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These Little Aches And Pains

I used to smile with disdain when I read about acoustic guitar players whose playing was being limited – or even stopped – by the onset of complaints that frequently afflict us oldies. I uncharitably thought that it was probably more to do with their technique and posture rather than any real handicap. I couldn’t see how such a gently activity like picking a guitar could possibly be affected by anything other than a broken arm! I couldn’t imagine that even a chronic small discomfort would get in the way of my muse. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Recently I have been been shown the error of my attitude, by which I mean that I’ve found myself rubbing sore joints and tendons with increasing regularity. And hand cramps have suddenly started appearing. I’m dreading that I, too, will one day have to downsize my guitar so my gnarled fingers can negotiate the fingerboard. How much time have I left?

4 thoughts on “These Little Aches And Pains

  1. Greetings Dave,

    Hang in there buddy! When playing causes pain or discomfort, it is time to take a break. When we were young we (mistakenly) thought we had to grin-and-bear-it and keep practicing to build up the muscles (and develop muscle memory). That was wrong. We engrained bad habits that are hard to break now. I’ve been grappling with pain, that advanced to numbness, from such bad habits. Maybe carpal tunnel? I don’t know, but I’ve had to ease up my practice regimen. Scary stuff. Take it easy and keep playing. Hope rest will restore you to full facility.

    Best Wishes,
    Nick

  2. Well, Nick, I went to my doctor and thence to a physiotherapist who gave me some exercises to do. I\’ve yet to start them. I will though. Sorry to see you\’re compromised too. I agree bad habits (posture, etc.) can get so ingrained they can become so very hard to unlearn. Muscle memory is a double-edged sword, to be sure. It\’s essential for me so I can play fluently (ie, perform) so I don\’t have to think about where my damn\’ fingers are going when I\’m supposed to be entertaining my audience. But ““ as you say ““ if that muscle memory is just practicing mistakes or bad posture, hand alignment, and all that… then that\’s going to be a problem.

    Even this evening, when I went out to play my favourite open-mic I felt the hand cramps wanting to come on. The didn\’t develop and I was fine playing. Made me wonder though ““ since I hadn\’t experienced them all week even when practicing ““ whether the nervous tension of anticipating playing in public ““ however humble the occasion ““ might not contribute? Certainly my doctor and physio didn\’t straightaway diagnose carpel tunnel or anything else.

    I will do these prescribed exercises and see how it goes. I\’m not inclined to alter my practice regime at the moment since practicing doesn\’t bring it on. There doesn\’t seem to be a cause and effect there.

    How\’s the weather in NYC? Did I mention we think we\’re coming your way later in the year??

  3. Carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by nerve compression in the wrist, is another possibility to consider. The most typical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain in the wrist and tingling and numbness in the fingers, but hand spasms may also occur. If you experience spasms in other areas of your body, such as the upper arm, neck, or face, this could indicate a more serious neurologic cause, although this is relatively rare.:`’-

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  4. […] wrote here and here – and even here – about reasons I couldn’t play and sing. Since the turn of the […]

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