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Carpal Tunnel

dwagar

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Apr 18, 2005
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Any hints on how best to deal with carpal tunnel when you still have to play?
 

led zep fan

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Jul 4, 2003
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Are you sure you have carpal tunnel?

I thought I had it too, a while back. I used to get pain in my fingers and wrist of my fretting hand, and after a little bit of playing, my fingers would fall asleep so bad I couldn't feel anything!

So I went to my doctor, and right away he starts talking surgery. I said no way, the surgery is no guarantee it will go away for ever, and he agreed! So I left.

I paid a visit to my chiropractor, explain to him what's going on, and he pulls on on fingers, one by one, until they pop, or crack, whatever you want to call it. He says it's easy, I can even do it myself, as much as possible.

This almost instantly gave me relief, and within a week's time, all my symptoms are gone! I still pull em to this day, to maintain the relief.

Pay a visit to a good chiropractor, it beats surgery! I couldn't thank this guy enough, I thought my playing days were over!
 

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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19,982
Everyone has carpal tunnel. Without it you wouldn't have any nerves in your hand.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is something you don't want. It's pretty likely what you have is called as Repetive Stress Syndrome (RSS) and is related though hardly as bed (but can be a precursor or related to CTS)

Seek good professional help. Therapy, rest, braces, chiropractic, etc. can help.
 

Dire Wolf

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Dec 20, 2006
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Always make sure you warm up before playing by doing stretches of the flexor/extensor muscles of the forearms. A good physical therapist can show you. And doing your own massage on the same muscle groups also helps. I use my elbow(I get the most pressure this way) and start from the wrist area of the other arm and slowly massage up just below the elbow. This is a good myofascial release.

I play both guitar & keyboards, and I can tell you that guitar playing is much worse on your hands/wrists. Try and keep your wrist in a neutral position(straight & NOT bent) as much as possible. Play those bar chords with the thumb wrapped around the neck vs. the wrist bent in the conventional manner. And watch those Albert King 2 whole-step bends; I can feel the pain shoot up the wrist when I overdo bends! Definitely tune down atleast 1/2 step & use lighter-guage strings. Remember, Albert tuned down 1 1/2 steps.

And you can use heat before playing, and ice down after playing. I would not necessarily go to a chropractor; there are MD's who do NOT resort to surgery or drugs as a 1st option, but recommend physical therapy. These have been the best doctors I've seen for various hand/wrist ailments.
 

shuie

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Aug 26, 2005
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Go see a doctor tomorrow if you haven't already. Look for a specialist that deals with nerve damage or spine injuries. This is a treatable, and more than likely completely reversible issue, but you will probably sustain permanent nerve damage or loss of feeling in your hand if you don't fix it.

I developed a case of radial tunnel syndrome about a year ago. Im not going to try to explain it, but its the other big nerve in your arm. Google it. Over a 48 hr time period, I lost all of the feeling in the pinky finger and half of the feeling in the ring finger of my left hand. I do not play an instrument for a living, but loosing complete use of one of my ten fingers almost crippled me at my job.

In my case, it was a correctable problem. I learned that it was caused by sleeping with my arm under my pillow and further aggravated by wearing a wristwatch.
 

J.D.

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May 24, 2006
Messages
9,777
I agree, see a doctor.

What I was told is muscles and tendons put pressure on the nerves that go through your wrists into your hands. What I have to do is sleep with braces on my hands, when it's bad. These braces help relax those muscles and tendons when you sleep.

It seems to come and go with use, especially strenuous activity, so (hopefully obvious) avoid any/all un-necessary strenuous activity. Also take time to massage and stretch those muscles in the hands and forearms.
 

The Boogeyman

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Mar 30, 2007
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57
I've heard enough stories of people who end up with some form of chronic pain as a result of playing that it is more than enough to make me warm up and stretch before I pick up my guitar. To think of not being able to play anymore for a reason that is most likely preventable...well...that would just suck...

And, while all those stretches and exercises (both with and without the guitar) will help one avoid injury, they'll also help him/her to play better...so that's another reason to do them...

One thing I'll do before a warm up, if my hands are quite cold is to keep them under some warm/hot water in sink for a couple of minutes...it works well to loosen things up.

Try and keep your wrist in a neutral position(straight & NOT bent) as much as possible.

This is a very good point that should be repeated. While most of us, myself included, probably like to keep our guitars slung low, I'm sure our wrists are not thanking us. It's not so bad if one is playing lead, but if one is doing lots of chord work, he/she is not doing their wrist any favours...unless of course one is able to play chords with the thumb wrapped over top as Dire Wolf suggested.

