain is not terrible but is constant and annoying. Has anyone else had this problem and do you have any suggestions?
Thanks, Ed

brooks
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Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by brooks » Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:34 pm

it might be dequervain's tenosynovitis.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Quervain_syndrome

it may not be, but in any case, you want to be very careful with it, and maybe see a doctor. speaking from experience that injury can be debilitating and take a long while to heal. my advice would be to stop playing for a while until it completely heals, and then when you start again, take precautionary measures, i.e. good warm-ups, stretches, good posture, exercises for developing a very light LH touch, etc. You'd be surprised how much needless LH tension you might be using without being aware of it. also be sure to drink plenty of water, and look into natural anti-inflammatories like essential oils. if you don't want to stop altogether until it goes away, try cutting the two hours in half for a while, with breaks. and as soon as you feel pain, put the guitar down! :sage:

i've felt your pain (literally)
good luck!

brooks
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Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by brooks » Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:38 pm

I forgot to mention, in my case it was also non-guitar activities that either caused or greatly exacerbated the injury. Holding a paint palette for many hours a day, and using my LH thumb for shifting gears on my bike. so try to minimize activities outside of guitar that might put strain on the LH thumb as well.

Ed Gerrard

Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by Ed Gerrard » Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:29 pm

Thanks. Please tell me about the exercises to develop the light left hand technique. Where can I read about them?

Julio_E

Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by Julio_E » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:01 pm

Here's an often linked video that I first saw on this forum and that I plan to study more when I finish recovering from an injury too (wrist tendinitis).

Good luck on your recovery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KydzlD2rng

brooks
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Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:11 am
Location: halifax, nova scotia

Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by brooks » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:31 pm

ppdoc wrote:Thanks. Please tell me about the exercises to develop the light left hand technique. Where can I read about them?
well, one is playing scales slowly (at first) with as little LH pressure as possible, with your thumb barely touching the back of the guitar. same with slur studies, chromatic octaves, etc. the idea is to try and find the minimal pressure needed for any given LH exercise, and to carry this into your playing as much as possible. try to use the weight of your arm to press the notes as opposed to the strength of your thumb, which, as much as possible should serve as a guide or anchor. more generally the idea is to develop a mindful approach, so that you become conscious of all needless tension in the left hand. often when playing a chord in a piece, for instance, you won't need all LH fingers to be simultaneously pressing down. release tension whenever possible, in each finger; this might mean re-working pieces you already know, or re-arranging them for easier LH positions. also, in chords or positions requiring more force, you can sometimes take some pressure off the thumb by pulling the guitar towards your chest. there are lots of little tricks like this which have helped me, but I'm sure your teacher or other delcampers can help you with suggestions that might be better. I think the main thing is to try to become acutely conscious of all needless tension. it will take some time.

it might be worth adding that I found that guitar with unusually thin necks - around 19mm or under at the 1st fret - were not good. although this might be something peculiar to my individual hand anatomy, I have also heard it from one other person who had this condition. might be worth experimenting with a few other guitars if you have access to any.

Nylonstringer

Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by Nylonstringer » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:32 am

it might be worth adding that I found that guitar with unusually thin necks - around 19mm or under at the 1st fret - were not good. although this might be something peculiar to my individual hand anatomy, I have also heard it from one other person who had this condition. might be worth experimenting with a few other guitars if you have access to any.[/quote]



This is true. I started electric guitar 25 yrs ago so classical guitar came after. Because i started on an Ibanez which have very thin necks, i had a tendency to squeeze more than needed. When i took up classical my habit was so ingrained that it took a long time to break. Just constantly reminding myself and also doing any exercise with my LH thumb not touching really helped to emphasize arm weight importance. It makes u realize that your thumb is simply a counterbalance and to serve as a stabilizer and thats all. It should merely lightly touch the back of the fingerboard. Something i did as a personal exercise was when playing anything i would place a very soft putty on the back of your fingerboard. And the goal is to leave as much minimal thumb print as possible. So that meant no squeezing.This helped me
Good luck
Terry

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amy3000
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Re: Pain in the base of my thumb from playing

Post by amy3000 » Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:33 pm

I have arthritis at the base of my left thumb and probably some tendinitis too. Gripping too hard has been challenging for me to change. The video mentioned above is very good. Before watching it, I had already started bringing my hand closer to the fretboard because it allowed my thumb to relax more. I would agree that a thicker neck allows the hand to relax too. I have a Hill Player which does not have a particularly thin neck but if/when I get a custom built guitar it will have a thicker neck than my current guitar (I play a short scale guitar so I don't have as many choices in factory made guitars). A friend who is a massage therapist suggested I try using a product with arnica in it 2-3 times a day for 3 or so weeks to see if that helps with the arthritis.

I asked a similar question last year and practicing "buzz" scales was one suggestion. Here's a link to the thread:viewtopic.php?f=43&t=75076&p=817752&hil ... es#p817752.

Because it's arthritis, the pain is not going to go completely away and I still struggle with gripping too much but these things have helped.
Hill New World Player Spruce 615 mm

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