Practicing is a pain in the...finger?
May 1, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Is this pain in my first ring finger knuckle from guitar playing normal?

I've been finger-picking a lot recently, and thus I'm using my ring finger in all kinds of new ways. For the past five or so days, my right ring finger (the pickin' one) has been hurting at the first knuckle joint (the one closest to the base of the finger) when I play. It's not particularly sharp and not unbearable, and feels like it's in the joint rather than the muscles. I played harp for 7 years, until about 8 years ago, and I don't remember having any of this kind of pain, although that was a somewhat different kind of movement. I normally practice for an hour a two (broken up into shorter sessions) per day. I'm getting lessons, so I'll check with my instructor when I see him later this week to make sure it's nothing about the way I'm picking. I'm in my 20s and don't have any problems with arthritis or anything like that, if it matters.

My questions for you: Is this a normal part of learning to finger pick? Should I continue to tone it down a bit until my fingers get stronger? Or do I need to see a doctor?
posted by quiet coyote to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've never experienced that in more decades of guitar playing (with a lot of fingerstyle playing) than I like to admit.
posted by The World Famous at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2012

Yeah, that's not normal. The only things that hurt after a lot of playing are my fretting fingertips. You should check it out.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:25 PM on May 1, 2012

That happens to me if I'm unconsciously picking with my fingers in a sort of "tense" position, like what you'd do if you were pushing down little weighted buttons with your picking fingers; that's wrong, so don't do that if you're doing that.
posted by resurrexit at 2:49 PM on May 1, 2012

Pain is not normal. It's possible you're not holding your hand correctly. Since you have an instructor, let him watch you play and check your hand position. If you can have someone video you while you're practicing that might also be a good idea as sometimes your being watched changes how you play.
posted by tommasz at 4:04 PM on May 1, 2012

I think this is totally normal for the situation. You're doing pretty intricate, tactile things that you don't normally do. If you've ever read a work-place pamphlet about repetitive stress, that's this. It's probably actually a tendon that is complaining about doing stuff that it's not used to doing.

Google up how to do some hand-stretches, I think you'll find them under something like occupational health. I do them regularly and it keeps my severely beaten up hands from feeling like they have arthritis.

Full disclosure/supporting anecdata; I'm a guitarist, mechanic, builder, writer, just about everything I do involves the abuse of my hands.

In your shoes I would consider this to be growing pains but they should subside in a week or two. If not...then talk to your Dr.
posted by snsranch at 5:45 PM on May 1, 2012

5 days of hand pain with a relatively new activity means you should back off a little bit and see if it doesn't improve. Two weeks of discomfort and you should see someone.

Hold your hand out in front of you with the palm facing away. Starting at the tip of the finger, the first joint is the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP). The next (middle) is the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP). The joint where your finger and hand meet is the metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP).

Pain at the PIP joint in someone your age is likely just overuse but I would want X-rays to ensure there is no previous trauma that is cause for the pain. Pain at the MCP joint is most likely the beginning stages of a trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis or stenosing tendovaginitis depending on the books you read) that is usually easily treated with either activity modification or a steroid injection. I'm a hand surgeon but not yours and this isn't something easily diagnosed over the internet but usually very easily diagnosed face to face.
posted by karlos at 8:03 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Update: this went away with a break from playing. I still do find that I get aches in my finger joints when I start trying something new with guitar (e.g., hammering the 6th string with my thumb killed me at first), but it seems to go away with time. Thanks!
posted by quiet coyote at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2012

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