So, I would make the suggestion that if one is having pain while playing with the guitar slung low, try bringing it up and seeing if that alleviates some or all of the pain. It might not look as good as Page, but it is still better than not being able to play at all.


...How the hell did he manage to play with a guitar that low anyhow?
 

Dire Wolf

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Dec 20, 2006
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I wonder if Page ever developed any hand/wrist problems from playing that low. Then look at Hendrix; he played the guitar pretty high up. Anyway, carpal, radial, cubital tunnel-these are all serious conditions. Only nerve conduction studies can identify actual nerve damage. Tingling & numbness are the first signs of nerve problems. And you can't forget about the neck & spine. I currently have partial numbness in my 1st finger from a pinched nerve at the C6/C7 segments of the neck. Besides keeping your wrists in a neutral/straight position, also watch the head/neck. Be aware of your posture and try not to lean the head forward that much when you play; the extra weight will put pressure on the vertebrae in the neck and could lead to degeneration/nerve compression down the road.
 

dwagar

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Apr 18, 2005
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4,326
I forgot to mention it's my right (picking) hand, caused by, I think, the damn computer mouse.
I picked up a trackball, and can use it with my left hand, that seems to help quite a bit.
Like Dire Wolf, I too play guitar and keyboard.

I guess you guys are right, I better go see a doc. I got the wrist brace, been icing it, seems to help. But, typically, as Tim the Tool Man Taylor once said 'the only time a guy goes to the doctor is due to decapitation, and even then only if he can't fix it with duct tape'.
 

SheltonGuitar

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Jul 6, 2005
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If having your fingers quickly pulled (traction cavitation) relieves the symptoms and restores function, then yes to a chiropractor. If having one of your wrist bones (usually the lunate) manipulated relieves the pain, then yes to a chiropractor. But the majority of people that I've seen for CTS in my chiro office usually get referred out for a surgery consult. I do suggest the non-surgical route first to see if anything works, because once they cut that retinaculum, the wirst will never be 100% for heavy load bearing.
 

moonpie

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May 24, 2003
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9,781
I suffer from tingling and loss of feeling in both hands, mostly the thumb and forefinger of my left hand, but the right has the same to a lesser degree.

Sometimes I feel like I have an electric shock run from my spine out both arms.

If I stand for more than a few minutes, my legs go numb.

I've got a degenerative disc at the bottom of my spine.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my left wrist.

Arthritis in most of me.

My left thumb has become so much a source of pain, I'm trying to play slide in open tunings...

Maybe I need to learn to sing a little better and leave the guitar trickery to the youngsters.....anybody under 54 years old....

I'll be 55 next month, if I make it that far.

Meantime, I ain't gonna let the pain keep me from enjoying life .
I'm gonna enjoy life if it kills me and everybody around me, damn it.
Life is good:jim:moon:jim
 

PixelBurst

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Apr 11, 2002
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I'm really mean to my hands and right arm. Besides playing guitar, my career demands that I spend a lot of time on the computer as well as drawing on paper. Pretty much 8 - 14 hours a day 5 - 7 days a week. When my arm and hands starting feeling jacked I asked my dad who's an orthopedic surgeon to check me out. He's done tons of surgeries for people with CTS and RSS. He basically said that my condition was NOT very severe and that if I did some moderate strength training on my upper body it'd most likely go away. So I started going to the gym and working out on the machines 3 - 4 times a week and my problems went away.

Since I moved to LA in January I haven't joined a gym and now my arm is getting jacked again. So it looks like it's time for me to join a gym!

Talk to your doctor and see what options are available. You may not need surgery at all!
 

led zep fan

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If having your fingers quickly pulled (traction cavitation) relieves the symptoms and restores function, then yes to a chiropractor. If having one of your wrist bones (usually the lunate) manipulated relieves the pain, then yes to a chiropractor. But the majority of people that I've seen for CTS in my chiro office usually get referred out for a surgery consult. I do suggest the non-surgical route first to see if anything works, because once they cut that retinaculum, the wirst will never be 100% for heavy load bearing.

+1
 

Flying Fish

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Aug 15, 2006
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I went to a rhemotologist (sp?) and a spine doctor (can't remember what you call these guys) for pain and numbness in hands, left arm and neck... turns out I've got some good old fashioned osteo/wear & tear arthritis along with some other things.

The Dr. said that something else that can cause a lot of pain and numbness is sleeping with clenched hands/fists. I sleep with my fretting hand flattened under my pillow and it helps.

