#1
Hi guys,

Not sure if this is the place to ask this, but this is the only place I know of on the internet with such a large base of guitar playing users. Hope someone has/had something similar as me, or maybe has heard about what the culprit can be. I have read through many threads of people experiencing this, but all seem to be beginners.
I have been playing guitar for about 12 years. Of those 12 only 8 have been more serious, still nothing fancy though.
Since the beginning I have felt a certain discomfort playing barre chords, which would increase exponentially if I kept playing only barre chords. But the last few years I have felt more and more discomfort. Now I can manage jazz chords quite easily, I play quite some bossa nova. I always feel a certain amount of discomfort if I play for an extended amount of time with no breaks (15/20min), but nothing I can't handle.
What I feel with continuously playing only barre chords and chords I barely manage to do (much stretch) is just plain pain. It hurts so much I can't even finish the song I'm playing. Like really sharp pain in my hand and especially my wrists. If I continue playing the pain intensifies and I get less and less mobility in my hand. When I stop my hand feels a bit like when you've been throwing snowballs without gloves; you can't properly move them until they warm up.
This is with my left hand. My right hand is also far from perfect, but that one I broke two times and my pinky does not function like it did before. Still able to play patterns like the one from Dust in the Wind though. My thumb from that hand (right) is also quite problematic. Not sure what the problem is there, but the pain is similar to my left hand; numbing pain with increasingly less mobility (thumb hurts with lots of things though, typing, writing etc).

I've been to the doctor, she said I just need to do stretches and with practice everything gets better. I've been to a chiropractor, he told me I have hyper mobility in my joints, which can cause pain. I can (and generally have to) pop lots of parts of my body, especially my wrists.

I don't have an expensive acoustic guitar, but I don't think it is the culprit. I have the same issue, although slightly less, with my Jackson. My friend has a Martin with the strings set up high, I really can't manage to play a song on that thing. I have to use too much force. He manages it with ease and is a beginner.


I'm in a bit of a hurry, so I hope I have written a coherent story. What do you guys think? Wrong technique? Just bad luck? Something else?
#2
Wrong technique would be the first and generally main culprit, but that doesn't mean only you are to blame. A guitar is not particularly designed to be an ergonomically responsible instrument. It's made to get a certain sound, emphasize certain frequencies and so on. This goes at cost of things like playability, aesthetics, and so on. Over the 20 years that I've played, I've never gone more than 5 years without an injury of some kind.

Most cases, it has been overplaying, with this being my job I tend to go quite a few hours a day at times, followed with days of no playing at all. It took me a long time before finally realizing, after changing my technique dramatically, dozens of times over those years, that the guitar in itself is not made for someone my size. To put it simply, you can adjust where you have an electric guitar. The strap lowers or raises it, you can twist and turn it, and so on. That helps a lot, despite the weight being a wear on your back, shoulders and neck. The acoustic guitar is not so easy. In my case, I am tall and have quite long limbs. So I constantly find myself twisting my joints in odd positions to be able to play, the solution for me was a radically different (and much larger) model of instrument.

I'd advise you to try different techniques, a lot of them. Twist or turn the guitar to a place you'd not normally try, and try many different models of guitars that you normally wouldn't consider. Go through all the models that exist, classical, small and large sizes, thin-bodies, dreadnoughts, jumbo, and grand auditorium, try them all. As a general, technical piece of advise, joints go round, not square. If you find yourself making sharp angles with them, you're doing something wrong. Because in many cases, you'll be pinching off nerves, bloodflow, or tendons, which can have very bad results over time. If you notice yourself doing this, search where you can get more space so that you can avoid those angles.

Also, if you have pain, do yoga. A doctor can only tell you so much, your own body is much more capable, but you do need to learn how to listen to it. You'd be surprised how many muscles you have you're not aware of. (As always, a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. But I have also never spoken to a capable doctor, therapist, or other type of 'body instructor/specialist', that had the answers for me. Only I had them, I just had to find them. But always go see a doctor, and remember that you're not supposed to listen to us. *grumble* )
Wise Man Says: The guitar is obviously female, she's got hips, breasts... and a hole.
UG's Flamenco Club
Last edited by FretboardToAsh at Dec 2, 2016,
#3
I have some advice, but im no expert on technique. Here goes. Try playing guitar like a classical player, with the whole thing vertical. Its harder to strum like that but it might help with the other hand. If your hand goes numb it could mean carpal tunnel, or at least something to do with nerves. Also could be blood flow. There is also a thing with tendons where they get frayed and hang up in their sleeves but that causes a thing called tendon snap where they hang up and you loose mobility, then they release and cause quit a lot of pain. Anyway maybe try some kung-fu wrist excersises and avoid 45 degree angles of the joints. And lastly have you ever paid attention to thumb placement? Good luck.