String Tension and Tendonitis

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by chris m., Jul 6, 2020.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've been having tendonitis issues in my left elbow. It gets aggravated by pressing down on the strings, especially playing something like classical or steel string guitar where I have to press down pretty hard with difficult fingerings.

    Lately I've been gravitating towards my two Gibson scale guitars because they have lower string tension compared to my Fenders. (I typically string them all with 10s). I know Billy Gibbons uses something like 008s for ultimate low tension... I really like 10s but might try 9s for awhile.

    Obviously an even shorter scale like a Jaguar or Mustang would reduce string tension even more for a given string gauge. I have large hands so can feel a little cramped at first on a shorter scale guitar, but I know I could get used to it. Anyway, just generally wondering if any of you have gone to shorter scale partly due to wanting to reduce the fretting force required. I typically like the better "snap" you get from a Fender full scale guitar, but I may have to compromise....and hopefully maybe with some PT I can get this tendonitis under better control.

    And maybe some of you like the sound you get from a shorter scale guitar? Maybe it has its own character, beyond just the pickups, due to the nature of the shorter scale?....
     
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  2. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Meister

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    It’s all in the setup.
    Good break angles, professional functioning nut, polished frets, fine tuning the action until you hit a sweet spot.
    Strats can be setup to be very slinky feeling. I’ve played stiff gibsons. Fret height plays in, basically everything is a factor.
     
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  3. 63 vibroverb

    63 vibroverb Tele-Afflicted

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    I would try some roundcore strings, much slinkier/softer feeling than hex core. I had a set of roundcore 11’s for a bit that felt like 10’s.
     
  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Tuning down one semi tone is roughly equivalent to one standard string gauge smaller. Tuning down two semi tones the equivalent of two gauges. Capo one or two if you have to play in concert, its a whole lot cheaper than buying a new guitar to get a different scale.

    I do lots of setups for folks and its pretty amazing how bad many guitars are, even straight from the factory. I can generally make a guitar play somewhat easier, again, without changing the scale.

    On the other hand, some string tension is good and even necessary. What I try to do is optimize the strings and setups for each player, and sometimes suggest a change in technique or some exercises or scale.
     
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  5. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Good point on detuning. My guitars are very well set up. Part of it is looking for excuses for GAS, probably.
     
  6. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I'm 72. I've tried shorter scales. Spent a lot of money going there too. I just cant stand the sound (at lower volumes which I play at) I'll play lighter strings at long scale instead.
    In the end, I don't think it makes a lot of difference with RA or tendonitis anyway. (have both) Just play with passion, take pain killers and recover before the next gig!
     
  7. jannodude

    jannodude Tele-Afflicted

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    @chris m.

    One question for you, what are you doing to help alleviate the pain/treat your elbow?

    If it's acute (less that 72 hours), you can self treat with ice (twenty minutes no more/less 3-5x/day) and rest. Try not to do any movements or activities that can exacerbate your pain and monitor how it feels.

    If it doesn't go away, it can lead into Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), which you should have it checked then. Your MD might have you wear a tennis elbow brace and place you on modified work duties. There are exercises you can do but not during the "swelling" portion of your injury.

    Massages can help but it's good to eliminate/avoid the mechanism/movement that exacerbates your symptoms.

    I had serious Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) early last year that finally subsided a few months ago. I do Physical Therapy for a living and I tell my patient's to take Tennis Elbow seriously.

    Bones heal better due to it's vascularity in comparison to tendons/ligaments.

    Take care of your tendons/ligaments!

    -Jan
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
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  8. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Afflicted

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    Perhaps you can make adjustments to your posture or find out another small adjustment that can prevent the aggravation. Higher or lower strap or different stool, foot rest.
     
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  9. BBenderNut

    BBenderNut TDPRI Member

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    Ah man, sorry to hear about your elbow. Sounds like you're confident that your guitar is setup properly. I think you have the right idea with going down to .009 strings. Gibbons did use .008's.

    I used to get trigger finger regularly, and stretching fixed it. Took a few weeks of routine stretching, but it worked. Here's the free video I used:

    I think Jannodude's got some solid advice there, too.

