EVERY time I ever start to play things that are a little demanding my fretting hand starts burning and getting fatigued. It happens a lot with my picking hand as well but not quite as bad. So basically I just physically fall apart because my hands don’t have the stamina to keep up. I for the life of me can’t get rid of this happening. Could it be that I’m tensing up so badly that this is happening? or I’m just fretting the notes too hard or even possibly have a major vitamin deficiency?? I’ve been reading about the vitamin deficiency thing lately and started taking more vitamin D and calcium which apparently helps with muscle fatigue but so far it’s not working. Does anybody else have issues with this? I’m starting to get worried because I don’t want to develop carpal tunnel syndrome Because I’m feeling like my hands are about to fall off trying to get this alternate picking thing down
Can you play for less demanding stuff with no issues? If so, then tension could be getting the better of you. Has this come on all of a sudden? Does the same symptons occur when doing non-guitar related things? You are right to be wary of carpel Tunnel and other RSI issues, so don’t keep doing the same thing and hope it sorts itself out. Make sure you are well hydrated, stretch out and take regular breaks. The left hand is very suceptible to injury, but working on picking is also tiring. Maybe take a break for a week or so, let your hands heal.
Best advice is too see your doctor.
Could be posture, technique, fretting too hard, or something else. Can you post a video of you playing a few different things, hard and easy? A full shot of your upper body that includes a decent view of your left hand might make it easier to get some insight.
Great questions! To answer them no it doesn’t seem to be a problem when I’m playing slower. It’s when playing very fast that it happens. It’s been going on a long time so it’s not new. I get that my hands might burn a little bit because I’m doing things that are physically strenuous kind of like working out in the gym, but it doesn’t ever seem to get better. I can’t seem to push past the burn like someone running more and more miles. My stamina doesn’t seem to be getting stronger, and always kind of feel like I’m a guy trying to climb Mount Everest with two broken legs. I don’t really have issues with stuff like that with other strenuous things like working out or jogging so I don’t know what’s going on. This is just a thought but I think I’ve ingrained in my playing for 30+ years of tensing up that it just became second nature. Learning to stop doing that is way way more difficult then people may realize
In my experience this is what muscle strain / overuse feels like. The thousands of mouse or trackpad clicks we do in the course of editing an interview, combined with all the typing in forum posts, and then you throw in even moderate guitar playing on top of that — it’s a forearm killer. So this type of overuse can even be the result of multiple activities piling up.
I’d highly recommend backing off the playing and seeing a doctor. Even if they send you home and tell you to just lay off the guitar, it’s worth it just to be on the safe side.
Troy do you do any kind of warm-up exercises or hand stretches before you start playing fast? or do you just go right into it? I’m definitely guilty of not warming up So maybe some kind of exercises will help.
You must not look at guitar playing in this way at all, pushing past the burn works when running because you are using some of the biggest and strongest muscles that you have been using since you took your first steps. Forearm, wrist and fingers are full of nerves and tendons built for fine complicated movements that cannot take that sort of repetitive punishment.
Never thought of it this way. Thanks for the heads up. I guess my point was that I never seem to be pushing past the difficulty or strain of something and it’s very frustrating. I get that I probably tense up, but could it really cause this much pain to where my hand feels like it’s on fire. It’s like the equivalent of someone doing 500 crunches and their stomach is waving the white flag saying I give up. haha
I don’t do anything specific for warmup but I also don’t do anything that feels painful or stressful. I want comfort and ease and I use that as the main source of feedback as to whether I’m doing things right.
Honestly once you get to the point of any kind of burning sensation I think the damage is already starting to happen and anything resembling “exercises” is basically just more playing that shouldn’t be happening.
Seriously you should never feel a stinging or burning sensation while playing and if you do, I’d stop immediately and lay off the playing for a couple days at least. If it persists, potentially see a doctor.
this is not good. Ugh
One reason to see a doctor is to get a referral for a good physical therapist.
I have the same problem.
The doctor doesn’t understand what you’re doing with your arm better than you do. But a physical therapist, if he’s intuitive and hands-on, will be able to find what’s going on and help the tension.
Most physical therapists I’ve been to were lousy. But if I keep trying, I sometimes get lucky.
Traditional Thai massage can be very useful, though it’s expensive.
I teach for 6 hours a day, five days a week, on top of my normal practice routine, which is on average two hours a day. And if I’m writing or tracking it could be longer. I occasionally experience a little forearm pain. Unfortunately, I pay my rent from teaching, so I can’t stop entirely, but I take a break from practicing, or not play on a day off.
I’ll also do some forearm exercises with this thing called a Theraband Flex bar which I swear improves my recovery time if I ever feel any pain or burning. Supposedly, it’s the only physical therapy device that’s been clinically proven to help cure tennis elbow. It’s not “guitar elbow” lol but there’s a lot of the same muscles and tendons at work in both activities:
I also think it’s worth seeing someone more familiar with sports medicine, such as someone that practices Active Release Technique, than a medical doctor. They deal with things like tendinitis all the time. Good luck man!
