#1
So, I've been playing steel acoustic for over 40 yrs. now, and have been taking lessons for the past four months as part of a commitment I made to myself as part of buying the Martin I've always wanted (well, that would be a D-28, but...). At 68, my body is beginning to revolt on me, and I've developed arthritis in my hands; this has not really been a factor until now, as the thumb on my fretting hand has become quite painful at the base, no doubt in the joint. Haven't been to a doc yet to see what (if anything) can be done, but for now I cannot play.  That alone is a major drag, but my immediate concern is maintaining my calluses, in the hopes that either the pain recedes soon, or can be banished through the miracles of modern medicine. Does anyone have any ideas about how I can do this without actually involving the thumb? There seems to be no substitute for playing, so I'm stumped as to how I can keep the skin on my fingertips solid without aggravating an already angry thumb joint. Any ideas are welcome. TIA! 
Last edited by jhansman at May 24, 2017,
#3
Ed_Grimley  Well, I must say (sorry, couldn't resist) it hurts with certain movement, and fretting just about any chord that takes dexterity and strength (B flat, for example, is a tough one for me). Staying off of it helps, but I have to play every day, or I get grouchy and restless. I reckon, when I see my doc in a couple of weeks, he'll stick me with cortisone, which always stops the inflammation, but is band-aid approach that can only be done so often and so many times.   To better answer your question, I was trained to keep my thumb in the middle of the neck (as opposed to wrapping it over the neck), and over the years, that action has put quite a bit of strain on the joint. 
#4
I have been playing for 16 years, and I hardly have callouses on my hands at all any more, because I have learned to press down lightly on the strings. I have a bit of rough skin there, but not callouses. It doesn't hurt if I try to play left handed, because I have learned to press down lightly. I would suggest you check out www.guitarprinciples.com because Jamie Andreas has a great method for learning to play with minimal tension, it might even help you work around your arthritis.

Edit: After reading about strain on your joint over the years, yes, guitarprinciples is definitely what you need.
Last edited by ben_mann at May 27, 2017,
#5
ben_mann Maybe you should talk to you're doctor about seeing a specialist, an orthopedic surgeon perhaps. It could be a bone spur or something like that which could be removed with an operation. I have a bone spur on the inside of my kneecap but my medical won't cover an operation of that nature and I don't have the cash to pay for it.  
#6
An excellent suggestion; I will check it out. The action on my Martin is just as I like it, but some pressure is needed to get the strings to ring out. Thanks for the tip! Ed, I am seeing my doc in a couple of weeks and will get his read, but these days when I complain of aches and pains, he (after 40+ yrs. of treating me) just gives me that look that says, "Dude, how old are you?" (68) and "How long have you been playing?" (nearly 50 yrs.). I may consult a specialist, as I have pretty good coverage. Just need to know my options at this point; I don't want to play less, I want to play more. I don't want to stay where I am, I want to get better. None of that happens if my thumb is giving me the finger. Hey, not bad...  
Last edited by jhansman at May 27, 2017,