Another thing that helped ALOT was losing 34lbs. The rhemotologist told me there's some fatty tissue on the underside of your wrist that can enrage everything if you've got a few extra lbs.

Another thing is to soak your hands and wrists in the hottest water you can stand for 20 minutes, once a day. This'll obviously soften callusues but relieves alot of pain.

I have also heard of player that do this to warm up before a gig. If I'm feeling particularly stiff right before playing out, I'll put my hands under some hot running water and that seems to help a bunch.
 

Cream Fan

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May 1, 2003
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What's funny is that I was told to wear a brace/splint at night for what was diagnosed as a very mild case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I never had my hand falling asleep at night until AFTER I started wearing the brace. And, no, I'm not wearing it too tight, but semi-loosely, as I was instructed. Could the flat metal piece, the splint actually be putting added pressure on the nerve? Everything I've read and been told says the opposite, but I find this coincidence to be anything BUT coincidental.
 

Flying Fish

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What's funny is that I was told to wear a brace/splint at night for what was diagnosed as a very mild case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I never had my hand falling asleep at night until AFTER I started wearing the brace. And, no, I'm not wearing it too tight, but semi-loosely, as I was instructed. Could the flat metal piece, the splint actually be putting added pressure on the nerve? Everything I've read and been told says the opposite, but I find this coincidence to be anything BUT coincidental.

That sucks. Are those braces expensive? maybe there's one that's designed a little different that you could try.
 

Dire Wolf

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Dec 20, 2006
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I'm really mean to my hands and right arm. Besides playing guitar, my career demands that I spend a lot of time on the computer as well as drawing on paper. Pretty much 8 - 14 hours a day 5 - 7 days a week. When my arm and hands starting feeling jacked I asked my dad who's an orthopedic surgeon to check me out. He's done tons of surgeries for people with CTS and RSS. He basically said that my condition was NOT very severe and that if I did some moderate strength training on my upper body it'd most likely go away. So I started going to the gym and working out on the machines 3 - 4 times a week and my problems went away.

Since I moved to LA in January I haven't joined a gym and now my arm is getting jacked again. So it looks like it's time for me to join a gym!

Talk to your doctor and see what options are available. You may not need surgery at all!

I saw Emil Pascarelli, MD in NYC years ago for RSD II, TOS, Carpal/Cubital Tunnel, etc. I was in pretty bad shape. He put me on a regimen of physical therapy along with some moderate strength training. Many of the problems have cleared up. But you have to be careful with weight lifting as well: some of those guys develop the same maladies as guitar players, i.e. carpal tunnel. Again, it's a question of warming up, stretching, keeping the wrist in a neutral/straight position when doing curls, presses, etc. and not over-doing it.
 

Dire Wolf

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What's funny is that I was told to wear a brace/splint at night for what was diagnosed as a very mild case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I never had my hand falling asleep at night until AFTER I started wearing the brace. And, no, I'm not wearing it too tight, but semi-loosely, as I was instructed. Could the flat metal piece, the splint actually be putting added pressure on the nerve? Everything I've read and been told says the opposite, but I find this coincidence to be anything BUT coincidental.

Be careful with the brace; as I mentioned in a previous post, I saw Emil Pascarelli, MD in NYC years ago. He's one of the world's experts on repetitive-strain injuries. This I do remember: he made a point NOT to use splints/braces!
 

PixelBurst

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Apr 11, 2002
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I saw Emil Pascarelli, MD in NYC years ago for RSD II, TOS, Carpal/Cubital Tunnel, etc. I was in pretty bad shape. He put me on a regimen of physical therapy along with some moderate strength training. Many of the problems have cleared up. But you have to be careful with weight lifting as well: some of those guys develop the same maladies as guitar players, i.e. carpal tunnel. Again, it's a question of warming up, stretching, keeping the wrist in a neutral/straight position when doing curls, presses, etc. and not over-doing it.

Exactly. My dad told me to use enough weight so that it takes a little exertion, but not so much that it's too straining. As you said it's about moderate strength training, not looking like Charles Atlas. Stretching is really important as you mentioned. Besides the basic hand, arm and wrist stretching my dad showed me, I've been using some yoga that my girlfriend showed too.
 

Dire Wolf

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Yes, yoga is very helpful & often recommended for all musicians & athletes. Helps in stretching, breathing, posture, flexibility. I know yoga(& Pilates, for that matter) are sometimes considered to have a more feminine fan base, but as musicians we have to be open to all modes of therapy & treatment.
 
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