    I've never tried to hold in my GAS, so I won't tell you to hold yours. If you gotta let it rip, rip a good one. Godspeed
     
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  10. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yeah, I need to go to PT. It’s chronic and continually gets aggravated by all kinds of activities.

    I had terrible medial epicondylitis some years back (golfer’s elbow) and now it’s tennis elbow. Getting older is not for the weak.
     
  11. aging_rocker

    aging_rocker Tele-Holic

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    Indeed!
     
  12. jannodude

    jannodude Tele-Afflicted

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    Sounds like a good plan.

    I had to lay off working out for almost a year..

    Chronic overuse can advance from tendinitis to tendinosus (degeneration of the tendon’s collagen). Tendon’s eventually become brittle which may require surgical intervention.

    Good thing is you are aware of it, others just simply ignore their symptoms until it’s too late.
     
  13. Masmus

    Masmus Tele-Meister

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    I had a mild version of tennis elbow about 15 years ago, I used a quick fix for a mild case, a velcro band around my forearm just below the elbow. I was surprised at how well it worked but I did have a mild case. Still you should go to a doctor. Good luck.
     
  14. 41144

    41144 Tele-Afflicted

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    fwiw, Bought an SG couple of years ago, for me (edit) onset arthritis in 1st and 2nd left hand fingers.
    The scale length made little difference to my problem.
    Hybrid strings will do, but having tried a set of 9s on it .... to me it sounded very anaemic.

    Have tried Jaguars too but, even with small hands, hated them ... anaemic doesn't begin to describe their sound .... but I appreciate some folk like 'em and even Hendrix was known to use one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020
  15. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

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    What strings are you using on Fender scale guitars? I have hand problems, and I have to use 9s on Fenders. Shouldn't be a problem
     
  16. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    I find that tendonitis is more a result of technique than string tension.
    Keeping the wrist straight on the fretting hand is essential.
    7 hour gigs with lots of bending using .011" set on 25.5" scale would not cause as much discomfort as a half hour practice session with bad positioning
     
  17. teletail

    teletail Tele-Afflicted

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    My old man used to say, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

    To OP - first heal it, then rehab it, then light gauge, low tension, low string height.

    The longer you wait, the longer it will take. I was a classical string bassist and tried to work through tendinitis due to some bad medical advice. It basically ended my career just as it was starting.
     
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  18. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    I had a bad case of tennis elbow, originally caused by building my whole house with a 20oz framing hammer (before nail guns were cheap). Many uears later, it got so bad the aircast band wasn't keeping it in check. I though for sure I was headed for surgery. Nope, 13 sessions of PT. I happened to get a great PTA. The therapy wasn't fun but I got back full use with no pain. Now the other elbow needs work.
     
  19. Syrinx

    Syrinx Tele-Holic

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    I am going to say a couple things here on this subject- accept it for what it is, and do not try at home! First off- I have had some issues with tennis elbow-with last case involving trip to doctor, and prognosis of it being 6 months to a year for recovery. Mine can be triggered by two things- heavy stress from weight, and also light touch tapping such as computer work. The reason I say this, is different people may react differently to lighter strings etc- a lighter touch may actually be worse for some. Try different things. I have some guitars set up with 8s and ranging up to 12s-and play whatever feels right for the day. Take a hard look at body positioning as well. Working with a PT and communicating your guitar playing -they may have suggestions.

    Now for the final do not try at home aspect of this post. A few weeks after my last doctor visit- I got stung fairly bad by a marine bristleworm while doing some work. It really didnt bother me as it was on my fingers- and after 30 years of getting hit on occasion, I thought little of it. However the next morning- my elbow was fine-no pain. I am going to try again if the tendonitis returns-but in the meantime I have related my information to some friends in the research field to play with. Likely nothing- but interesting if repeatable!
     
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  20. ieatlions

    ieatlions Tele-Holic

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    My elbow and wrist see a lot of action. Touch wood. No issues yet.

    364D8843-5F53-45D5-A4C9-7DA40879DA7C.gif
     
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