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Guitarist with buggered finger

27 May 04 - 12:12 PM (#1195130)
Subject: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: alanabit

I wonder if there are any guitarist/medics who can give me a bit of advice? I dislocated a finger about ten weeks ago and put it straight back in. An X-ray the following day confirmed it was not broken. The bad news is that it swoll up to the size of my thumb and I still can't straighten it. Worse still from a guitarist's point of view, is that although the swollen joint bends, the last one of the finger doesn't - effectively rendering it useless for guitar playing. My doctor sent me to a specialist and after a further week's delay I went to the appointment on Tuesday. He did not have time to see me. I have been put back another ten days until next Friday. I was not even able to get any advice. It is almost certainly a ligament problem - and I know that they always take far longer to clear up than breaks. What I want to ask is should I be resting it completely, or should I be trying to exercise it as much as possible to try and get movement back? I am a bit worried, because if it does not show some improvement soon, it looks as if my guitar playing days will be over.

27 May 04 - 12:35 PM (#1195150)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Mudlark

Alanabit...really sorry to hear of this. I have no direct advice, but having suffered some tendon/ligament problems of my own including trigger finger, I do know that patience here is a real virtue. I was sure my playing days were over, as well, but altho I'm not quite as nimble as I once was (and not all THAT nimble, at that), I can still play. I did a lot of research on the web which helped me figure out what to do, also got some help from a savvy masseuse. Good luck...keep the faith.

27 May 04 - 12:42 PM (#1195159)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Morticia

I damaged ligaments in my hand a few years ago, particularly the one between the thumb and the first finger......the recieved wisdom then was some gentle exercise but if it hurts, that's the God's way of saying you shouldn't be doing it. I took up crochet,a little every day,which moved the ligaments some but I stopped when it got painful.Took me forever to make anything recognisable but I do now have full movement back again.

Good luck and I'd like a tea cosy *BG*....

27 May 04 - 12:44 PM (#1195162)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: breezy

Drs wont give ashit

ice it to reduce swelling ,that may be causing the joint to have reduced bendabilty

get using it to rebuild strength and mobility I would have thought the sooner the better.

btw which finger?.

Not a medic just another well meaning retired PE teacher and athletics/sports coach, so I cud be talking ....

jamming fingers was always a risk when playing basketball, so I adjusted my attitude.

alternatively change hands!!

27 May 04 - 01:04 PM (#1195189)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: The Villan

I remember about 8 years ago dislocating my shoulder. I stupidly put it back in its socket. I went straight to A&E, who examined it - no breaks, but the thing that I got an absolute bo**icking about, was that I could have damaged a nerve by doing what I did. I didn't get any swelling, but it took almost a year before I could do silly little things like skimming a stone across the water. I am OK now.

Personally, I think you should go and see specialist privately for a second opinion. You would get to see somebody within a week I would have thought, if you phone them up and say how much trouble its giving you.

A consultancy should cost you about £100. Once you have a diagnosis, you can then go NHS.

It's very important to get it checked out properly, as it can well lead to things like arthritis, if not dealt with early.

27 May 04 - 01:18 PM (#1195212)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Ebbie

I'm having trouble again with the ring finger of my left hand (See 'Ask Dr. Guitar'). It's not as bad yet as it was the first time when I simply quit playing for three weeks then went on vacation for two months, during which time I played very little.

Now that I'm home again and have been playing about 15 hours a week again I can see that I'm going to have the same trouble. I'm going to quit again for right now.

I figure if it can't be got right, I'll switch to dobro- although I love my Martin, the music is the thing, not the instrument.

Good luck. Every now and again we're reminded of the importance of our hands...

27 May 04 - 01:22 PM (#1195220)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: DonMeixner

Find another Doctor. Once the Doc sets you right I'll talk to you about physical therapy and thgings to do for excersize.


27 May 04 - 02:49 PM (#1195279)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: dwditty

I did something (don't know what) to the last knuckle (the one nearest the tip) on the pointer of my right hand months ago. I tried resting it. I tried exercising it. I tried ice. I tried heat. Glucosomine, etc. too. Now I just live with it. Some times I play and it hurts and swells up. Sometimes I play and it gets looser and feels great. Who knows? Guess you gotta suffer to sing the blues.


