Wrist aches

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
redge
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Wrist aches

Post by redge » Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:04 pm

Hello all

So I've been struggling with some aches in my left wrist after I've been playing for around 3-4 mins straight

I was hoping I might find a few good tips from fellow guitarists here. I don't always play with my guitar on my left leg, say if I'm just plucking a piece out while sat on the sofa, but after seeing Flamenco players I didn't think this could be the cause?

I had some lessons last year and the teacher said my positioning looked fine although I'm not sure how accurate his analysis was

I'm also wondering if maybe the action on my guitar is too high and whether I should switch from medium to low tension strings?

One thing I have noticed while playing is that sometimes my left hand goes into what I can only describe as 'the claw' shape which doesn't really look very healthy but then I find some chords/stretches impossible without doing so.

Could it be possible that I just have a weak wrist and shouldn't be playing guitar?

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:19 pm

There are so many variables!

If there is the slightest chances this will simply put you off playing altogether I'd say get a hold of the best tuition you can find, and be prepared to consult more than one. In London you won't find any shortage... If you don't have an immediate hot-line to anybody I'd call up London Guitar Studio, explain the situation and ask who they'd recommend (and tell 'em I told you they'd sort you out!) Ideally find somebody with experience of Alexander Technique as well as obviously guitar. I don't know off hand of anybody there who teaches both, but that would be a thing to aim for.

Meanwhile, consider also - angle of the guitar and its height, angle being both of the neck and of the body, both in its tilt towards you torso, and its angle to the straight line through your shoulders. Experiment and let your body guide you. Are you playing things that are really just too hard?

I dealt briefly with a chap early this year who had this; as I'd guessed the cause was - his beer belly! Caused the guitar to angle away too far, imposing strain on wrist.

Please let us know what transpires...
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redge
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by redge » Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:41 pm

Hi Stephen

I actually made a start on this the other day and rang the London Guitar Studio who put me in touch with a teacher in my area (West London) named Ellie Kotzia. She has said we will have an hours lesson so she can make an assessment and I'm just waiting on her to respond with a date.

I do tend to challenge myself and am probably a bit over ambitious at times so maybe I should stick with a few simpler pieces for a while.

Should the soundboard of the guitar be angled upwards slightly when I play or should it be facing directly forwards?

I'll report back after my lesson

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:07 pm

Yes Ellie should be in a good position not least if I recall she's had some wrist issues too.

Angle the soundboard, normally should be ever so slightly upwards. Many folks tilt it too much so they can see the finger board.
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Michael.N.
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:23 pm

I'd be very careful of watching Flamenco players and deciding that it must be OK to copy them. Some people seem to be able to play in the most awkward position/posture and they play perfectly well. Others are a few mm's out of position and they end up having to see a doctor!
One to watch out for is the wrist that is overly bent. Obviously this may not be the same problem that you are experiencing but it's worth repeating. Some people address the neck as though everything is a barre chord, from start to finish. That happens if the neck is too low, maybe if you are sat on the sofa! It can happen even when the Guitar is in a good position.
Mr. Gallagher on the subject:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KydzlD2rng
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redge
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by redge » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:56 pm

Ok great hopefully I'll hear from Ellie soon and we can get a lesson arranged asap

Michael - it's not so much that I've been trying to emulate flamenco players it's just that I thought if they can play on the right leg without wrist problems then maybe that's not what caused the issue for me

I'm going to watch through that video when I get home from work and spend some time carefully analysing what my left hand is doing. I think applying too much tension may be an issue for me as well so I guess I'll have to retrain myself in order to make sure I'm only applying the minimum amount of pressure required to get a clear note

Also - could tension in other body parts have an adverse effect on the left hand? Say if I subconsciously tensed up my shoulders, could that also contribute?

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Oct 23, 2015 4:09 pm

redge wrote:... I think applying too much tension may be an issue for me as well so I guess I'll have to retrain myself in order to make sure I'm only applying the minimum amount of pressure required to get a clear note

Also - could tension in other body parts have an adverse effect on the left hand? Say if I subconsciously tensed up my shoulders, could that also contribute?
In short, a big yes to all that. We all need to remember to keep working towards less tension. Probably, in your case, the excess tension is causing your wrist to go over into pain, whereas for many others, the same posture and use habits would not go quite that far, while still imposing various unseen limits and constraints to speed, accuracy etc.

