December 23rd, 2007, 03:09 AM
Curious about the types of frettin' hand finger injuries either minor or major folks here have experienced.
I've been playing a lot recently and just wonder where the threshold is. Seems like I aways have some minor issue - bruised i fingertip or skin pulling away from the nail as the result of bends (ouch) or just sore from drilling 'Country Gentleman' and those 1st fret pull-offs. And then there is the permanent grooves in my calluses which never seem to go away.
What are other's experiences? How long does it take to really condition the fingers and tips so they aren't always sore? Do the grooves ever go away? And what are the repetitive stress issues to be aware of? Any horror stories?
December 23rd, 2007, 09:06 AM
If I have a horror story it would be age and realizing I am having problems with the arthritis my ancestors had so I have periods where I need regular doses of ibuprofen or similar but recent unresolved health problems aren't allowing that.
Otherwise it's the occasional injury that keeps me away. I have a small blue collar component to my life where as a network engineer I'm sometimes doing cabling in a facility and cut a finger that keeps me from playing or it aggravates the arthritis and the work pain has to have me keep from playing a day or few. I also do both volunteer and occasion professional trail building and there are times when rocks and tools do things that aren't complementary to guitar playing.
Now for this stupid one... I usually keep a pick in my back pocket just in case I'm in a music store, by a guitar and I recently put a tool in the pocket and when I grabbed it fast while on a ladder I somehow jammed the guitar pick between nail and flesh and that messed up a whole week of playing!
Knock on wood, but so far they are all mini horrors and I know I am not alone with arthritis. Posts on the UMGF have shown many a middle aged person has bought a short scale guitar and/or moved to light strings for that.
December 23rd, 2007, 10:53 AM
I practiced too much when I was a teenager and got tendonitis in my pinky. Then a few years ago, I ran into a door, hitting it first with my pinky. It's really weak these days, and I have to be careful and not do too much bending and avoid putting a lot of strain on it, otherwise it's starts hurting.
December 23rd, 2007, 11:16 AM
As a bassist, I use my pinky finger a lot, and even though I grow a nice callus, I still find I get a blister if I play more than, say, one gig a weekend. In the summer, when we gig a whole lot, I have to tape up that finger with coach's tape!
Of course, playing bass uses the pad of the finger rather than the tip, so that works out okay...
December 23rd, 2007, 11:23 AM
In my line of work I deal with alot of very sharp stainless steel. I've got scars from fingertip to elbow. Unless the cuts are deep, I just keep playing. A little blood letting now and again never hurt nobody. I do try to be careful, but that metal is pretty unforgiving. Band-aids are for sissies, liquid skin rules!!! :mrgreen:
December 23rd, 2007, 02:28 PM
i suffer from arthritis, as others....also have had two fingers on my fretting hand broken at different times, thumb on my left hand has been broken and one finger (middle)on my right hand broken TWICE...i usta play/act stupid in some really rough dives.....think "Porky's" or "Road-House"....i stay outta those places any more...too old and stove up now as a result...have really thick callouses on my left fingers, but they can still get sore sometimes...
December 23rd, 2007, 02:34 PM
I find that I get pain in my shoulders and neck if I play for too many nights in a row. There is always some pain in the hands because of the plain old stress of playing and the excessive use of the digits.
I also injured my hip socket awhile back so I keep a stool on stage just in case I need to lean against it now and then for support.
OTOH I found a great fluidity in my fingers and hands after I hit 40.
December 23rd, 2007, 02:51 PM
I also injured my hip socket awhile back so I keep a stool on stage just in case I need to lean against it now and then for support.
I had to teach myself to center my weight on both legs because I would tend to put all my weight on my right leg/hip and it was causing me real hip and back trouble! Probably didn't help that I'm carrying about sixty extra lbs... :oops:
December 23rd, 2007, 03:31 PM
Whats funny is that when I was gigging regularly (the last year or so I've only been playing about 1-2 times a month) I wouldn't have too many hand problems, but between shoes with poor arch support, playing 9.5 lb Les Paul's and being responsible for setting up and tearing down a PA every night my problems were in my neck, back and feet...
If I play or practice too much I sometimes get an itch UNDERNEATH one of my fretting finger calluses....that is pretty annoying....
December 23rd, 2007, 04:03 PM
... but my little finger gets pretty sore -- the knuckles, especially -- from doing this Clarence White faux-steel move where you shift positions while picking a muted string to buy an eighth-note's worth of time.
Other than that, I feel it in my knuckles and fingertips after playing a lot.
Lately, maybe because I've been playing more and doing lots of funk rhythm, I keep scraping the index finger of my picking hand on the strings. I can't seem to find a grip that lets me avoid grinding down that fingertip and its nail. Any advice?
