What is wrong with me?


Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/26/2013 6:38 am
Ok, here goes... I apologize for the length of this post. Hacked on guitar for years (started at 12, I'm 47 now). Played in bands etc... main guitar is a Strat. One thing I NEVER did was sit down and really learn the instrument well, especially lead guitar... I mean, I could play some neat stuff, and knew some scales, but never really did a lot of disciplined practice. Until about just over 2 years ago.

Then I decided "I will learn to play lead guitar!"... I mean as in solid, "oh wow, did you go to MIT" level playing... or as close to it as I could get. Found a couple of great books from MIT, and also this site.

Starting playing MW2 on Xbox, while practicing guitar about 1.5 - 2hrs a day; VERY disciplined practice... warm ups, organized, metronome. Also, bought a Jackson Dinky guitar, which I loved. On top of that, I joined this site and got really into Lisa's Acoustic Fingerpicking lessons.

Things are going great: I'm starting to actually be able visualize the all of the major scale patterns on the fretboard as I play, my acoustic playing has improved by leaps & bounds, and I'm a kick ass sniper on MW2.

It all starts going wrong... I'm getting pain in my wrist, like a big circle around my whole wrist, aching in my forearm and tingling in my fingers after practice. What is going on? Is it the video game playing? Is it the thinner neck of the Jackson? No idea. But, I'm dedicated... thinking first its the gaming, I sell my XBox... still problems. Ok, take a break... then come back to it.. acoustic playing is no problem. Then start back on the electric (Jackson) and all the pain & tingling comes back. I even bought these special wrist straps that are supposed to help, but they don't really. And yeah, I am trying to be totally relaxed in my playing... I'm really using minimal finger pressure for fretting.

I take a break, and we also buy a 1944 house and move. Turns out the house needs to be completely rebuilt. So, no guitar for almost a year. Then I break out the acoustic. No problem, I can play for an hour and not have any pain. Then I break out the Strat. Start practicing again. Now, I get the same pain & tingling. I've done lots of research so I've seen plenty about:
-staying relaxed.
-stretches
-warm ups

I just cannot seem to play without having pain when it comes to lead & my electric. Oddly enough, playing the acoustic seems fine. I don't know what it is. I actually have to fret harder with the acoustic. The only this is I'm not playing lead on my acoustic.

So I'm really close to accepting that it may not be physically possible to continue with playing the electric guitar. I mean, the warm-ups that people recommend combined with "don't practice too long" advice mean that all I can really do is warm up, then its time to put the guitar down or be faced with another round of pain & tingling. If I wait a few days, it goes away. If I play just my acoustic, I don't seem to have any issues. Plug in the electric, and within 10 minutes the pain & tingling starts creeping in.

If anyone has any insight they could offer, I would be very grateful. Its really frustrating right now, as I am in a very good position to achieve my goal (it was going so well!) but its just the physical stuff that is holding me back. I don't know if its the guitar. Some people have said get something with a fatter neck, like a Les Paul Traditional, which I could do, but I don't want to spend that kind of cash if it turns out not to help. Its not the expense, its just the uncertainty of it helping.

Any other angles, solutions, or advice out there from anyone?
# 1
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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01/26/2013 9:26 am
Shootin' spitballs here but...

How high or low do you sling your guitar? I do not practice with the guitar just in my lap. I practice with the strap slung and in my most comfortable spot. Like keyboard ergonomics, the angle of your wrist determines whether or not you will place pressure when playing and thus the the result of pain/no pain.

Just a thought.
# 2
haghj500
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haghj500
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01/27/2013 2:44 am
If you can see a circle that is bigger than a quarter but smaller than a half dollar, appears as red and might even stand higher than the skin around it.
Check out sarcoidosis as a medical problem.