Apparently it is - looking at the amazon blurb-
“TheraBand FlexBar is perfect for those looking to strengthen the elbow, wrist, forearm, and hand for sports, painting, rock climbing, guitar playing, and many daily activities like opening doors and jars.”
Might give this a look!
@Regotheamigo I’m sorry you are dealing with this. My experiences may be a bit different, but I thought I’d share them just in case they help in any way.
I first discovered Troy’s CTC videos on YouTube in late 2014 and began working to make a lot of changes in my wonky technique. Everything from pick grip, where and how the motion originated, etc.
A year or so later I started to experience occasional numbness and tingling in my picking hand fingers. Eventually I had pain from my right neck and shoulder area down through the arm and sometimes the fingers. It was pretty awful and I felt like there was a knife in my back most days. To make a long story short, this all came about because I was holding a lot of tension in that arm as I spent hours each day playing and teaching and simultaneously trying to force myself away from 30 years of ingrained habits - NOT because of any CTC techniques.
I went to see my doctor (who is also a pretty good guitarist) who suggested six weeks of physical therapy. I did everything the therapist asked but to no avail. I took my guitar with me to the therapist on two separate occasions to ask if she would evaluate my posture, etc. while playing but she outright refused to even consider this which I found surprising and upsetting.
Finally I reached out of my comfort zone and asked around town about yoga instructors. I went to a one-on-one session with a teacher who gave me some basic stretches to do that were helpful and started attending weekly “restorative” yoga classes. After three weeks I was pain-free. Occasionally I still have a twinge of pain if I’ve been sitting practicing for a long time but nothing like what I was experiencing a year ago. BTW restorative yoga is very relaxing and you don’t need to know anything about the practice to do it just follow the teachers instructions.
Best wishes as you work through this.
Thanks for everyones reply’s and input. I appreciate the feedback. I hope I don’t have to resort to physical therapy, because that would mean that I would have to stop in my process of getting the elusive alternate picking thing down. I feel after years and years of constantly running into road blocks that things are starting to sound and make sense. Regarding my physical pain, I made a few adjustments yesterday, and they seem to help so far. The first thing i did was adjust my guitar strap. I think I had it too low, and it was straining my fretting hand when I would do wide 3 note per string stretches. It would feel awkward, and even more painful the faster i would go. The second thing I did was just slow the hell down. My tendencies are to burn at what ever BPM I’m playing at, so if I’m at 170 BMP, I’m playing that in double time. Correct me if I’m wrong but that would fatigue anyone playing that fast for long periods of time. Most importantly I’m really just trying to focus on relaxing which is my biggest Achilles’ Heel! It has become so second nature for me to tense up when I’m going for technical things that I have to some how find a way to just chill out, and know in my mind that it’s not as hard as I’m making it out to be. It’s like i still have the mindset that what I’m seeing these guys do is superhuman, and we’re all finding out that it isn’t really the case. Have a great weekend everyone!
Great posts - I just got back from physio today (for bad back and pinched nerve in neck which causes numbness/tingling in the fingers). I have been going for a few months and although the hand issues had largely been resolved, it had come back a little this week. I had no pain and felt no issues in my elbow and forearm, but the therapist insisted that she looked at it. It turns out that there was considerable tension in my upper forearm and elbow area -I was amazed at the difference after treatment and had no idea that the tension was there.
All in all, my problems stem from being unfit, overweight with no strength in my core and bad habits this affects my back, shoulders, neck and subsequently the arm as they are compensating for the lack of core. I am now having to go to pilates sessions to try and build that up.
Going to see a doctor, as several members have suggested, is good advice, Depending on your situation, you may have the choice see an orthopedic doctor - one who specializes in this area of medicine. The orthopedic practice I go to has a hand specialist, who I went to see once when I had an injury. Orthopedic doctors often specialize in sports related injuries which are similar to the injuries guitarists get. Bring your guitar because he may want to evaluate your posture while playing.
I definitely don’t advise to go to a doctor. The only benefit to going to a doctor is to get a referral for a physical therapist.
I certainly would not advise going to an orthopedist as they generally like to push for surgery. Surgery is injurious.
A lot of stuff you can look up on Google.
If the physical therapist is requiring you to stop playing, go to a different one. Explain to the physical therapist that this is what you do.
A lot of times, they don’t like to do it because it’s actual work, but PT should be able to perform deep work, such as ART or deep tissue work.If they won’t do it or if they suck, go to a different one. Most PT suck.
Here is an example of using the lacrosse ball for the forearm extensors. Most of my work in the “gym” gym is stretching and recovery.