Finger arthritis: any tips?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Nedmundo, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    About six weeks ago, pain started developing in the tip joint of my right index finger. I thought it was from typing, and looked forward to a week of vacation, which I figured would help. It did somewhat, but the pain never disappeared, and increased over the following weeks. The joint occasionally crackles and pops, and one side is sensitive to pressure.

    As a result, I've switched over to pickstyle, and played my first entire gig with a pick last weekend. I've always been primarily a fingerstyle player, but I've used a pick enough to be comfortable with it.

    I'm afraid it's arthritis, and today a doctor friend told me it probably is. Unless I see real improvement soon, I plan to see a hand specialist.

    But assuming it is arthritis, does the TB braintrust have any tips or treatment recommendations? I'd like to return to fingerstyle playing if possible, but I'm 42, so I realize I might be starting to confront adjustments like this.

  2. CDuff


    Sep 14, 2002
    I don't know how much stress it's okay to put the finger under, maybe it's okay to play fingerstyle for a certain amount of minutes at a time or something. Either way, I'd put health first and switch to playing with the thumb or fingerstyle without the index finger.
  3. Lewis.558


    Jul 3, 2009
    Try not to spend a lot of time practicing without intervals. The main factor is to let the hand rest.

    Follow every advices that your hand specialist will give you and if he gives you some hand strenghtening exercises, ask him to give you others that help your other arm muscles, in order to get the things in balance.
  4. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    I am not a doctor.

    I've been getting great results in my knees from using Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM. I'm only 31, but my knees are pretty beat up. I've been using it to assist with training for an upcoming half-marathon, and I've noticed the recovery time in my knees after a long run has improved.

    It may help to prolong any additional degeneration in your hand, and allow you to play relatively pain free.
  5. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I've had knee problems since I was 14, so I can definitely relate. I've been a serious runner at times, but can't push it any more.

    I have started taking the glucosamine/chondroitin for my finger. When I tried it years ago for running, it made me nauseous, but no problems with this round so far. I think you're right that it will only delay the inevitable, but it should help.

    Thanks to all!
  6. BargeOn


    Mar 19, 2004
    I have it in the fingers, both hands. Bad and getting worse. And I've been to the experts.

    Take this for what it's worth but I've talked to two osteo specialists and _neither_ of them had a high opinion of Glucosamine. They both just shrugged and said it was my money, "if you insist, get it bulk at walmart". My GP says the benefits are more noticable in the larger joints, it has less noticable impact on smaller joints (probably why the runners are more likely to claim benefits). They all recommended squeezy balls for general hand fitness and prefer them over the mechanical, spring-loaded finger gadgets.

    I've taken G/C for years now and frankly it's hard to say if it has helped. If I stop taking it my fingers don't hurt any less and the stiffness does not go away (it never will). My only hope is that it slows progress. Afterall, there is no cure for arthritis.

    The best advice I've had: keep 'em moving. The issue is not strength but flexibility. This is born out somewhat by the fact that my fretting fingers hurt less and have better flexibility than my plucking fingers, which move less.

    Some other simple advice:
    Seek moist heat. Avoid cold/damp. Don't wash your car in cold weather; Avoid activities that put major strain on your hands (arthritis never gets better, but you can do a lot to make it worse!). Get one of those moist heading pads. Start checking out short-scale basses (you may find you like them).
  7. mrjim123

    mrjim123 Supporting Member

    May 17, 2008
    ^ I'm 58, and have some mild pain in my plucking fingers, which I push a lot harder than my fretting fingers (which have no pain).

    If the pain ever worsens I'm planning to buy some picks and use them at least on some songs that don't require finger muting or anything faster than, say, quarter notes.
  8. throbgod13


    Mar 26, 2005
    there is some sort of therapy that uses ground cartilage and injects it into the joint, it's supposed to help regenerate cartilage in the joint..
  9. Start doing aerobic excersise. I was recently told I may have arthritis in my left wrist. I started doing cardio everyday and I haven't had a problem since.
  10. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Thanks. I have started doing some cardio. I figure increased blood flow can't be a bad thing.

    It seems to be improving this week, and I'm seeing a hand specialist next week so hopefully things can move further in the right direction.
  11. Aleve is an over the counter pain reliever that many doctors recommend using for arthritis pain. As with anything, there are risks associated with using it. Then again, there are risks taking tylenol as well. If you smoke for instance, your risk of heart attack will go up.

    Also as previously mentioned, keep those fingers moving. Get a tension ball to keep the fingers strong, and do exercise such as cardio to improve bloodflow. Finger stretches will stretch out the muscles in the fingers, which also helps to improve bloodflow and oxygen efficiency in those muscle groups.

    Rest is very important, and not to be ignored. As with all injury and exercise, allowing the hand to rest will let the body work on healing damage. You might want to consider one of those bead massage wrist supporters to help improve circulation as well.

    Nutrition is also important, not just for overall health but getting the right nutrients and minerals can slow down the degeneration of the cartilage by giving the body what it needs to keep the cartilage in better condition.

    Talk with the hand/arthritis specialist,and follow their advice. Whatever they tell you to do, work on making it a habit. Good luck with your treatment and recovery, hope it doesn't hinder your playing too much.
  12. nedmundo, my wife is a practitioner of natural medicine. (i am definitely NOT, but i get the basics from her!) probably no one else will tell you this here, but your DIET has a huge impact on arthritis. natural medicine focuses on eliminating causes, not reducing symptoms. this is an excellent case in point.

    if you are overweight, lose weight as a general rule. anything that is acidic, like coffee or coke, should be reduced or eliminated completely. both lead to a build up of acidity in the body which significantly aggravates or is perhaps even the cause of joint pain. note that sugar (synthetic sugar in sweets & soft drinks) also turns to acid in the body, which again irritates joints (simple sugars like those found in fresh fruits are fine). leafy green vegetables like spinach are basic too (opposite of acidic) and will also help to reduce acidity. also as a general rule, make sure you drink lots of water, it greatly improves your body's metabolism. even things like fruit juices are not nearly as good as plain water in this context.

    with due respect to the advice above, forget all the meds until your diet is completely under control. otherwise you risk being dependent on them forever. no doctor will ever tell you this because they are paid well by the big pharmaceutical companies to sell lots of medications (apologies for the political overtones, but that's my honest assessment!).

    i am 51 years old. when my back and joints ache, i stop coffee and sugar for a month and you wouldn't believe it but feel significantly better. hope this helps.
  13. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Thanks for all the input. Great suggestions, some of which I've been doing already. I've been taking Aleve, which helps, and I figured the dehydration from coffee could be a problem, so I've cut that down significantly. (It could also hurt the stomach along with the Aleve.) But the acidity is probably a factor too, so I should cut down further. I rarely eat processed sugar, and even more rarely drink alcohol, which hopefully helps. I drink loads of water.

    I've also changed my typing technique to reduce the impact on that finger. I suspect incessant typing has something to do with the problem.

    With some health/injury issues, I'll let it go for awhile, but not if it gets in the way of :bassist:!

    Thanks again!
  14. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I saw the hand specialist the other day, and x-rays indicate my problem is NOT arthritis. The doctor shares my view that it's probably related to excessive use, and doesn't want me to change my activities at all. Good news in my view. So I'm on massive doses of Naproxen, and will get some paraffin treatment soon. Hopefully I can go back to full fingerstyle playing soon, and ditch the pick.

    Interestingly, the hand specialist's pre-appointment questionnaire asked specifically about playing musical instruments. Pretty cool.

    Thanks again!
  15. John Wentzien

    John Wentzien

    Jun 25, 2007
    Elberta, AL
    Artist:TC Electronic RH450 bass system (original test-pilot)
    You are a lucky man!
  16. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    excessive pressure on a joint can cause a stretching of ligaments and an increase in joint pressure due to faulty alignment - hyperextension. Your finger joint pain be related to this. To see if this an issue try playing and pay attention to your finger - does the tip bend back and feel uncomfortable? Gently bend your finger tip back and see if it moves a lot and is uncomfortable at the end of its' range, try this on the same finger on the other hand and check the stiffness of that joint. Ideally your finger tip should not bend backward as you play, instead it should remain in a neutral position. Avoiding hyperextension in the fingers will solve your problem
  17. wizay


    Mar 5, 2008
    Do you eat fish or get the oils in fish? I had a crackle and poping sound from one of my shoulders, and i got tip'ed to take fish oil pills. Grease for the joints. Hope it hepls
  18. Go see the hand specialist. REALLY.

    I was diagnosed with arthritis by a general practitioner, but a hand doctor figured out that I had trigger finger which was a symptom of my up-til-then undiagnosed diabetes. They'll shoot x-rays, and not guess. For me, a shot of cortisone and I was all set. I had never heard of trigger finger before, and my regular doctor didn't bring it up because he didn't know.

    Make the appointment!
  19. wildhorse


    Mar 15, 2009
    I was using that stuff for awhile didn't notice much difference and quit using. Went to Dr in July for kidney stones and the nurse was telling me about a friend who had gotten kidney stones from using Glucosamine. I don't ever want that crap again so not about to go back on it. It was worse than trying to deliver a baby with a Warmoth Bass in his hands.
  20. nbw


    Nov 10, 2003
    Arlington Texas
    I only have a tid bit of advice or reiteration of advice I can supply with my recent battle of hand pain but I think its helped me a lot so..
    Make a contentious effort to not sleep on your hands or arms. This slows down blood circulation and slows the healing/strength regeneration. Doesn't sound like a big deal but I swear as soon as I made note to not sleep on my arms/wrists/hands my hands started feeling better almost instantaneously when nothing else seemed to help much at all.
    If you dont already, make sure to do your stretches and warm ups before you play or do something strenuous with your hands. I've also heard to do them after you work them/get done playing so I do that as well.

    Good luck.