Such a thing as "guitarist's elbow"?

Discussion in 'Epiphone SG' started by living room rocker, May 19, 2018.

  1. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    At an advancing age, seems everyday a new ache or pain. I've heard of tennis and golfer's elbow, but after an hour of practice will definitely feel some pain and stiffness in the outer elbow of the fretting hand. Maybe my bending technique or ergonomic stance needs tweaked. Am I alone here or are there other sufferers?
     
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  2. JESUSG

    JESUSG Member

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    I have heard of tennis elbow, could be a similar condition.
     
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  3. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps doing windmills before a practice session would help in stretching the arm muscles.
     
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  4. Worblehat

    Worblehat Active Member

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    I have experienced pain (or at least tensions) in my back, my shoulder and my wrist during playing but not my elbow. Maybe you hold it in an awkward angle. Adjusting the guitar's position might help. Try to relax consciously. Shake of your arms between practice routines. And like gasket said: warm up and stretch. These are just some things I do regularly...
     
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  5. xland

    xland Member

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    I experienced the same thing a few years ago and it lasted for a few months. I started to stretch my forearms by extending my arms and grabbing my hands and pulling back on them to feel the stretch in my forearm and also the back of my forearm when pulling back on my hand with it pointed down. You can check You Tube videos for stretching exercises for tennis elbow. I now do this before every practice and I have not had a problem since.

    I also bought an ACE Tennis Elbow support band and use it and it helps as well.

    I hope this helps.
     
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  6. iblive

    iblive Well-Known Member

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    Not the elbow. Got a touch of arthritis in my left hand. I tend to actually warm up a bit now. Never did that before. Was probably a dumb thing to do.... or not do. After a bit of playing the fingers loosen up and the rest of the evening goes ok. Getting old sucks.
     
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  7. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Active Member

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    Good stretches make all the difference. Ever seen the shaolin monks stretch? It may seem will but legitimately works. A lot of common stretches can do much more harm than good I believe. Windmills for instance...i think that might stress and enflame things.

    Reachinf upwards as high as you possibly can with each arm individually helps stretch things out quite a bit. Seriously though, check out the shaolin monks of Asia and there stretches. Also putting both shoulders back, dropping your head back and stretching backwards helps balance things.

    Pardon the typos! Autocorrect is an unforgiving b*tch.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2018
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  8. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    I'll try the stretches, boys; thank you.
     
  9. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    gettin' old ain't for sissies...

    my suggestion is to look carefully at your technique, and take some lessons
    so you can ask your guitar teacher to observe what bad habits you've taught yourself.
    then you might try to correct any technique issues before they become too ingrained.
    A good guitar teacher will insist that you keep your thumb behind the neck, and play
    with a relaxed hand.

    you see lots of posts on this forum and every other guitar forum, where players
    discuss "neck shape" as if it were a crucial issue. It's my belief that it's mostly
    self taught guitar players who think this way. Nobody ever taught them the right
    way to hold the guitar neck, so they become intolerant of very small differences.
    *shrugs

    if you can avoid this syndrome, you can free yourself from the whole neck shape "issue,"
    AND save yourself from cramping and pain. I am one of those 'self-taught" guitarists who
    taught myself bad habits and then suffered for decades from all the limitations of improper
    technique.

    But I became a bass player and taught myself the right way to hold the neck,
    such that for a long time I was a better bass player than I was a guitarist. I tend to learn
    things the hard way, too often. But this process helped me...
    and when I bought my first decent electric guitar, I found that I had to learn how to play guitar
    all over again, which I embraced as a way of escaping my bad habits of the past.

    This process was difficult, but helped me in the end. I now play acoustic, electric and bass,
    and I feel that I'm playing the best I ever have. And at my age... getting old means that
    I keep finding new and painful limitations on my mobility, and my hands feel slower and less
    capable even if that's not really true. My voice lacks that young man's power, so I have to
    use an old man's guile and craftiness. *grins

    wish me luck, and I'll do the same for you.
     
  10. Corporal Scratchy

    Corporal Scratchy Member

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    TLDR reply:

    I agree with Col. Mustard 100%!


    Long winded blatherskite reply:

    This really is very good advice; I say this as my own experience matches that of the Col.

    I started playing guitar 40-odd years ago, teaching myself bad habits on a number of cheap, nasty instruments, where I had to push and squeeze as hard as I could in order to get the fretted notes to sound. As time went by, my guitars improved, but my technique stayed the same and although I thought that by playing more advanced music I was getting to be a better player, in reality my rate of improvement was slow; I was getting cramps and pain and developed a heavy handed touch which led to many broken strings.

    I took up playing bass as well. I did this a lot and began to think I was pretty good. Then about 2 years ago I watched a YouTube video detailing 6 faults common to rotten bass players. To my horror, I was guilty of 5 of them! (What, flying fingers are bad?!? I thought they made me look like a virtuoso! And so on and so on).

