Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
kehern

Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Sun May 11, 2008 4:11 am

When I first started playing the CG I used to always use my left hand to apply all the force needed to fret notes and barre chords. But after being on this website for a while, it became evident that I was basically doing it all wrong. I do now know that I have to use my shoulder/weight of my arm to fret notes/barre. But this quickly presented another problem, my wrist began to hurt. Also, I found it very difficult to play completely without my thumb, I simply cannot exert enough pressure using the weight of my arm/pulling my shoulder back. The body of my guitar begins to slip out of my grasp, and then I have to exert lots of pressure using my right arm to keep it from falling. Of course, it then becomes very difficult to play with my right arm pulling the guitar back while I am straining my left shoulder to pull my left hand back to fret notes. This becomes especially hard when the barre chord consists only of the the barre (as in all the notes that I am playing are being fretted by the barre; no other finger is being used to fret a note, only the first barring finger is). If I used my thumb I can barre, but then my hand hurts after only a minute or two of playing. (It cramps up and feels fatigued)

Basically, when I use my thumb to exert pressure to fret note(s) my hand begins to hurt, but when I use my shoulder/weight of the arm my wrist hurts and I cannot get enough pressure.

I am so confused. :(

Azalais

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby Azalais » Sun May 11, 2008 10:23 am

Hi kehern.

One of the reasons that everyone encourages new members to post in the Introduce Yourself section is so we can get a feel for what's going on behind your questions... You mentioned in your Intro that you were taking lessons, but that the teacher wasn't specifically a "classical" teacher...

If your wrist hurts when you are trying to barre, (and the guitar is still slipping) it sounds to me as if your sitting/holding position probably isn't right yet... and that's a much a bigger question to ask. If you are having pain, something isn't right... and you really shouldn't ignore it...

This whole problem of finding a good sitting position, how you hold the guitar, whether you use a foot stool or a guitar support, the angle your hands contact the guitar, etc. are just too important... and so difficult, even when you DO have the best of teachers. :cry: As you are discovering... you can start to have some very real aches and pains if you're not doing it just right. We get so focused on trying to read the music, find the right strings and frets, make decent sounds... you get tense, you get out of position and after a few minutes, you're a bundle of nerves and tight muscles... and the frustration just starts to spiral out of control. We've ALL been there!! If the guitar is still slipping, you're wasting 99% of your mental and physical energy trying to hit a moving target... and aside from pain and tension, your finger aren't getting reliable feedback because the frets and strings are never in the same place twice... try anything... (lots of people use non-skid shelf liner on their thigh or in their lap, or a cushion, or a guitar support, or even a strap... just so they can sit comfortably (probably with the neck fairly high) so you can relax and PLAY)

Most of the suggestions that people make for things like barring with less thumb pressure, etc. are meant to be "hints" to help you feel the differences rather than literal "rules"... The main thing is to keep experimenting to find small adjustments that get you closer to the ideal totally RELAXED secure position, where the guitar isn't wiggling around, you aren't twisting or straining your back, your wrist or your shoulders, and so your hands are free to play.

If you have any doubts, here's the name of someone who might be able to recommend a specifically classical guitar teacher in your area... guitar foundation.org/drupal/node/554 A classical guitar player (or more advanced classical guitar student) would probably be willing to give you even one or two lessons, just to help you make sure that you're sitting correctly and going in the right direction.

I really can hear and feel your frustration... and I've been there! I looked for ages to find a real classical teacher and had to wait for months to get a first lesson (and had to BEG him to fit me into his schedule) One hour with a really good classical teacher (and the guitar support he lent me during the first lesson) helped eliminate a huge amount of my frustration. I still haven't found an available full time teacher, but I know I would have quit by now if I hadn't managed to have those few early lessons with a really good classical teacher who sorted out how I was sitting and using my hands.

Good luck!

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Sun May 11, 2008 3:23 pm

Ah, I had a feeling that most of the responses are going to recommend me to get a teacher. And I am going to, actually it is with the teacher that you pointed out to me. I am just waiting until the summer/SAT and ACT are over, but now I am thinking that I should just have on lesson to get my position right.

Just one quick question, when one is playing, should the wrist be bend in ANY way? or should it just be completely parallel to the arm? Because I was playing last night (after posting that post) and I simply took some more time to concentrate on my left wrist, and by keeping it straight (and a bit "locked") I managed to have enough pressure while having no pain. Granted, I still couldn't properly barre on the 7 and 9 frets, but it was still an improvement.

But this brings up another more interesting medicalish question. When one pulls the shoulder back to exert the pressure needed, exactly what part of the body is taking the strain? It must pass through ones wrist, which would result in a pulling effect upon the wrist, which would then cause the fingers to push down (assuming that the fingertips are fully bent to be parallel to the wrist) I am now sure that the reason that I was having wrist pain was that my wrist was simply not straight, it was bent outwards. And as a result, all the force made by my shoulder was being put on a few tendons and muscles, instead of using the entire wrist. Not to mention that a lot of the force was lost. (Anyone who knows basic physics knows what I am talking about, the whole breaking up force vectors into the x and y components. Some of the the force was lost in the x direction. But ones wrist is straight, all of the force is applied directly to the fingers, which allows for easy and effecting fretting/barring) And I was holding the guitar much closer to my body, which allowed me to have a greater surface area touching my body, which then allowed me to exert more force from my shoulder without the guitar slipping or moving. Hooray!

I think that I may have figured it out. :D

rcw

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby rcw » Sun May 11, 2008 5:20 pm

Dear kehern,

Since you are "teacherless" right now, you might want to check out Eduardo Fernandez' book "Technique, Mechanism, Learning." It is a very technical book but it takes you through ground zero of sitting and holding the instrument, through right and left hand positioning and mechanics, as well as to how to reduce complex passages of music into workable/buildable parts. He does this through exercises that cause you to discover your own unique answers founded on basic principles. He also has you develop some of your own exercises. It takes awhile to work through and it is not an easy read but well worth the journey.

