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Hand cramps - Fret side


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As often as not, somewhere in the second or third set, my left hand/arm gets cramped, towards the wrist. My first two fingers pretty much become useless and all I can do is try and shake it off, flex the fingers back with my other hand,(I'm unable to play pretty much) until it passes.

My guitars are set fairly low, with light gauge strings (10's). I don't feel that I'm strangling the neck or wrestling with the guitar, and my style is fairly mild, single string picking, country,blues, rock. No shred. "Slowhand" if anything.

I'm closing in on 45 years of playing and this started maybe back in 2000. No daily pain, carpal injury, or obvious work related stuff. Its just a nuisance and a distraction I'm getting tired of.

I usually warm up before a gig by moving equipment and then lifting a glass. Then its down to business.

Anyone have to deal with this sort of thing? (not the equipment and glass).

 

Regards from NYC

Dez

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I play acoustic guitar for three or four hours almost every day. Acoustic guitar is hard for me to play, strings are heavier and action higher. It develops strength in my hand and arms, improves endurance. I might get a 12 string guitar for greater exercise.

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I would look at adjusting your guitar height. The lower your guitar is set, the more your wrist is forced to flex, which in turn causes strain. Conversely, when you're seated, your wrist is able to remain relatively straight, eliminating that strain.

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You may want to take a good look at how hard your pressing on the neck. I had a problem very similar to this. It got so bad I could barely move my wrist.

 

After some PT to correct the damage I had done, and lightening up on my touch. Everything is sooooooooooo much better now.

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I would look at adjusting your guitar height. The lower your guitar is set, the more your wrist is forced to flex, which in turn causes strain. Conversely, when you're seated, your wrist is able to remain relatively straight, eliminating that strain.

 

 

If your guitar is so low that you are cranking your wrist to a 90 degree angle all night to play, you need to re-adjust how your guitar hangs to take the stress off your wrist. You can cause some severe and permanent damage otherwise. The other suggestion about how hard you are pressing down is a good one. Regular playing conditions should not cause pain, if it is, you need to adjust your technique before you are no longer able to play at all!

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If you can get used to it after playing for as long as you have, try holding your guitar more on a slant with the neck up. The closer to straight out you get with the neck, the more stress you are putting on your wrist.

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I would look at adjusting your guitar height. The lower your guitar is set, the more your wrist is forced to flex, which in turn causes strain. Conversely, when you're seated, your wrist is able to remain relatively straight, eliminating that strain.

 

 

On top of my recommendation to press lighter, this too!

 

Prior to me watching out for not pressing to hard, I did this. I now have my guitar at about the same height and angle as Petrucci.

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Although it may not "play nice" with your preference for a particular make or model of guitar, what was comfortable for you at one time may no longer be working for you as far as your body is concerned. I know plenty of guitarists who really like a particular guitar for its tone and playability, but over time have had to switch because they couldn't play comfortably any more. I've only been playing for about 20 years, but while I do like a fairly thin neck and wide fretboard, slightly rounder necks are more comfortable to me than in the past. Guitar height has made a huge difference for me - I don't try to play my guitar at my knees like when I first started out in high school - and I sold any that were neck-heavy, as it put additional strain on my fretting hand. There are some very cool guitars that I'd love to own, but I've had to adjust my preference toward something less likely to cause hand and arm problems. I spend most of my day at a computer as it is, so I'm doing enough damage before I ever pick up a guitar.

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Occasionally my fretting hand just locks up. It's really annoying. Seems like skinny necks can make it worse. Experiment with the angle and height of your guitar to try to take some of the strain off your forearm muscles.

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OK, I'm going to look at which guitar, if any , provokes the event. The Parker is deliciously slim in the neck and low in the action. I have to wear it a bit higher than the Tele, because the way the Parker is contoured in the back. Too low and the upper body will bruise the ribs.

I suppose that if I have the guitars higher on my body, I can drop my wrist and get over the neck more with my finger. I've got long arms and BIG mitts. Think Ray Benson.

Once the tightness passes, , all is well, no after affects at all. I know I don't drink enough water in general. I'll make sure I have a bit before and during the gig.

Thanks for the suggestions.

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I've had this problem off and on and, for me, it's a function of dehydration. Drinking a Gatorade prior to the gig, then drinking water on breaks usually prevents the cramping from happening. It sucks when it happens. It's almost always the pointer finger that becomes useless and I have to flex and shake out my hand until it goes away.

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Bananas or potassium pills before every gig. Drink water throughout the day. My index finger used to lock up completely before I started doing this, now as long as I do the above it never happens.

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This sounds like a diet-related bit to me, too. Potassium (best found in bananas) is a musician's (and athlete's) friend. If you don't like them, drink a coconut water (Vida Coco is my fave) about an hour before playing.

 

Good luck, though, and get lots of water!

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I'm a 54-year old guitarist and have been experiencing the 3rd set hand cramps occasionally myself in the past year. I will try to make sure I'm well hydrated...am often well aled and bourboned whilst gigging. Do they make any banana beers?

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It's almost always the pointer finger that becomes useless and I have to flex and shake out my hand until it goes away.

 

 

That's the one. Middle finger might go along for the ride also.

Gatorade AND bananas on my way to the gig...........

 

PS: Jammed for 3 hrs last night with friends from WAY, WAY back. Great grooves, relaxed vibe, and not a cramp in sight. Its different at a gig, with sets, and stuff though.

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I'm a 58 year old guitarist; I have exactly the same symptoms as the OP. I made a couple changes. First was a padded bass strap which seems to take some of the point loading off my shoulder. That didn't cure the problem. Second, I raised the guitars some; didn't seem to help, though I never wore them low.

 

The solution seems to be, as posted above, potassium and magnesium supplements daily, plus I eat a banana at breakfast for a week before a gig. I drink a bottle of Gatorade the day before, one during the day of the gig, and one before/during each set. I've not had the problem since. Some people get cramps drinking a lot of Gatorade; mixing it 50/50 with water should cure that.

 

I also try to be sure I'm playing enough before a gig to be sure my fingers are 'built up'. I often practice through the entire set list on an acoustic, with 12's so by the time I gig on electrics with 10's, I'm ready.

 

Good luck. BTW, the first time it happened it freaked me out; thought I was having a stroke..!:eek:

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I'm a 54-year old guitarist and have been experiencing the 3rd set hand cramps occasionally myself in the past year. I will try to make sure I'm well hydrated...am often well aled and bourboned whilst gigging. Do they make any banana beers?

why, yes, they do... :cool: there are several brewers doing this, btw...

 

I recently had my first ever arm cramp during rehearsal. Had to stop and ice it for about ten minutes. I have two long gigs coming up next month and the possibility that I could have a recurrence is a bit daunting. At 57, I don't want to retire over something this silly.

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I've gone through stretches of having hand cramps (keys) but now before every gig I stop off at the gas station down the street for a small orange juice, a banana, and a gatorade. I down it all on the way to the show. Haven't had cramps for awhile. I also keep a pitcher of water behind me with a straw and sip it all night.

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As has been said - cramps can be caused by dehydration. So plenty of water, gator/powerade. Maybe some potassium suppliments or bananas.

 

Maybe some salt tablets too as they (when combined with lots of water) can act realatively quickly to reduce cramping etc when it comes on.

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