    I decided to change all this and began to research technique on the web. I could have gone the route the Col. suggests and found myself a teacher to get me started in the right direction. However, time was on my side and there’s so much stuff available online, I’ve had a real fun time sorting out the information of value from the nonsense that also proliferates.

    Firstly, I looked at warm-ups and stretches to enable me to extend my playing time avoiding cramps and pain, even though playing extensively over the years had given me a reasonable level of endurance. Could I improve on this? You bet! I eventually went with this guy’s program:

    https://guitarlessons365.com/essential-hand-stretches-for-guitarists/

    Once you learn the moves, you can get the routine done in much less time than it takes him to show it in the video. I do it in about 4 minutes every time before I start a practice/session.

    Next, I took up learning to play with my thumb at the back of the neck, the classical guitarists preferred method. I got this down by relentlessly practising one finger per fret 4 note chromatic exercises (called “spiders”) across all strings in every position up and down the fretboard, very slowly at first, then speeding up as the months went by. Yes, months, the Colonel was not joking when he said the process is difficult. I did/do these exercises for 15-20 minutes 6 days a week and it was not until I was about 5 months in that I started to really get there. Now I am “neck profile agnostic”; I can switch between my SGs and Strat and acoustics and feel totally at home immediately. Also, no problems in jumping to and fro between my P-Bass and my J-Bass, where the neck variances are fairly extreme to say the least.

    Thirdly, I worked on lightening my touch. First off, I stopped from ever playing my guitars un-amplified. From day one of my playing career, I’d happily strum away un-plugged in the belief I was sparing the ears and sanity of family, friends and neighbours when in reality I was developing a false sense of dynamics and a heavy, harsh plectrum hand. This, coupled with my iron grip left hand strangling the fretboard, led to rubbish playing. By playing amplified at all times either through amp/rig or headphones has enabled me to effectively “soften” my playing and to monitor faults, like unwanted ringing strings, harmonic overtones etc. For added convenience, I sought out a headphone only practise gizmo, like the Rockman I had years ago. But for the price of one Rockman, I was able to get one each of these:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00NAUE7QU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00NAUKJTY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    They work fine, sound good for the money, and the bass one even has rhythm tracks to play along to.

    Another exercise which helped me lighten my touch involves playing scales and runs without using your thumb on your fretting hand, not touching the neck at all. The guitar/bass body needs to be held steady with the forearm of your plucking hand. At first I got some unusual sounding results but persistence paid off eventually and I’ve benefitted from increased endurance, lighter touch and improved precision fretting.

    Finally, I’d like to add that no way have I become a “technique is everything” fanatic. I still deliberately employ my bad habit techniques when I think they serve my music best. So I will still from time to time play with my thumb hooked over the top of the fretboard if it gets me the results I want to hear.

    In summary: Stretching/warmups + changes to technique + attention to playing dynamics should hopefully add up to minimal pain/strain and much nicer music.

    I hope this is useful. Good luck!
     
  11. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    Very appreciative of your and Col Mustard's reply. I'm not crazy old yet, but old enough to realize my best days physically are behind me. Facing the need for warm up stretches and better technique to avoid injury has become a must do. Again, I appreciate you boys' taking the time for a detailed informative reply. Bonzo21 mentioned the Vox Amplugs also in a recent thread as a great practice tool; think I'm sold.
     
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  12. NomeX

    NomeX Member

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    Yep, but it was taken by the tennis players first. I started playing guitar seriously a few months ago, after being a long time bass player. I started off playing some Dick Dale style tremolo picking, before my body was used to it, and sure enough, I got a little pain just outside my inner elbow joint (if you hold your arm out, palm up). I was tensing up wayyyy too much trying to pick faster, and pretty much had a locked elbow as I was tremolo picking.

    I thought, hey, I play bass for hours non-stop, why can't I play guitar for the same amount? This is like a long-distance swimmer, or cyclist thinking they can do a marathon... You got the lungs, but the muscles are all different. I never had to stretch playing bass (fingerstyle) and triplets were no problem with my fingers. who new adding a plectrum, skinnier strings, tighter spacing, and an old guy thinking he was still in his teens would lead to tennis elbow?

    I did come into guitar with a bit of elbow pain in the same area due to starting a "Convict Conditioning" calisthenics program, and I tried doing one-arm pushups too soon. Your muscles develop a lot faster than your tendons, so you have to take things easy starting out, especially when switching instruments or sports.

    What sucks now is I jammed my ring finger on my fretting hand almost a month and a half ago, and it still pains me and my ring finger will struggle to straighten out. Picture opening your and and being stuck in the "Shocker" position.

    TL/DR; yes, it exists, stretch , take it easy, go slow. slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
     
  13. Preactor

    Preactor New Member

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    Messed mine up slinging a chainsaw to start it. Took a while to heal up. Keep it iced and don't exert it and it should heal back. Not offering medical advice just my experience!
     

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