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Serious Wrist Problems!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Melf, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    I know you guys are going to tell me to go to a doctor, but I've already been to 3 and they are not helping me. My problem is very peculiar and again I ask for advice in the hopes that somebody out there will understand what is wrong with my wrists.

    My wrists are both messed up. I began practicing guitar about three months ago after a year of not playing bass. My wrists immediately reacted by becoming inflamed, with an odd burning sensation. The outsides of them are sore, and the worst burning sensation is in a specific area on each. If you make a fist and flex your wrist, it's right at the highest point of the muscle where my index and thumb tendons cross. Physical therapy has strengthened my wrists, and the outsides of my wrists don't hurt nearly as much as they used to, but the inside is getting worse. I went to a wrist and hand specialist after the physical therapy didn't help, and he gave me a cortisone shot in my right wrist. Again, this did not help. It's been three days since my shot and my wrist is back to where it was.

    I have a fantastic guitar teacher and he says that my technique is great in both hands. I warm up every time before I play and am still unable to play pretty much anything outside of simple riffs or passages, given that I'm a guitar beginner. My wrists burn after 30-45 minutes of playing, and burn in the morning when I wake up especially. I have had X-rays and skeletally, there is nothing wrong with my wrists. I had the notion that I might be turning my wrists at night, so I bought wrist braces to immobilize my wrists when I went to sleep and they did not help. I essentially stopped playing video games or getting on the computer, and haven't worked out in a month to try to fix this, but if anything it's made it worse.

    I think that what the problem is is that for some reason my tendons aren't developing at all. For instance, if I were to lock my elbows, put my arms out straight and clench/unclench my fists without any muscular tension, my tendons would tire out in 30 seconds and I would have to quit.

    I've been to all the doctors I can in my area and none have helped. I am getting so incredibly frustrated because I can't play an instrument at all. If you have any advice or therapy techniques that could help me then please post it. I am baffled as to what's wrong with my wrists and starting to get desperate.
  2. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    Also, I forgot to add:

    While I wasn't playing bass, I took up rock climbing. I climbed an average of 3 hours a day for a little over a year. I am starting to think that it might be possible that I over-developed my forearm muscles, and now that they're atrophying from not climbing the tendons have no support. But this still wouldn't explain why physical therapy isn't making them any better.

    Or maybe I just destroyed my wrists from all the climbind I did. I don't know... :(
  3. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    I might welll be a muscle strength/endurance issue. Try playing for smaller chunks of time for a few days and see if that improves. Then you can gradually lengthen how long you play.

    I missed something very important in that post: try switching to a heavier gauge pick. It sounds like you are clenching the pick too tightly, which you often do subconsciously when you are trying to get more attack than the pick is giving you.

    A heavier pick will get more attack without the need for your hand muscles to support it. The pain you describe is right where the muscles used to hold a pick anchor to your hand.
  4. Funky Doctor

    Funky Doctor

    Aug 28, 2003
    Hey Melf, did you do lots of down climbing and lots of training on campus boards? I was told by a very good climber that when using campus boards you really shouldn't go downwards if you haven't worked up to it properly or you WILL screw your wrists permanently. I don't know how valid this is, but I tend to beleive this guy. Anyway, your problem could be a mixture of things. I had bad tendon problems in a few of my fingers after climbing hard basically everyday and not giving them a rest. So I backed off a fair bit, and around that time I also made a concious effort to have a lighter touch while playing bass. By that I mean, not fretting harder than I need to, not plucking really hard. Nice lightish touch. Now I have no problems whatsoever. But yes, your problem sounds climbing related to me.
  5. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    I switched to a heavier gauge pick (1 mm from a Fender Thin) and while it hasn't solved the problem, my right wrist feels better than it did while I was using a thin pick. Thank you!
  6. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    Nope, I never used a campus board. I did use a finger board, but I strained my muscles on it and didn't use it again after that. I've been making an effort to have as light of a touch as possible and it seems to help a little. But if my touch were any lighter, I wouldn't be fretting the notes, so I don't think it's all in my touch.
  7. I have been having some pain also in my left wrist for the past couple of months. It becomes more noticeable after I have been playing for 30 minutes or more. I have not been to a doctor for it but feel it might be related to playing.
    If you finally get a diagnosis let me know what it is, I'm curious as well.
  8. inluvwithsara


    Sep 29, 2004
    Fairfax, VA
    I have delt with the dreaded fret hand claw...I would wake up the morning after a long gig, with my fretting hand stuck in a claw posistion...that and I have had semi-perment strength and speed loss in that hand...cramping and such...
    First thing...warm up...never play with hands that are cool to the touch...run them under warm water, my drummer used to wear ski gloves up untill we went on stage...then I started using TIGER BALM...it smells bad, but helps ease the pain...DO NOT PLAY THROUGH THE PAIN...you may be causing much more damage...

    After not playing bass/guitar/drums/harmonica/wind flute for over a year because of it...my friend noticed the $5,000 worth of gear in the corner of my basement coated in dust and sugested an Acupunctureist...
    so I have...and she has made a big difference...this is not a cheap or overnight cure...but after 2 weeks of 3 visits a week, I am able to play some...not hardcore like I once did...but playing 20 min a day is comming along way for me...

    second thing...if its you wrist...switch to an upright...I did when my hands first started hurting...make a big differance...
    I have a Zeta Crossover bass...
  9. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    I had quite a bit of pain when I first started playing bass, and I still get some pain after very long periods of playing (4 hours or so), or jumping on my bass after a workout / snowboarding (pushing myself up after sitting down etc). I do a little bit of climbing - nothing hard-core, and it's very harsh on the old arms / wrists...

    I can't really give any advice... all my problems are with my legs / feet... so totally the other end of the spectrum, and not really appropriate on a bass forum ;P
  10. my wrist problems aren't nearly as serious as yours. I get sore in the same place though after playing consistently for a while.

    recently I have purchased a wrist brace (pressure band thing), which I am finding encourages me to keep my wrist in a more comfortable position while playing. Especially useful for long rehearsals. I just bought it from the local pharmacy.
  11. Warm up your wrists before playing by slowly pulling back on your fingers (all at once) over your arm with your other hand. You'll feel the stretch in the muscle underneath. Also, do some slow wrist rotations (like athletes do with their ankles). To build up strength, you could also try squeezing stress-balls. And yeah, what's been mentioned before about literally warming up your hands.
  12. jedwards


    Feb 1, 2005
    sounds like your muscles built up faster then your tendons. Gaining more muscle will only make it worse, and you may risk more permanent tendon damage. I went though something similar in my right hand from throwing too many curveballs, had to rest the hand (hard to do) until it healed. In my case it was about a year. I was diagnosed by an orthropedist who specialized in sports medicine, not sure what kind of doctor you visited.

    The drummer I am playing with now is sidelined due to something similar, he is a house painter on the weekends which I am sure was a major contributor to his problem.

    BTW, my hand still hurts sometimes during long playing sessions - I've found switching right hand styles often helps. Also, learn to play in different positions on the guitar and change alot, it will help if you change you wrist positions often.
  13. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Something that's helped me is supporting the wrists either with an ace bandage, medical tape, or even wristbands help a little.

    I have carpal tunnel, and frankly I'll do what it takes not to lose my wrists.