I went through it about ten years ago, some of what you’re saying sounds familiar. You would also be feeling sleepy, body is slow to start moving in the morning, then kind of thaws out and works pretty well, only to get stiff or froze up again at night.
# 3
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/27/2013 3:22 am
Thanks guys... I look into both suggestions. I don't think I have sarcoidosis, but my plan right now is to just rest my wrist, and probably see a specialist. Hopefully I can find a solution!
# 4
chigung
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chigung
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01/28/2013 6:45 am
could be carpal tunnel syndrome. When your wrists, etc are in the same positions all the time, you'll have numbness, and pain. Maybe you don't get it on the acoustic because it's bigger and of course you have to hold it differently. Do you stretch your hands, especially the fretting hand AFTER playing? Not so much before as your hands aren't warmed up, stretching cold will hurt you! I stretch the wrist up, down, and sideways, it's a ritual for me! Sometimes my fretting wrist and forearm will be tight if I've played too much, and by slowly and gently using my right hand to push my left thru each stretch, and by the finish, I won't feel the tightness that I had!

Also like the other said, about straps, I use my cross-back strap EVERY time I play, sitting or standing, it centers the guitar on my chest and I don't have to hold it, just play it! You should borrow (or buy cheap) another electric, see if it hurts you also. I've only played electrics and each one felt different, so if it's that electric only making you hurt, you need to change it to another one!
# 5
Razbo
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Razbo
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01/28/2013 11:59 am
I have similar symptoms, I think. I am 49, close to your age. I find it does not happen all the time, but when it does, mostly I get a "numb tickle" along the outer edge of my left hand an if I keep playing right then, it will extend to the pinky and middle fingers. I can still play, but can't feel my finger tips. Very disconcerting, and everytime I think 'omg I am going to have to quit playing or find some other instrument!'

For myself, I think I am just defective. I first noticed something odd a couple of decades ago. I was taking computer courses and one of them was a typing class. I discivered cannot type in the "qwerty position" without my left pinky cramping up. So I think that's all associated. Maybe some damage I did to myself when I was young?

Things I find help cause it
Thin necks and heavy barre chording (solos actually help loosen it back up -- sometimes!)
Playing with the guitar too high or too low. I generally do not sit while playing, except with the acoustic. The acoustic is just a different shape and size and I can play for hours sitting. I cannot play any electric too long in a sitting position, I need to be standing. I do not know why the difference, except for the size and shape ot the guitar.


Things that help me:
Just stop and shake it out. If you can. Sometimes it just goes away.
Give yourself a break but keep playing. Being concious of the problem I try to organise set lists with some logic to address/avoid it.
Try some different guitar heights. For me it is a balance: Too high and it bothers my right hand. Too low and it starts to bother my left.
Thick necks. I'm not 100% on this, but I do think it helps. And you would not have to spend a lot. I see Epi Specials on Kijiji all the time for $100. Big fat neck for you to try. Or maybe rent something to try it out.

Good luck !!
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
# 6
Mike_x1x
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Mike_x1x
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01/28/2013 1:35 pm
[QUOTE=Slipin Lizard]Ok, here goes... I apologize for the length of this post.

Hi Slipin,

Just a thought.. when you play Acoustic I'm guessing you are pretty relaxed?
Could you be subconsciously tensioning up when doing "focused" practicing and timing etc on the Srat?
Tension would give the symtoms you describe if I read your post correctly.
Maybe something to look at.
Hope it helps.
Mike
# 7
RickBlacker
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RickBlacker
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01/28/2013 6:32 pm
Try a fatter neck. Try a Les Paul.
[U]Ricks Current Mystery Video[/U] - Updated Monday March/02/2015
# 8
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/29/2013 5:23 am
Thanks for all the responses guys... I did a little practice today and doesn't seem quite as bad... moved the guitar over to my left leg, so its higher up as recommended. I'll how it all goes and keep you posted. If it feels like I can get this under control, then I may just go for that Les Paul, as its neck was a lot closer to my acoustic in thickness than the other guitars I have.
# 9
SlickString
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SlickString
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01/29/2013 11:40 am
Seems to me you're a man of extremes, it’s all or nothing with you -

Then I decided "I will learn to play lead guitar!"... I mean as in solid, "oh wow, did you go to MIT" level playing...