27 May 04 - 06:02 PM (#1195408)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Big Al Whittle

sounds like good advice about the specialist I hope youre soon better

27 May 04 - 10:45 PM (#1195591)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Uke

Did in my left-index fretting finger a while back - swelled up like yours.

All I can add to the above is that I followed a course out of a book called "Treat your own Injuries and Strains" which basically involved applying ice and little stretching exercises every four hours followed by more ice, and complete rest of the affected area. Any pain, you should stop immediately what you're doing - adding injury onto injury. Stretching the joint is different, shouldn't involve pain.

Took about 3-4 weeks to come right, but I've had no further trouble - or rather, I can feel the limits of the ligament now and don't overdo the 12-string. The overall advice in this book was unless you heal these things properly they become recurring injuries and they will flare up regularly.

28 May 04 - 02:55 AM (#1195661)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: jimL

There must be loads on the web about strains and sprains - read this for instance, relating to fingers.

These things in anycase can take a long time to resolve, and you might also like to consider this

"And then soon after returning to England at the end of 1998 he famously lost the little finger of his left hand in an argument with his fan belt.

So what did he do? He learned to play guitar. "

that's damien barber ...

cheers, Jim

28 May 04 - 04:54 AM (#1195709)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: mooman

Dear Alan,

I did more or less exactly the same some years ago. I was on a field trip dozens of miles from any doctor or hospital and fell on slippery rocks dislocating my second finger, right hand at approximately 90 degrees.

Needs must given the isolation, and despite the pain, I reset it myself.

Mine swelled to an enormous size too and was extremely painful, but no fractures.

Immobilization for several days is usually necessary but your injury was some weeks ago. The fact you have some movement is a good sign. I believe some gentle exercise with it will be beneficial. An anti-inflammatory such as Fastun may help a lot applied several times a day. If ligaments have been damaged, recovery will take longer than a fracture but gradual rehabilitation will still help.

In my case full mobility took several months and the finger is still not 100% straight but I can play my instruments as badly as ever!

Hope this is of some help/reassurance but I would still seek an expert medical opinion if you can find one.


moo (Richard)
(not a doctor but a medical scientist)

28 May 04 - 05:17 AM (#1195722)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Pied Piper

Can't offer any advice Alan, but good luck.

28 May 04 - 05:26 AM (#1195731)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Dave Bryant

Django managed !

28 May 04 - 05:49 AM (#1195755)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: GUEST,steve benbows protege

Depends which finger you have injured. Daves right Django managed with only the use of the thumb, index and the one next to it (I never know what they called.) If you have use of those fingers send me a p.m and I can post you some chord shapes using those fingers.
Hope you recover soon.

28 May 04 - 06:57 AM (#1195776)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Betsy

As a gout sufferer all I can offer is that, if you`ve got inflammation in the joint - Ibuprofen will help - but you need specialist help. Next time you're at a club(s) ask the organisers that age old phrase " Is there a doctor in the Club ? - it`s amazing who does attend clubs and someone sympathic with the (musical) injury would move things along much more quickly. Go on don`t be afraid to ask !!! Otherwise , like evryone else , I can only wish you all the best, and a swift and full recovery.

28 May 04 - 07:20 AM (#1195790)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: McGrath of Harlow

What you need probably isn't a doctor, it's a physiotherapist who know about these kinds of injuries. There are sports injury physiotherapists attached to sports centres and such, and they must always be dealinbtg with people who've dislocated joints. It might be that that might be a quick way to find someone, who could at least advise you on how to balance rest and exercise.

I'd have thought that at this point the emphasis should be on resting it - but don't take my advice, find someone who knows what they are talking about.

It's a real bugger - but our bodies are bloody marvellous at mending themselves.

28 May 04 - 05:10 PM (#1196195)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Bernard

It's taken two years, but mine is near enough back to normal, now. I avoided the doctor, and went by instinct...

I kept it moving as much as I dared, and I believe that is why I've got full movement back. It's a little weaker than it used to be, but gradually becoming stronger.