Glad your wrist is feeling better!

Robin

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Sun May 11, 2008 6:03 pm

Thanks for the advice rcw, I will be sure to take a look at that book. :)

Azalais

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby Azalais » Sun May 11, 2008 11:06 pm

I'm so glad you've made plans to do that (the sooner the better :P )

OK... while you're waiting... Here's the "bad news": When you are sitting correctly with no strain, you probably won't be able to SEE the front of the finger board! The face/front of the guitar should be aimed more toward the heads of your imaginary audience, not at the ceiling. (Try closing your eyes and letting your hands find the right angles) Once you make that huge leap of faith, to trust your hand(s), your wrist(s) will straighten out and the line from your fingers, through the back of your hand and straight through your elbow will be almost straight and very relaxed (as if you had a little weight hang from the tip of your elbow)... the weight of your relaxed forearm will help provide most of fretting "pressure" just by gravity. If you need to peek at your left hand, lean your head forward a bit, but try to keep the back of your hand/wrist relaxed and nearly straight when your are in a neutral fretting position. Obviously, your wrist will flex, bend, and rotate as you move to different chord positions and stretches, but the basic "neutral' position should feel very relaxed, with your shoulders relaxed. Also be sure to fret as close to the frets as possible instead of half way between the two frets... it takes a lot less pressure to get a clean sound.

We rarely get a chance to see a side view of someone's LH in the right the sitting position, showing the view parallel to the face of the guitar, from slightly behind, showing how relaxed the thumb can be. (Your thumb pushes more "forward", less "up". I'll keep an eye out for a video that shows it. Maybe I can try to get a screen shot for you. It's so hard to describe in WORDS :evil:

Not to change the subject :P but which AP's are you taking?

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Sun May 11, 2008 11:25 pm

Thanks for that VERY helpful post. And a pic would be nice, but I am not that greedy. :twisted:

I took AP English on thursday, AP US history on friday, and I have AP Biology tomorrow. Oh joy. /sarcasm. On that not, can you explain the Krebs cycle to me? :P

Azalais

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby Azalais » Mon May 12, 2008 12:25 am

I'm glad if it helped a little...

Good luck tomorrow...
Oh, and about the krebs cycle... just for fun, there's a Lego animation on youtube :wink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6njPbuM9J8

(ps. I did my AP's in languages... which were more my speed :oops: )

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Mon May 12, 2008 12:37 am

LOL. That lego krebs cycle thing was a well needed comedy break. And educational.

I took the AP Lit and Comp this year, and I am taking the AP Lang and Comp next year. And AP Calc AB, and AP Music Theory, and AP Gov. Don't even ask me why I am taking so many AP classes, I have no idea. :(

Azalais

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby Azalais » Mon May 12, 2008 2:52 am

Here's a frame from the webcam... (not too good, and I couldn't be bothered to pull out a big guitar, but the idea is the same) Your other fingers and especially your thumb should stay completely relaxed, with a nice smooth line through your hand and wrist. The movements are very subtle, but your barring finger stays relaxed and effectively pulls back and down through you elbow, as you push your upper body slightly into the back of the guitar??? (I've never really examined it under the microscope like that :oops: ) If you do it just behind the fret, it takes almost no pressure, and your other fingers stay loose enough to move independently.

Your thumb is only needed to keep your palm from spinning around the dotted line axis if your other fingers are being used. Your can do it with all four fingers for full or partial barres.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Mon May 12, 2008 2:57 am

Thanks a lot for that pic, it helped more than you could have hoped.

I will try to mess around with my positioning a bit and see where it leads me. I am also pretty sure that I exert way too much pressure.


And on another (and very creepy note) you have nice arms. Don't ask me to explain that compliment, because I really don't want to. I already sound weird enough.


Weeee...... :bye:

Azalais

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby Azalais » Mon May 12, 2008 3:13 am

glad it helped...

(and I never ask for explanations on those rare occasions when I get a compliment :P thank you)

Now why aren't you studying!!?? :contrat:

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Mon May 12, 2008 3:16 am

No worries my friend, I now know all about plants. Go ahead, ask me a question. :P


But I still have 3 chapters left to study. :(

kehern

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby kehern » Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:40 am

This thread is entirely dead, but I wanted to inform everyone who tried to help me, I now have no pain. I did eventually find a very good classical guitar teacher, and within the first few weeks he improved my technique, namely my wrist placement, and I have no pain and either of my hands. Thank you for you help!

MichaelBo

Re: Left hand wrist pain/hand and thumb pain

Postby MichaelBo » Tue May 26, 2009 3:22 am

I know this thread is long over but I have been experiencing the same problems as well as some real difficulty in fretting some weird chords. I'm just now beginning to come out of it I really like the advice of pointing your fingerboard toward the audience where you can't see it. Of all the advice I have been given, and all the positions I have tried, this one thing has helped the most of all. I pull the bottom lower bout of the guitar into my lower abdomen and lean forward slightly and I can play longer, play more relaxed, and hit any weird chord you throw at me. But I'm curious... once you found a good teacher and "did it right" how long did it take for your wrist and thumb to calm down? That is, was there a period of building up once your got the position correct? Though I started playing, off and on, 42 years ago, I waited until I retired (Jan 09) before getting serious with the classical guitar. I wish I hadn't waited so long now as I'm finding out how much effect age has on me and on my playing. I was way too busy while I had my career going... but I digress... And I hope you found out what you needed to know about Kreb's Citric Acid Cycle of Cellular Respiration. Thanks - Mike.


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