December 23rd, 2007, 04:23 PM
Being a carpenter in my day job... well, there's sharp stuff everywhere... I'm usually pretty careful, but a year and a half ago I sliced about 1/8 of an inch off my left index finger's edge. That sucked... But it doesn't affect em any more.
However, five or six years ago I was messing with some wiring on my motorcycle and slipped with a knife. I just about cut the pad off the end of my left ring finger. That one still bothers me.. a lot! After about two or three hours of playing, it will begin to sting and I have to be careful and lighten up my death grip on the frets. It's probably good for my technique, but it hurts like a son of a gun when the gig's over!
As far as playing, not much I've done to myself to match those tow gaffs!
December 23rd, 2007, 05:49 PM
AT 46 I wonder 'bout my body's ability to process/master/code rapid fine motor skills like say your typical Jimmy Bryant sprint. Any guesses on whether this gets easier or more difficult as you age? Conventional wisdom would suggest that it's an easier for a teen to master this stuff than someone my age. But am wondering if there is any empirical or anecdotal evidence for this.
December 23rd, 2007, 05:54 PM
A knife slice put 6 stitches in my filleted thumb - you can't fret without a good thumb. I lacked a considerable amount of mobility and until the nerves healed, the slightest bump at the base of my thumb felt like hitting your "funny-bone" with 220 Volts. Toughing it out on guitar was like physical therapy, as well common tasks involving holding anything of any weight. What I learned from that experience is that using your fingers is more healing than not using them - even if discomfort is involved. Stretching and strengthening in various ways, in short controlled sessions is where I'd explore. Martial arts guys toughen their knuckles with repeated blows into sand, maybe something along those line would toughen-up finger tips. Or find someone with the opposite problem i.e. their activities made them loose having soft hands, and see what they do. Oddly, I've never had calluses and always assume that people that do have badly set up guitars and/or "death grip" fingering styles. If those repeated micro-motions remain hurtful, maybe you could throw and catch a football of basket ball to get some hand/fingertip strengthening while taking a break from guitar. And continue a similar regular exercising afterwards.
December 24th, 2007, 12:21 AM
Very rarely I get blisters in my calluses, and if I strum without a pick I sometimes tear the skin near the tip of my finger.
That's it really.
December 24th, 2007, 01:07 AM
When I was first starting to play, I cut a small piece of my index fingertip clean off.
I learned to play slide while it healed.
Oddly enough, the only decent slide I could find around the house (around 1977) was a bottle of this cold medicine called Corricidan.
December 24th, 2007, 01:43 AM
I haven't any ghastly knife/wire/steel plate stories.
I play scales and a few songs seven nights a week (unless I'm out visiting). I had callouses when I was younger; but then I used to play 5-8 hours at a sitting. For years, my plague has been/is cold, dry skin. The skin splits on my finger tips in the cold weather and I can't fret AT ALL; except that-
I take really good care of my left hand; always wear a glove in cold weather, always use my right hand when digits could be in danger. I rub chapstick into my fingertips several times a day, every day, in cool/cold weather. If the skin splits, I use a bandaid, and cut off all the edges of the bandaid that don't cover the split- so I can still play, somewhat. If the split is particularly insidious, I play slide for a couple nights, while it heals. I also use heavy hand squeezers and do wrist rollers several times per week, to keep some strength in my fingers.
I care about my right hand, but not quite as much, as I wear a thumbpick and 3 metal fingerpicks no matter what I'm playing (I gave up the nylon string guitar years ago; Aguado's stuff wasn't enough to hold me)- if the skin splits on a RH finger, so be it, doesn't slow me up. But I'm not a fast player, so I cant' tell if I've slowed down, or not, over the years :razz:
December 24th, 2007, 03:56 AM
Lots of horror stories here, unfortunately! Pinched nerve due to high school football injury, as augmented after the fact by automobile accidents, improper weight lifting techniques, resulting in herniated C5 and C6 discs, ultimately leading to referred permanent nerve damage from right elbow down to right hand, which is still intact. Sliced thumb due to cutting blade error in 1984 whilst working within the printing industry. Lots of additional exacto blade injuries to fingers (and other body parts) during 23 years of work as an old school graphic artist. Permanent damage to my right thumb and forefinger from playing fingerstyle bass repeatedly in a cold rehearsal room in the dead of winter in the early 90's. Bowled, played tennis very competively, played volleyball, played basketball, lifted heavy musical gear for decades, convinced myself that I was immortal.
