Sunday, June 12, 2011

Guitar Health - Cramping, Tendonitis - Do your hands cramp up during playing?

Okay, so there you are jamming away at the gig; it's fun and the singer finally gives you a chance to showcase your bag of tricks - You hit it and all of a sudden - CRAMPS! If this has never happened to you then consider yourself lucky. It is said that up to 95% of the earth's population has experienced cramps at one time or another. You don't have to be a woman!

Now, if I had a cure for cramps - I wouldn't be posting on this blog. My profession has led me to encounter cramps, people with cramps, and it's safe to say there isn't a simple solution that works for everyone.

The following are methods to staving off cramps - No guarantee!

  • Limit caffeine intake.
  • Be certain to drink WATER every day. Soft drinks don't count!
  • Eat a balanced diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, and your favorite source of protein.
  • Warm up (see article about that on this blog).
  • Practice
  • Limit alcohol consumption - This should be obvious but if you are young - Consider yourself warned!

Supplements and Foods that help?

Vitamins (I know this is not food but take multi vitamins once a day)
All fruit for that matter - especially if it contains a lot of water!
Sports drinks - Cytomax, Accelerade, Gatorade, etc...

I cannot stress stretching and doing flexibility exercises enough.

Proper practice can help limit Tendonitis and Focal Dystonia.

Excellent video regarding Tendinitis!

Above all, pay attention to what your body tells you! Don't play through pain! Take time off if you feel pain and if the pain continues beyond 3 days - SEE A DOCTOR! Don't be a buster!

This is an addendum to the aforementioned and validation from what is mentioned and outlined above. It's a real life account from Robben Ford. This section was from the following web page:

This is from 10/20/2003, with special thanks to Tonemaster2_11.

The following very information is vital to pain free guitar playing.

Hi gang, 

CTS is a bitch, I had to quit playing for 18 months because it hurt so 
much. Regular MD's were not of much help, I went through hell with 
physical therapy, electric shock to get steriod gels to soak through my 
skin, Yes it sucked. 

Here is what I have learned over the years and as a result I can play for 
3 hrs a day now with little or no problem, your experience may vary. 


CTS is caused by an inbalance between the muscles in your forearm (inside 
of your elbow to heel of your hand) and the muscles in the back of your 
arm. The inside muscles become strong, thick and short. The backside 
muscles become weak, and stretched out. 


You must restore the balance. 
You must work at it every day 
If you are like me it will never be cured but it can be managed. 

Here are the steps. 

A. Get a Wahl deep muscle vibrator, about $30, 815-625-6525. It is model 
4196-003. Now if you think this baby will do double duty forget it unless 
you like a jackhammer applied to sensitive parts. This vibrator comes 
with a cup type attatchment, use it on the inside of your arm to relax the 
muscles. I do it twice a day. Works wonders, expecially before practice. 

B. You must stretch the muscles to get back the flexibility in your arm 
and wrist. 

The first stretch is with your arm (I am assuming right handed players who 
fret with their left hand) bent 90 degrees at the left elbow with 
your forearm across your body with the palm up to your face as you look 
down. Use the heel of your right hand to contact the tips of the fingers 
of your left and and GENTLY bend the entire hand down as if you were going 
to position your fingers to point directly at the ground. 

Do not bend beyond a discomfort level. You need to work into this slowly. 
You should feel very tight and inflexible muscles in the inside of your 
forearm. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat. DO NOT OVER DO IT!!! 

The second stretch is with your left arm extended in front of you at 
shoulder level. Your palm is facing down. Lock the elbow. Use the 
finger tips of your right and to grasp the fingers of your left hand and 
bend the fingers up. Keep the elbow locked. Hold for 10 seonds and 

The third stretch is with the arm in the same position except the palm is 
now facing up. Again grasp the fingers of your left hand with the fingers 
of your right and and bend down. Hold for 10 seconds and release. 

I do three sets of 10 second holds as a warm up and again DURING THE 
PRACTICE SESSION. Take breaks often, every 10 or 15 minutes. If you feel 
discomfort in your CTS, get out the vibrator and use it. It works better 
than anything to relax the muscles. It is probably the most important 
element in the treatment program. 

C. Building strength in the back of your forearm. 

Get a 5 lbs dumbell. Find a flat surface, like a table top. Lay your arm 
on it with your hand hanging over the edge holding the dumbell. Do 
"reverse curls" by extending your hand all the way down then raise it. Up 
and down 10 times. Here is the trick. The up part, or using the muscles 
in the back of the forearm should be done at 1/2 the speed as the down 
part. All of it should be slow. Hold the weight at the top of the 
reverse curl for 1 sec. Increase the weight as you feel your self getting 
stronger. I use about 15 lbs now. More is not necessarily better here. 
Building back muscle strength is the key. 

Again I do 3 sets of 10. 

Follow this routine and the pain will go, you will be able to play longer 
and maybe better. But, and this is a big but, your must keep up with the 
program. CTS, in my experience, never goes away, but you can manage the 
process and win in the end. 

No comments:

Post a Comment