Pain in left arm/wrist?

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
Heathcliffe Auchinachie
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 3:10 am

Pain in left arm/wrist?

Post by Heathcliffe Auchinachie » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:43 pm

Has anyone had any experience with pain in the left arm/wrist?

This is the second time I've experienced this pain. If you were looking at the palm of your hand, it starts on the far right side of the wrist and can sometimes be felt as far as my elbow. There is also a clicking when I move my hand back and forward which I think must be to do with an inflamed tendon but I don't know that for certain.
Is this tendonitis or something different, and what mistake could I be making in my left hand position for this to occur?


Any advice is much appreciated.

Todd Tipton
Teacher
Posts: 244
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:21 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA

Re: Pain in left arm/wrist?

Post by Todd Tipton » Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:45 pm

It is difficult to rule out any type of medical problem. Having said that, many hand problems can be attributed to something fundamental in the seated position. Even focusing on on a good seated position assumes good posture and freedom from excess tension. It has been my experience that many students, and players carry excess tension in the shoulders. I will try to explain an exercise I do with my students to rid of excess shoulder tension. Perhaps a friend could assist you in trying something similar.

First, get in a good seated position with good posture. Rotate the pelvic bones thus instantly increasing your height and helping to promote good posture. Glance at an imaginary horizon off in the distance with your arms fully raised. Maintain that eye contact as you bend over allowing your head to move towards the floor. Maintain the eye contact on the horizon helping your self to lengthen and widen (The opposite would be to look down and tense up the back muscles as you bend over.) You want to create as much distance as possible with the head and pelvic bones. As you complete the movement, allow your head to look at the floor. To return to the seated position, look at the horizon, raise your arms and return. The exercise should help to perfect a good seated position with good posture.

Next comes the part where you will need assistance. Allow your arms to relax as much as possible, generally hanging towards the floor. Have your friend get a good grasp of your arm somewhere above the elbow. Your friend needs to simply lift your arm. Your job is to not help at all. Your job is to "play dead" having your friend do 100% of the work. You very well may be surprised that this is far more difficult that it seems. Congratulations, you have just discovered counter-productive tension. To get a better sense, you can trade roles with your friend thus getting a better sense of the tension. Play around with that for a while. Make it a quick daily routine. The good news is, a little awareness goes a long way. You should quickly feel more comfortable and that will show itself in your playing.

On the seated position, it is very easy to gradually evolve into something less than optimal. Fortunately for me, my own students keep me thinking about it and that keeps me on my toes. You should be able to maintain that very good posture while keeping the thumb behind the neck and fretting the 19th fret of the 1st string with your 4th finger. If you aren't able to do this, the position of the guitar needs to be adjusted.

Experience has taught me that the things I have written above are just as important as any examination of the technique and mechanics of the hands. In some ways, I feel they are actually MORE important. Having good posture and good physical poise often promotes the hands in finding easier ways to do things.

Keep me posted. I'll reply as often as I can. Oh, and as always, Happy Practicing! :-)
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA

Nick Cutroneo
Posts: 2803
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2006 1:22 am
Location: Manchester, CT

Re: Pain in left arm/wrist?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:53 pm

Heathcliffe Auchinachie wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:43 pm
and what mistake could I be making in my left hand position for this to occur?
It's hard to provide any kind of advice without first seeing what you are doing with your left hand.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

meouzer
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri May 05, 2017 8:35 pm
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado

Re: Pain in left arm/wrist?

Post by meouzer » Tue Jul 04, 2017 2:54 am

It would help to know how your pain came about. Do you consider the arm or wrist injured? Were you exerting lots of force, say with bar chords?
I've had wrist pain perhaps three times and it was always serious requiring lengthy rests away from the guitar and always caused by overexertion with bar chords. Once a tendon away from the wrist was also sore.

Rasputin
Posts: 183
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Pain in left arm/wrist?

Post by Rasputin » Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:55 am

Heathcliffe Auchinachie wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:43 pm
Has anyone had any experience with pain in the left arm/wrist?

This is the second time I've experienced this pain. If you were looking at the palm of your hand, it starts on the far right side of the wrist and can sometimes be felt as far as my elbow. There is also a clicking when I move my hand back and forward which I think must be to do with an inflamed tendon but I don't know that for certain.
Is this tendonitis or something different, and what mistake could I be making in my left hand position for this to occur?


Any advice is much appreciated.
It could be almost anything. I had a clicking wrist and pain over the back of the hand and saw several specialists without ever getting to the bottom of it. Along the way I was told (by a hand surgeon) that pain is not always a sign that something is wrong. I was given a stretching programme to do by a physio specialising in the hand and wrist, but the problem got worse. Over time I worked out that it was only some of the stretches that were making it worse, and when I took those out I did make progress. I would suggest doing some wrist / finger extensor stretches (only) for a few days and seeing if that helps.

The ideas in Todd's post above sound like they are coming from the Alexander Technique. I think AT is worth exploring but it is a very long term thing, at least that is how it is panning out for me. Often it boils down to using no more force than absolutely necessary (much harder than you think). A related idea is that you want to keep the joints near the middle of their ranges of motion (so you want a gentle curve down the arm, not a zig-zag).

The other activities you do can also have an impact - these days I have to choose between guitar and weights (I choose guitar!) I have lost about 15lbs, which is annoying. If you are doing anything that involves transfering a lot of force through the wrist, try cutting that out.

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