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My hand, she hurts...
June 11, 2006 10:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my picking hand from cramping up when I play guitar?

When I play guitar for more than 30 minutes or so I tend to get a rather debilitating cramp in my right hand, between my thumb and index finger. This definately happens more when performing, so I assume nerves has a good deal to do with it, but it does sometimes happen at practice, or when I'm sitting on the couch and playing.
I'd imagine just stretching before playing might help, but I can't figure out how to stretch that muscle.
Any advice or help?
posted by gally99 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
How long have you been playing? I found when I first started off I got a lot of cramping, but after time the muscles in your hand, wrists, and arms get used to it and the pain goes away.
posted by theNonsuch at 10:32 PM on June 11, 2006


Make sure you're getting enough potasium in your diet?
posted by delmoi at 10:38 PM on June 11, 2006


i think the muscles in your hands can move when u don't use them properli. u could tri stretching ur hand and holding them in a different position.
posted by apdato at 11:00 PM on June 11, 2006


I've been playing for 14 years, but it's only in the last year or so that I've been performing more than two or three times a month.
I had some soreness when I switched from a les paul knock-off to my SG, and was able to fix that with a little body position and guitar position adjustment, but the hand thing is pretty new to me.
I guess i'm just looking for stretching ideas or dietary help.
Thanks delmoi, I'll look into the potassium thing.
posted by gally99 at 11:13 PM on June 11, 2006


"i think the muscles in your hands can move when u don't use them properli."

huh?
posted by gally99 at 11:17 PM on June 11, 2006


"By looking at the muscle development of the horse, you will be able to see which groups of
muscles are used correctly and which are used incorrectly. Muscles that work properly are
round and full, while muscles there are used poorly either atrophy or become too big." basically u should have a firm muscle around the back of your hand with visible tendons when relaxed.

this site could help also-

http://www.myamericanartist.com/americanartist/drawing/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002425160
posted by apdato at 11:37 PM on June 11, 2006


I've been playing for about 14 years also and I've been lucky enough never to have experienced a cramp there. My left hand during a lot of bridges, on the other hand...

Few possible causes -

A) Started holding pick too tightly? Loosen up, keep a few extra picks around until you can balance that back out. They can fly away on you and disappear into pick heaven.

B) Not stretching/warming up enough. Try a Gripmaster or "squishy ball" for a few minutes before playing. Do what Satriani does and stick your hand in warm/hot water for 20 minutes before playing. Google RSI + hand stretching + guitar and sift through those results for advice on other stretching methods.

C) Injury? Have you been active with anything else that could've stressed the muscle? You may be reaggravating it by playing guitar. Unfortunately testing this theory involves not playing for awhile and giving it a rest.

Good luck, keep on playin!
posted by empyrean at 12:18 AM on June 12, 2006


Stretching, before and after. And keep your hand and forearm as relaxed as possible when you're actually picking.
posted by armoured-ant at 12:22 AM on June 12, 2006


In addition to the suggestions above, play as much as you can without a pick. Just use fingerwork when you're sitting around practicing by yourself. I find it limbers up my hand quite well. Think of it as calisthenics for your metacarpals.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:06 AM on June 12, 2006


Make sure to keep your hands warm, temperature-wise. I've often had to do the hands-in-sink-full-of-warm-water trick (especially playing fingerstyle) here in sunny Scotland in a draughty room.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:46 AM on June 12, 2006


It sounds to me like you're keeping your hand and forearm very tense when you play (which is perhaps why it happens more during shows than during practices).
posted by muddgirl at 5:20 AM on June 12, 2006


I don't if it helps, but try taking a video fo yourself and watch your pick hand. Many players hold their pick in a death grip. Over time, I switched to holding the pick between thumb and middle finger and tried to adopt a picking pattern that was more circular than up and down. YMMV.
posted by plinth at 7:25 AM on June 12, 2006


apdato: why the wild variation in compositional style between your comments here and previous comments? Apologies for the in-thread query, but you have no contact info, and your style here is both annoying and seemingly out of character.
posted by cortex at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2006


Seconding everyone else. Stretch before playing by rotating your hands at the wrist, alternately making a fist and extending your fingers completely, and then shaking your hands out a bit at the end.

Also try to observe your picking and see if you can pinpoint the source of tension. Is it playing a certain type of passage that causes it more than others? Do you change hand/wrist position to do certain things? Etc.

Pay special attention when you practice, because you're developing the habits you'll fall back on when you perform. If you start to feel pain during practice, take a break.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:34 AM on June 12, 2006


You're squeezing the pick too tightly, straining the adductor pollicis brevis and its comrades of the thenar eminence.

Try using a stiffer (i.e., heavier) pick; sometimes this is from trying to compensate for a pick that's too floppy to do the kind of picking you're trying to do. Thin and medium picks are mostly for strumming chords. (Actually, thin picks are for breaking, I find, but someone must like them.)

I favor the Jim Dunlop Jazz III and the Jazz III XL, which are pretty stiff.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:33 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I second Empyrean about the hot water thing - I've been trying it recently, and find that I play better, my hands feel more relaxed and respond quicker.

Otherwise, pretty much all cramping while playing is caused by incorrect posture and/or grip.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 11:53 AM on June 12, 2006


Try using a stiffer (i.e., heavier) pick; sometimes this is from trying to compensate for a pick that's too floppy to do the kind of picking you're trying to do. Thin and medium picks are mostly for strumming chords. (Actually, thin picks are for breaking, I find, but someone must like them.)

Haha, yes, good call.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2006


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