There was a very worrying phase about a year or so ago, where I'd wake up in the morning to find it locked in the 'clenched' position, and it would often be as much as ten minutes before I could straighten it. That seems to have completely cleared up now.

Whatever works for you...

Good luck!

29 May 04 - 03:37 PM (#1196641)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: alanabit

Thanks everyone. I think what I have gleaned is that I should try moving it a little without forcing it. Next Friday I hope to see the specialist if there is time this time around. My GP told me that I should be able to resume playing in around six weeks, but we are now ten weeks on and have moved no further forward. I guess we'll just have to see what the specialist says next week. I'll let you know how it's going. Thanks again. Alan.

31 May 04 - 07:35 PM (#1197975)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Bernard

Hmmm... six weeks is rather optimistic... it was a few months before mine was anything like usable.

I kept playing, but it was as if the finger belonged to someone else, it felt so clumsy.

The biggest problem was being unable to 'clench' it the same as the other fingers, movement was so restricted. My guitar work was limited to very basic stuff, and the mandolin was hopeless! I could manage the accordion and concertinas okay, because I could substitute a different finger for the most part - but it was very distracting!

Hope the specialist has something sensible to contribute!

11 Apr 05 - 11:28 AM (#1458039)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger

I play guitar for 27 years and 3 months ago, after index finger injury i started feeling pain whenever i play.What was I thinking? Ignoring the problem did not make it disapear,I just made it worse.I also dont have much fate in doctors.Few years ago I have recovered from serious back injury using my own method.I could not sit or stand longer then few minutes at the time.Doctors adviced me to lay on my back for weeks.I felt helpless,depressive,decided to do something about it.In front of astonished neighboors I crawl up the tree in the garden.It took me agonizing 15 minutes to reach branch strong enough to suport my body weight.Than I let my body strech,while hanging on my arms.Severe pain lasted split of the second,but when I got back on the ground my back was healed.Days later I was back to jogging:) If nothing else works for my finger I will relearn my instrument ,left hand:)

11 Apr 05 - 03:57 PM (#1458245)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: alanabit

It is now a year since the accident and I am able to play guitar again. I am now resigned to the fact that my finger is permanently damaged, as the joint is still swollen. I cannot straighten it, and it seems most unlikely that I ever will again. However, there has been considerable improvement, and I can now (just) touch the palm of my hand with the tip of the little finger. The outcome is that I can play, but without full flexibility. No complaints though. Don Partidge plays considerably better than I do, although he can't use the little finger on his left hand at all. You just don't notice it. To be honest, I was not on target to be the second Mississippi John Hurt even before the accident. I can still do Pentjak Silat and play the guitar. Not everyone gets that lucky!

11 Apr 05 - 04:01 PM (#1458248)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: ElwynnMaxon

Hello Alan,

Sometimes this recovery takes years. Especially in a primary joint in a finger. I see others have mentioned Physiotherapy. Have you tried it? It takes a lot of active effort but it is still [possible even after 10 years to see improvement in a damage finger.


11 Apr 05 - 04:26 PM (#1458276)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: John Robinson (aka Cittern)

Steve Tilston did some damage to one of his fingers once (can't remember if it was a break or not) and it hasn't damaged his playing, although I think he finds some shapes a bit of a stretch now.

I hope you get back to full playing "strength" soon.

All the best.

11 Apr 05 - 04:31 PM (#1458280)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)

When all else fails, try doing what the doctor told you to do mate ;-)

11 Apr 05 - 09:45 PM (#1458564)
Subject: RE: Guitarist with buggered finger
From: GUEST,cromdubh

My Uncle has been playing guitar for years and I´ve been told by others he was able to play amazingly. But now Artritis is starting to kick in and he tells me it´s very difficult to play, especially when in the back of his head, he can remember what he was able to do.

But also, he says because he has had to really strip down what he plays and use very trick he knows like an aging Sinatra managing to pull off songs he shouldn´t have been able to, the music in many ways has improved.

I think Alot of really fancy stuff is merely showboating, impressing girls or other players listening. What does the song need and merely play that. I play bass and some of the most effective bass lines are as simple as hell.

Another Friend damaged his hand and had to learn to use his thumb more. He says now it has added a whole new dimension to his playing.

Your playing days are not over.