The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8814   Message #1456164
Posted By: GUEST,Patrick Costello
09-Apr-05 - 08:59 AM
Thread Name: Playing inspite of injury/disability
Subject: RE: Playing inspite of injury/disability
By the time I started finding ways to work around my hearing problems I started having serious problems with my right hand. The banjo was bad, guitar was a nightmare. After a coupe of songs on the guitar my fretting hand would start to hurt pretty bad and then would go completely numb. from time to time it would actually lock up. It go to the point where I would have to tie my hand open during the day at school so it wouldn't be locked up when I went home to practice.

I talked to a doctor who never even looked at my hand. He just mumbled something about carpal tunnel and started talking about cutting something. I gave him the finger and went home.

I lived with it for a couple of years, but when things started getting too bad to ignore I started looking for the root of the problem. What it came down to was technique. It's wasn't playing the guitar that was doing the damage, it was HOW I was playing.

The first thing I did was change the action on my instruments. Not just the string height, but the tension and gauge of the strings. The goal was to get my banjo & guitar to the point where all I had to do was lightly touch the string to make contact with the fretwire.

The next thing I did was kind of crazy. I took a roll of adhesive tape and strapped my thumb against my hand and started practicing chords (and later on entire songs) without my thumb resting on the back of the neck. For the first few days it felt really weird, but after a while I managed to adjust my touch. When I ditched the tape I was able to start using my thumb as a guide on the back of the neck rather than a lever to drive my fingers down on the fretboard.

After about a year the damage cleared up and I haven't had a twinge in ten years.

Arthritis is a problem for older players, but you can make things a little easier on yourself if you set up the instrument to do most of the work.