I stopped playing the guitar for many years because of arthritis in my left-hand fingers. I started to take daily vitamin and mineral supplements and about 3 years ago I was able to return to playing.
I don’t overdo it and usually play for only 30 minutes or less each day, but of late the pain has returned with a vengeance. Only my 1st and 4th fingers (left-hand index and pinkie) are affected. Both sometimes lock-up when I am playing and the pinkie is always swollen and stiff. I am treating the condition as best I can and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ‘remedies’ I have read of or personally applied.
- People on the various classical guitar fora recommend two external interventions:
- Consult a medical specialist so that she can diagnose the condition and prescribe appropriately. I have not done this myself yet because of the high costs involved in specialist consultations and prescription medication, but I may well do so if I can’t alleviate the condition in other ways. I am taking an alkalising agent (base powder) regularly to get my body acid level down. I am hoping that this will ease the inflammation in the joints.
- Consult an experienced guitar teacher to check your technique and the pressure you apply when playing. Again, I have not followed this advice because of the paucity of good classical guitar teachers in my area.
- Every so often, I take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, but I don’t want to do this too often because of the risk of damaging the stomach lining. I have found that externally applied anti-inflammatory gel is next to useless for joint pain.
- Some folk recommend Curcumin (Tumeric) with Piperine (Black Pepper) as a herbal anti-inflammatory and I am currently experimenting with this.
- A common piece of advice I have read is to practice for short periods but very regularly. I practice for only 30 minutes every day and so can’t cut down on this and still hope to make progress as a player.
- Warming up the hands before playing is also something others recommend and I have found it very beneficial to soak my hands in very warm water for a couple of minutes just before I play.
- Warm-up hand and finger exercises also help. If I attempt to play complex pieces before warming up with simple exercises (scales etc.) then I invariably pay the price within minutes.
- One blogger I read suggested changing the guitar configuration – lower tension strings and lower action, or even using a guitar with a shorter string scale length.