To be more specific, re your last point, and this is where some Alexander Technique would help, imbalances or tensions in one part inevitably have consequences elsewhere. Right now I'm having a bad pain in the left arm, and at my last Alexander lesson it was amazing how the teacher moving my right foot, affected the left arm. Just an illustration.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

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Michael.N.
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Oct 23, 2015 4:14 pm

Tension can spread and have far reaching consequences. Shoulders, neck, jaw are certainly high on the list. Any musician can suffer through bad posture and tension issues. It can destroy your progress. It can destroy your playing, especially if it's severe tension. There are some common 'conditions' that relate to particular instruments though. Violinists tend to hunch their shoulder up and clamp down with the head. Wind instrument players tend to crane their necks forward. Guitarists tend to hunch their shoulders forward, as if wrapping themselves around the instrument. It really is best to seek help from someone who is familiar with playing technique and posture. Believe me, you don't want to go through what I've experienced!
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robin loops
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by robin loops » Fri Oct 23, 2015 5:01 pm

Could be a lot of reasons. One thing to check is that you aren't bending your wrist too much. You should have a nice curve from the fingers up to the arm and no 'sharp angles'. If it appears to be bent too much, look into posture and holding the guitar. Best to work that out with a teacher though.
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allenmathews

Re: Wrist aches

Post by allenmathews » Fri Oct 23, 2015 5:17 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:[quote="redge"

To be more specific, re your last point, and this is where some Alexander Technique would help, imbalances or tensions in one part inevitably have consequences elsewhere. Right now I'm having a bad pain in the left arm, and at my last Alexander lesson it was amazing how the teacher moving my right foot, affected the left arm. Just an illustration.
I used to have pain and excess tension, until I started weekly Alexander Technique lessons. AT has done more for my music, playing, and general quality of life than just about anything else I have ever done, music-related or not. I'm a raving fan.

In lieu of AT lessons, one thing you could do is to sit in front of a mirror with your guitar and, after a few minutes of playing, note your position. Put the guitar down, and strike that same pose without the guitar and note how jacked up your body is. Find specific places you could alter your weight distribution or the angles of your joints, then pick up the guitar and see what happens when you approach it with these in mind.

Anything positional will probably evaporate, and you'll most likely assume the status quo when you start playing and stop focusing directly on your body. So the more slow practice, with your attention on your desired positioning, angles, etc, as well as what you want to avoid (perhaps even more important) will work to change the habits that are causing the pain.

There is rarely a "magic bullet" for this type of thing. Habit change will take some time and focus.

Good luck!

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Oct 23, 2015 5:26 pm

allenmathews wrote:
Stephen Kenyon wrote:[quote="redge"

To be more specific, re your last point, and this is where some Alexander Technique would help, imbalances or tensions in one part inevitably have consequences elsewhere. Right now I'm having a bad pain in the left arm, and at my last Alexander lesson it was amazing how the teacher moving my right foot, affected the left arm. Just an illustration.
I used to have pain and excess tension, until I started weekly Alexander Technique lessons. AT has done more for my music, playing, and general quality of life than just about anything else I have ever done, music-related or not. I'm a raving fan.
Me too!
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

redge
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by redge » Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:16 am

Thanks for all this fantastic advice guys. Over the weekend I was working on the Pushkin Waltz and took the time to play it slowly and carefully while remaining conscious of what my body was doing and I already noticed significantly less aching

I have a lesson set up next Saturday with Ellie which I'm really looking forward to and will hopefully help me even more to improve upon my posture and tension issues

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Tomzooki
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by Tomzooki » Mon Oct 26, 2015 3:06 pm

If you could post some photos of your left hand and arm while playing maybe one of us could notice something, particularily if it is obvious
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redge
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Re: Wrist aches

Post by redge » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:41 pm

Tomzooki wrote:If you could post some photos of your left hand and arm while playing maybe one of us could notice something, particularily if it is obvious
Good idea :) I have my lesson tomorrow so I will see what is suggested there and if I have time this weekend I'll take a few photos

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