Left Thumb/Finger Tendonitis - suggestions?

PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
edited July 2009 in Technique Posts: 1,407
Hi all -

I've settled into a daily routine of about 3 hours training daily. Very easy 1/2 hour on the open string exercises of both Michael's Gypsy Picking and Stephane Wrembel's book, followed by the fingered runs, basic patterns from both as well; then 2 1/2 hours, or more when I'm feeling adventuresome, of strict rhythm work - at the moment, working and reworking the 40+ voicings I've come to know, chord progressions, and so forth.

I come from an Alexander Technique background, understand how to limit tension in play (to only the tension required); but nevertheless, I approach 50 and I've been off of all playing for a long, long time.

So far, no signs of carpal, but I do have some developingly profound pain in the left thumb (thumb playing is new to me), pain in the distal part of my left ring (suspect an old break from martial arts).

I know the answer is to lay off, but it's incredibly hard for me to do. Any thoughts about a modified regime to heal, any thoughts at all to get through this, so that I can play at the training level I really desire?

My injuries have always been bad injuries - broken arms, fractured skull, blown discs, the usual... :) - and I actually have very little experience with chronic injury.

I must admit I will be going to Madison's Festival, and am hopeful to be back in the flow well enough that I won't be a hindrance in workshops there, and should I be ready, to sit in on loose jams well enough to play (and not screw up the "wa" or harmony of the group). Any thoughts would be appreciated.

pas encore, j'erre toujours.


  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    Maybe 3 hours is too much right now?
    I'm no doctor but out of common sense and experience I'd say lay off for a day or two until there's no pain, then begin with shorter practice sessions, I think 2 1/2 hours is way too long for a single session, rest for 10 minutes every half hour or so
    For the pain in the thumb give thumb voicings a rest and then slowly work them back on.

    Best of luck.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,407
    Thanks, Harry. Hopefully, it isn't even technically tendonitis, just some muscular overuse - I'm only glad I had the sense to stop now, and not try to push through, which was the bent of my youth and why I'm paying now for some habits then. I'll give it a rest, and be much more diligent about resting and stretching going forward.



    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • chappiechappie ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 125
    I've studied with Stephane Wrembel for many years now and one thing that I've come to appreciate from him is the importance of short focussed repetition of simple things. 5 minutes of one thing is plenty and an hour to an hour and a half is a lot if you do it with precision and forethought. I find that when I spend an obsessive amount of time playing I more often than not get less out of it. Stephane also emphasizes the importance of going slow and working with a metronome. I know that Stochelo Rosenberg says the same thing.
    Just my two cents.
    Be careful with chronic pain because tendonitis can often take up to a year to cure if you don't deal with it. A week or two off won't make you less of player.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,407
    Thanks, Chappie, for the perspective. 3 hours was really my minimum, with many practice sessions stretching to 4-5 hours or more.

    At any rate, I've taken the last 2 days off entirely, the pain in my thumb and ring finger is lessened, but I feel a tendon tug at my elbow, and am afraid I may have done more than I had thought.

    I hear you on the intensive, focused practice over extensive time practicing. There is a good deal I'm going to amend when I pick the guitar up again, and I only hope that is sooner rather than later. Lesson learned; I hope early enough.

    I would love the opportunity to study with Stephane - what little I've gleaned from his book leaves me wanting more - when I'm ready. Thanks again for the experiential advice, well received.


    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
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