Starting playing MW2 on Xbox, while practicing guitar about 1.5 - 2hrs a day; VERY disciplined practice

I'm a kick ass sniper on MW2. I sell my XBox

So I'm really close to accepting that it may not be physically possible to continue with playing the electric guitar.


Chill man!

Why such high aspirations? Why the need to be a kick ass sniper? Why sell the Xbox? Why give up electric guitar?

I suggest you take a break, relax and then decide what you want from guitar. Maybe try a more realistic approach bearing in mind the other advice you've been given.

But whatever you do don't give up lead electric guitar! It's such a great thing it would be a real shame to give it up! As for the Xbox how could you sell it after clearly enjoying playing MW2?! Maybe accept that you can't get as good a K/D ratio as you used too....

Good Luck!
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# 10
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/29/2013 5:42 pm
Originally Posted by: SlickString
Chill man!

Why such high aspirations? Why the need to be a kick ass sniper? Why sell the Xbox? Why give up electric guitar?

I suggest you take a break, relax and then decide what you want from guitar


It wasn't an "extreme" thing... the level I would like to reach with guitar is just highly competent. I want to have a solid technique and clear understanding & command of the fretboard, and I feel I have a good path for how to get there with the exception on the physical problems.

But taking a break didn't work... I guess I didn't make it clear... I got to a point where I could neither play guitar, or my XBox due to the physical pain I was experiencing. Since guitar was much, much more important to me, I got rid of the XBox, but maybe you misunderstood; I didn't play guitar, at all, for almost a full year. So, taking a break didn't help, because when I came back to it, the pain just started right up again.

I've already decided what I want from guitar, that's why I started up with it again. I have specific styles of play & tone in mind, and know where I want to go with it. This was all about starting up again, first slowly with the acoustic, which was no issue, then with the electric which even just 10 minutes was giving me problems.

I think its a combination of a bunch of things that the others have already hit upon. One thing that seems to be helping a lot is every evening I do a gentle workout with a Dynaflex and that seems to help with the wrist pain a lot. If I get to a point where I feel I have the problem truly licked, I'll layout what's working for me so hopefully anyone else that's starts having the same problem can benefit. Again, thanks for all the responses!
# 11
john of MT
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john of MT
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01/29/2013 8:25 pm
First, I've always believed in and advocated exercise no matter at what time of life or the mental games I have to go through to keep myself on an exercise program. ;)

Second, early last year I started a light calisthenics set immediately before my morning guitar practice...basically the first thing I did when I got up. The set included pushups and believe me it isn't a lot of pushups. The entire 'workout' takes 15 minutes.

I noticed that my fret hand feels stonger and there are less aches and pains both in my hand and in my shoulders. I can't attribute those changes to that specific exercise because I do other things that relate to conditioning and flexibility but I think it has helped and I suspect it has helped a lot.

Like all things, playing guitar requires some level of endurance, strength and flexibility. And just like all things, exercise, especially targeted exercise, is helpful throughout life and increases in importance as one grows older.

If anyone is having aches and pain problems one of the first things they should look at, IMO, is their conditioning as it applies to the activity that's giving them trouble.
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
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# 12
Slipin Lizard
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Slipin Lizard
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01/30/2013 12:47 am
Originally Posted by: john of MT
If anyone is having aches and pain problems one of the first things they should look at, IMO, is their conditioning as it applies to the activity that's giving them trouble.


I'm just not sure what exercises my arm would benefit from... like ones directed at helping with carpal tunnel syndrome, if that's what it is. I hope I don't sound like I'm a couch potato; I'm not. I'm quite fit: I cycle every day I get a chance to, and kiteboard avidly for 8 months of the year.

I did get a few exercise balls and a finger exerciser that are supposed to help specifically with guitar playing, but honestly, the "improve your grip" stuff seemed to make things worse, not better. It may come down to seeing a specialist, and seeing what they say. Nothing sucks worse than having the gear, time & motivation but just not able to get the hand going the way it should.
# 13

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