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What would cause a "numb thumb" on my fretting hand?

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  • What would cause a "numb thumb" on my fretting hand?

    I just got back from a practice with the polka band. I'm playing a 6-string banjo (banjitar? guitjo?) strung up like a guitar except that the low E-string is replaced with a high E-string and the A-string is actually a G-string tuned up a step. It gives me more of a tenor banjo-y sound.

    The problem I'm having is one I first experienced last October when I first started using the banjo. At the time I thought it was just because I was playing so much, but tonight I started to feel it after three songs and it just got more severe, so that after two hours the thumb on my left hand was completely numb from the first joint to the tip of the thumb. It's not really painful, but feels like I got a shot of novacaine in my thumb. It took about an hour for it to wear off tonight, but when I was playing a bunch of gigs last year, it seemed like it lasted for days.

    Any idea what would cause this? Is the neck too sharply angled maybe? The width seems about the same as my other electric guitars, so I don't think it's that. If the neck is too "sharp", would sanding it down solve the problem?

    Anybody else ever have this problem before?
    Michael D. www.mdlmusic.webs.com "I'm tired of rock-and-rolling Let's get married, Honey, let's go bowling" --Martin Mull

  • #2
    One of these



    Seriously though - it is probably a temporary restriction of blood flow to your thumb, presumably at the point of contact with the neck. I often wake up with numb hands because I sleep on my side and get my arm trapped sometimes. Hopefully you can find another way to grasp the thing. Making a fist and then releasing it during breaks should help restore circulation.
    Website http://forcepics.net63.net

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    • #3
      Well, it could be some kind of nerve problem. I have have bad cervical vertebrae, and suffer from tingling and numbness that comes and goes in arms, hands and fingers on both sides. Situations in which I assume a particular posture or repetitive hand motion seem to bring it on. I had to learn how to use my computer mouse with my left hand after doing a mouse-intensive graphics project with my right hand that made my hand numb. Look in a mirror while plying the banjo and see if you have a different posture (especially how you hold your neck and left arm) than when you play the guitar.
      NOTE: The absence of smilies in this post should not be taken to mean that I think your post is stupid, nor that I loath, despise, or hate you; nor that I disrespect you and all your works; nor that I see you as victim or lawful prey; nor think you have the intellect of half a loaf of bread; nor that I find you disgusting or unworthy or otherwise hate your behavior, opinions, politics, gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnic background or language.

      F*** 'em if they can't take a joke!

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      • #4
        I have been through tis myself, at different times, for different reasons...so:
        you my actually be constricting the artery that runs to your left thumb...FYI, numbness in the left thumb is also typical of someone experiencing a myocardial infarction (aka heart attack), but as oyu report no other symptoms, I would rule this out....are you on any blood thinners? Does massaging the thumb relieve the numbness?
        If so, then it is most likely blood flow related.

        You could also be impinging the nerve that runs from the wrist to the thumb...it is also a typical indication of a repetitive-stress motion disorder, like carpal tunnel...or in your case, 'guitar-wrist'...swelling, agony, numbness, and decreased mobility are typical symptoms... it could also be a form of tendonitis.

        take your pick, but I am leaning toward the repetitive stress/tendonitis...
        "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

        Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'
        "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

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        • #5
          Thanks for all the suggestions and advice, but I still don't see why I only have the problem when I'm playing my banjitar and I don't have it with any of the other stringed instruments I play (electric and acoustic guitar, balalaika, cigar box guitar, dulcitar) using basically the same techniques. I also can't understand why it happens so quickly. I mean, I'd only been playing about ten minutes last night when I noticed the numbness.

          I can only think it has to do with the shape of the neck, although it doesn't look that different to me than any of my other instruments.

          I'm going to try to remember to alter my fretting hand position and make sure that when I play the guitjo that my thumb is at the back of the neck, rather than wrapped around to cover the low E-string (or in this case, the high E-string) like I usually do. I know I probably shouldn't be doing the wraparound thing anyway, but I'm self-taught and that's how I learned to do barre chords.
          Michael D. www.mdlmusic.webs.com "I'm tired of rock-and-rolling Let's get married, Honey, let's go bowling" --Martin Mull

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          • #6
            maybe it is teh polka music....

            MDL, is the neck scale different?
            Or you may not even notice it, but you may be altering your arm angle due to the shape and positioning of the bantar...
            have someone take a picture of you playing your favorite guitar, and then playing the bantar, and see if the positions are the same...just a thought...
            "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

            Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'
            "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

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            • #7
              Right, DM - some banjers have a damned long neck - could make you extend your arm further than usual.

              I guess there's a couple of alternatives if it persists - see a doc, or resort to the dumpster!
              NOTE: The absence of smilies in this post should not be taken to mean that I think your post is stupid, nor that I loath, despise, or hate you; nor that I disrespect you and all your works; nor that I see you as victim or lawful prey; nor think you have the intellect of half a loaf of bread; nor that I find you disgusting or unworthy or otherwise hate your behavior, opinions, politics, gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnic background or language.

              F*** 'em if they can't take a joke!

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              • #8
                I once had a roommate with a both a banjo and a parrot! Didn't last long.
                NOTE: The absence of smilies in this post should not be taken to mean that I think your post is stupid, nor that I loath, despise, or hate you; nor that I disrespect you and all your works; nor that I see you as victim or lawful prey; nor think you have the intellect of half a loaf of bread; nor that I find you disgusting or unworthy or otherwise hate your behavior, opinions, politics, gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnic background or language.

                F*** 'em if they can't take a joke!

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                • #9
                  I once had a roommate with a both a banjo and a parrot! Didn't last long.


                  Hey, the polka band has both a banjo and an accordian.

                  Talk about a double whammy.
                  Michael D. www.mdlmusic.webs.com "I'm tired of rock-and-rolling Let's get married, Honey, let's go bowling" --Martin Mull

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                  • #10
                    What would you get if you threw both the accordian and the banjo into a dumpster?



























                    perfect pitch...
                    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

                    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'
                    "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      heart attack. sorry, thought i was answering the op.
                      well, it IS a gen-u-ine copy!

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