Repetitive motion syndrome, arthritis, bursitis, nerve damage, I've got all of these prerequisite old fart injuries and maladies. I was unable to do art or music or really work at all, for quite a while, which, needless to say, made it difficult to earn a living.
Listen to your body. Make priorities for yourself. If you want to be a professional musician, then playing 10-12 sets of balls-to-the-wall tennis per week is probably not a great idea. If you need to use a posthole digger to make the lawn more attractive, for God's sake, don't do it on gig days.
So, in the midst of all the gloom and doom, what's the ticket? Drink loads of water, be healthy, do some research, and don't be stupid; that pretty much sums up my retrospective experience.
I was quite skeptical of Glucosamine supplements at first, but having ingested it regularly for several months, I do finally believe that it really does promote lubrication in the joints and ligaments. At least I'm feeling better. I was previously applying a bottle per week of Biofreeze to my right arm and hand, and I was doing Prednisone treatments as often as I could get them prescribed to me, just so as to not bite my own self in the jugular vein to get some relief. The Glucosamine wigs me out far less than the Prednisone, and I haven't used the Biofreeze for several weeks now.
December 24th, 2007, 04:19 AM
Nothing too bad on the fretting hand. Though about two months ago I stuck the business end of a steak knife into the pad of my left thumb while I was washing it. So I told my wife that I thought it would be better if I didn't wash dishes anymore. She displayed to me one her perfectly good fingers.
I do have a little tendonitis in my right arm and hand. Repetitive use syndrome consistently aggravated by 30 years of guitar playin' and gear haulin' and a couple of really stupid moves while doing minor construction work. When it acts up I just rest for a few days if possible. I won't use my right arm or hand at all. I'll even brush my teeth with the opposite arm and hand.
I attribute the "lack" of any problems with my fretting hand to good (dare I say 'proper') technique - which I learned early on.
December 24th, 2007, 03:59 PM
I once took 17 stitches to the inside of my left hand middle finger. Just as Charlie mentioned above, I turned the negative situation into opportunity and played slide for a few weeks. BTW Charlie, I think Duane Allman used the same medicine bottle.
Avoiding repetitive motion injuries requires one simple practice: stop trying a particular move at the first sign of tendon or joint pain. Build up slowly, just like weight lifters do. I can't speak for anyone else, but the grooves went away when my callouses turned to cement. I practice for six hours in a day without any issues.
January 2nd, 2008, 07:44 PM
If it is not one thing it is another.
I have heard that applying a bit of super glue to the tips of your fingers helps if you don't play enough to keep your callouses up. I just play often enough to keep them hard.
January 19th, 2008, 06:22 PM
Old age kind of sneaks up on you. Finally went to the doctor yesterday for something unrelated. They said "by the way you've got arthritis and carpal tunnel in your hands." Funny but I never noticed it much. Don't bother me a bit when I play the guitar.
January 19th, 2008, 06:39 PM
i almost sliced the top of my fretting THUMB off when i got it in the way of a hi-power crossbow string ... i use that thumb to fret the low notes on a lot of chords. the nail's grown back and i've got most of the feeling back in the tip, but there's a big ugly scar that will probably always be numb. also have nagging arthritis/tendinitis plus carpal tunnel in that hand.
but hey, you just gotta work with what you got. at my age, i feel lucky to still be playing fairly regularly!
January 20th, 2008, 01:20 AM
I cut the tips of middle and ring fingers off down to the first knuckle with a table saw. Happened 24 years ago. I put the finger tips in a baggie. ER doc was going to sew up the stubs. Luckily my wife is a nurse and knew a good hand surgeon who came over and sewed the finger tips back on. I had to hold my arm over my head for six weeks to facilitate healing. I didn't think I'd ever play again, but I was playing about a year later. The middle finger still hurts and I've had to make some accomodations in my playing style.
January 20th, 2008, 02:07 AM
About 14 years ago I lost the tip of my left thumb (fretting hand). The doctor had to cut slits down the sides of the thumb so he could pull the inside skin away from the muscle and create a flap. He bent the top knuckle as far as it could go and sewed the flap into what was left of the nail, effectively locking my thumb at about a 90 degree angle. I spent six weeks with my hand wrapped up in an Ace bandage not knowing what I was going to end up with. The thumbnail stayed on but curved over the exposed bone giving me what I affectionately call my "claw". About a year later I was able to fully straighten my thumb again, but it took a lot longer to get back into playing guitar. It really sucked because at the time I was a Recording Industry major with a minor in guitar. :neutral:
January 20th, 2008, 08:28 AM
Did this April 15, 2007. Took three good months to heal along with thearpy.
I really didn't know if I would be able to play again. If you look at it now, you can't hardly tell where the 20+ stitches were. :grin: