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Serberuss
post Jul 7 2016, 05:23 PM
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Hey GMC,

I've just signed up here again as I was on this site quite a few years ago under a completely different name, but have decided to come back after taking a break from guitar for quite a long time (about 5 years). So although I'm not a complete beginner because I still have the knowledge I had before I am still beginner level.

I was hoping to get some advice on an issue I've been having lately. I started playing again back in March and lately I've been playing pretty much every day. I've noticed something when I'm playing which is I keep getting aches in my right arm around my bicep and just above that. Since I've been playing again since March I would have though my arms would have adjusted by now to playing guitar again.

It isn't a sharp pain that suddenly comes on but is more like a gradual ache that will get worse as time goes on, although it's a relatively short space of time. I noticed it the most when I was trying to play Paranoid and found that I'd ache quite a bit when palm muting the 12th and 14th frets quite a bit. Even if I just hold my hand in a position as if I'm about to hit the strings, but not actually hit them, I still get the same problem so I don't think it's anything to do with where I'm fretting.

I've tried a number of things and I haven't seemed to fix it. I make sure to pay attention to my right arm to consciously make sure that it's relaxed and I don't play anything too fast. I'm pretty sure the way I hold my guitar is fairly normal - I hold it in the standard right leg position with the neck slightly pointing away from my body, I don't think it's normal to have it running across your body in a straight angle right? This is a PRS SE electric guitar by the way.

So I'm really just looking for some advice on how to proceed. Perhaps it'd help to upload a photo of myself holding the guitar? If anyone has had this problem in the past I'd be interested to hear how you got around it. Thanks for any help
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Phil66
post Jul 7 2016, 05:50 PM
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Hello and welcome back smile.gif

Assuming you're a right hander and sorting down it could be a bio mechanical problem. Never mind how you used to hold the guitar, 5 years will create muscular changes if you haven't been playing. If you have your guitar, as most do, resting on the leg on the same side as your strumming arm, it is pretty unnatural and pulls the tendon of the bicep. Try resting it in the other leg or wearing a strap to hold it just off your legs and more central to your body.

Let us know what that feels like.

Cheers

Phil


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PosterBoy
post Jul 7 2016, 05:57 PM
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I suffer from golfer's elbow if I'm not careful due to weight training and guitar playing, my physio treats a handful of other guitarist/Mandolin players etc for the same.

Massaging and stretching forearm and bicep muscles helps a lot a lot, as those muscle often get tight and start to pull on the tendons around the elbow


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Mertay
post Jul 7 2016, 07:45 PM
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QUOTE (Serberuss @ Jul 7 2016, 04:23 PM) *
...Perhaps it'd help to upload a photo of myself holding the guitar? If anyone has had this problem in the past I'd be interested to hear how you got around it. Thanks for any help


Yeah photos or a video would help, if someone else can take them while you're playing in your comfort zone it would be better. This must be said; Its ok to take advices from this forum but if the pain is or will get bad going to a specialist and takeing advice would be the best thing to do.

This post has been edited by Mertay: Jul 7 2016, 07:46 PM


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Serberuss
post Jul 7 2016, 09:23 PM
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Thanks for the replies.

I'll try and take some pictures sometime soon and upload them. I have actually tried playing on the other leg before and even though it's nice on the right arm I found it really uncomfortable in general and it just didn't feel right for me. I felt like I couldn't find a good way of holding it in that position.

I did a few more tests tonight and I found that it's mostly an issue when I'm palm muting. Normal when I strum I am picking just before the bridge pickup and my hand is usually floating i.e I don't anchor unless I'm deliberately wanting to mute strings while picking higher notes or I'm palm muting. It seems my arm has an issue when my hand is that far back on the guitar but not when it's a bit more forward.

Haven't tried too much with a strap yet so I'll give that a try.
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Phil66
post Jul 7 2016, 10:07 PM
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Definitely try the strap. I can manage on the opposite leg to strumming hand but recently I've been using a strap. It forces you to have good posture and if you start playing standing up, the guitar is in a similar position.

You may be able to gradually go back to playing on your strumming arm side leg but be careful. You may need the help of a physio.

Phil


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Todd Simpson
post Jul 8 2016, 12:47 AM
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I"m Todd and I"m a Staff Instructor here at GMC and have been here now more than half a decade and been playing more than twice that time. Believe me when I say to you that something like this pain can be VERY serious. I don't want to worry you, but I would STRONGLY suggest you get to a medical professional ASAP. I mean it. You don't want to damage yourself permanently. We can give you advice, and it might help. But none of us are trained medical professionals as far as I am aware. So , PLEASE GO TO THE DOCTOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

After that, we can help you develop better warm up, cool down, ergonomics, etc. But first, you need a Doctor to make the call.

Todd



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verciazghra
post Jul 8 2016, 01:16 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jul 7 2016, 11:47 PM) *
I"m Todd and I"m a Staff Instructor here at GMC and have been here now more than half a decade and been playing more than twice that time. Believe me when I say to you that something like this pain can be VERY serious. I don't want to worry you, but I would STRONGLY suggest you get to a medical professional ASAP. I mean it. You don't want to damage yourself permanently. We can give you advice, and it might help. But none of us are trained medical professionals as far as I am aware. So , PLEASE GO TO THE DOCTOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

After that, we can help you develop better warm up, cool down, ergonomics, etc. But first, you need a Doctor to make the call.

Todd



Wise words. After seeking medical help. Make sure you shake your arms out, stretch and exercise your upper body and arms. Guitar playing is an "athletic" activity and certainly requires foundational muscle maintenance and development. BUT FIRST! See a medical professional as Todd said. I've had all sorts of RSI, burning, pain in wrists, tendonitis. Been able to solve them all by persistently going to medical professionals and also expanding my exercise regime.


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nikeman64
post Jul 8 2016, 07:36 AM
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Definitely : first : medical aid!

But about your playing style : just a thought; do you use proper wrist movement or are you more like a "forearm" player. As you mention the problem zone is the biceps, I think you put a lot of stress on that area if you use your forearm mainly to make up and downstrokes instead of your wrist. Uploading a vid could reveal a lot. Our instructors can tell you if your positioning and playing is OK.

Good luck man and have your arm treated before you play on smile.gif


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Serberuss
post Jul 8 2016, 09:01 AM
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This may sound silly but why sort of medical professional should I be seeing for this? Knowing the doctors near where I live in 90% sure nothing useful will come from seeing them since they're likely to say you just need to practice or go and see a guitar instructor if they have no idea what the issue is in relation to position and guitar playing. I can go anyway and hope they have some sort of experience with issues like this but I'm quite doubtful.

I've made sure that the motion is always in the wrist and never the arm. I'm not sure what the muscle is but it happens above the bicep muscle too. As soon as it starts to ache I stop until it goes away so I never push it too far. The problem is this sometimes means I can't continuously play so if I'm practicing something I have to stop half way through.

Thanks again for the advice
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Mertay
post Jul 8 2016, 09:23 AM
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Is there a college or orchestra around your area? try asking a doctor to older classical musicians (violinist etc.) as usually they usually know the best.

Also monitor your daily activitys, for example using the mouse too long or carrying stuff can affect the muscle but you might only notice the problem when playing guitar.


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Phil66
post Jul 8 2016, 02:30 PM
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QUOTE (Serberuss @ Jul 8 2016, 09:01 AM) *
This may sound silly but why sort of medical professional should I be seeing for this? Knowing the doctors near where I live in 90% sure nothing useful will come from seeing them since they're likely to say you just need to practice or go and see a guitar instructor if they have no idea what the issue is in relation to position and guitar playing. I can go anyway and hope they have some sort of experience with issues like this but I'm quite doubtful.

I've made sure that the motion is always in the wrist and never the arm. I'm not sure what the muscle is but it happens above the bicep muscle too. As soon as it starts to ache I stop until it goes away so I never push it too far. The problem is this sometimes means I can't continuously play so if I'm practicing something I have to stop half way through.

Thanks again for the advice


A physiotherapist or chiropractor. Take your guitar with you. Get him to manipulate your injury first and then ask for advice on holding the guitar. Also tell him you used to be fine, it may indicate an unnoticed injury or strain. The problem with many injuries, if you don't get them sorted within a day or two scar tissue can develop on the muscle/tendon/ligament and it is hard for the physio to break it down. This can lead to limited range of movement.

Let us know what you find out from whoever you go to see.

Phil


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Serberuss
post Jul 8 2016, 05:33 PM
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There are quite a few physiotherapists in the city near me so perhaps that is my best bet. Some of them specialise in sports injuries so I think I might speak to someone and see if they can help me at all.

For the time being I think I'm going to cut down on how much I'm playing guitar, which is sad because I just want to play but obviously I don't want to ruin my ability to play altogether. Later on this month I'm getting a new chair which I think might help as well because the one I currently play on is quite uncomfortable anyway. Also since I haven't long started back going to the gym it's probably a good idea to give my arms a rest anyway, even though I'm not sure whether it's related but I wouldn't have thought so
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verciazghra
post Jul 8 2016, 07:03 PM
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QUOTE (Serberuss @ Jul 8 2016, 08:01 AM) *
This may sound silly but why sort of medical professional should I be seeing for this? Knowing the doctors near where I live in 90% sure nothing useful will come from seeing them since they're likely to say you just need to practice or go and see a guitar instructor if they have no idea what the issue is in relation to position and guitar playing. I can go anyway and hope they have some sort of experience with issues like this but I'm quite doubtful.

