Alex Tsiboulski plays Wurth, Gutmeier, and Gilbert

I must apologise for not posting anything for so long. Arthritis in my left hand flared up again and started affecting my right hand.  I had my hands x-rayed and confirmed that the disease had eaten away the cartilage of the joints of several fingers. As a result, I am only able to play for very short periods once or twice a week, and that only with the aid of a prescription anti-inflammatory. All this rather took the wind out of my sails and this site has suffered as a result. However, I will be keeping up the server fees for the time being in the hopes that the material will help keen amateur classical guitarists.

Just before my hands started giving me so much trouble, I came across Alex Tisboulski playing four pieces. What a talented guitarist! So, HERE is the link to the GSI Blog featuring Alex and his playing. Enjoy and be inspired!

Arthritis is a pain!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Monkey Business Images/REX/Shutterstock (8619244a)

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.

There doesn’t seem to be any greater wisdom out there on offer for classical guitar-playing arthritis sufferers like me, so I hope that this little list of possibilities may help those who also find arthritis a pain.