I've made sure that the motion is always in the wrist and never the arm. I'm not sure what the muscle is but it happens above the bicep muscle too. As soon as it starts to ache I stop until it goes away so I never push it too far. The problem is this sometimes means I can't continuously play so if I'm practicing something I have to stop half way through.

Thanks again for the advice

Hey again. If you wanna go nuts about it go see an Alexander Technique Therapist. In sweden we also have something called Occupational Therapists which deal with these sort of things too. Chiropractors or osteopaths are also a decently good bet. Someone who specializes in sports injuries would normally do fine with these sort of things in my experience.

Personally I've gone to them all and find them equally beneficial depending on the cause of my injury. (Except for Alexander Technique Therapists which are a bit too expensive for me.)


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Serberuss
post Jul 9 2016, 04:13 PM
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Hey again sorry for the delay on getting these pictures up. I did my best but I took them by myself in a kind of selfie style. This should give you an idea of how I play palm muted. In this position my arm will eventually start to ache as if there's tension there, light at first and gradually gets worse but I never let it get that far because I rest it
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Mertay
post Jul 9 2016, 05:18 PM
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I didn't notice anything wrong with your holding position, one question though; The upper right arm rest where the guitar body is cut, do you apply some pressure there? I do but when wearing a t-shirt, the skin doesn't slip from there and even if I really relax my arm it doesn't fall from position.


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Kristofer Dahl
post Jul 9 2016, 09:24 PM
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QUOTE (Phil66 @ Jul 8 2016, 03:30 PM) *
A physiotherapist or chiropractor.


This! A skilled chiropractor helped me get back to playing after 6 months of left arm pain.


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Todd Simpson
post Jul 10 2016, 05:00 AM
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I'd start with a General Practitioner and if he is simply no help, ask him to refer you to a Physical Therapist. I've gone to many a physical therapist dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome/repetitive stress injury from Guitar Playing. It's why I post a video of stretches in front of my Lesson smile.gif Here it is. P.S. I"VE BEEN STRETCHING FOR DECADES, DON"T TRY TO STRETCH THIS FAR. STOP AT THE POINT OF TENSION



I really hope the medical system in your home town is not as clueless as you suggest. If it is, I'd still say start with the family doctor (assuming you have one of course) then ask to be referred to a specialist and or Physical Therapy.

As for playing, as was mentioned, playing from "THE ELBOW" is a good way to end up putting more stress than is needed on your arm. Try to pick from the fingers back, not the elbow forward. E.G. Start the pick strike with your fingers. Then add some wrist if needed. Try to leave the forearm/elbow out of it entirely if possible.

Here is a quick video demo. (alwys best to show imho)
*Notice how I'm picking using my fingers and a bit of wrist. My forearm is planted on the guitar, not using any elbow. This method is very effective and precise. It can result in a byproduct of enormous speed, with practice.



here is another example. Notice how I"m articulating the pick using my thumb and first finger. Then adding some wrist in at speed.Forearm stays still. Starts slow, ends on crazy.



Todd

P.S. NEVER PLAY TO THE POINT OF PAIN. EVER. smile.gif

QUOTE (Serberuss @ Jul 8 2016, 04:01 AM) *
This may sound silly but why sort of medical professional should I be seeing for this? Knowing the doctors near where I live in 90% sure nothing useful will come from seeing them since they're likely to say you just need to practice or go and see a guitar instructor if they have no idea what the issue is in relation to position and guitar playing. I can go anyway and hope they have some sort of experience with issues like this but I'm quite doubtful.

I've made sure that the motion is always in the wrist and never the arm. I'm not sure what the muscle is but it happens above the bicep muscle too. As soon as it starts to ache I stop until it goes away so I never push it too far. The problem is this sometimes means I can't continuously play so if I'm practicing something I have to stop half way through.

Thanks again for the advice


This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jul 10 2016, 05:03 AM


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Serberuss
post Jul 10 2016, 06:24 PM
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I'm not deliberately applying pressure to where my arm rests on the guitar but I just let it kind of sit there so I can certainly feel it resting on the guitar but I'm not pushing down or anything onto it.

Kris - how come you had to see a chiropractor? How did it help resolve your issue? I'm not at the point where my arm is painful or anything like that, in my day to day routine there is no pain. It's only when I play guitar can I start to feel tension building up at certain times, but I always stop before the pain comes and allow the arm to rest for about 10 seconds before I resume playing again.

Todd - very interesting videos do you know of any good stretches for the upper arm area? This is where my issue is mainly at the moment. I'll double check my picking technique but I'm fairly sure this is what I'm doing, I have been giving my picking arm extra attention lately so I should have noticed if it was being used.

My GP isn't clueless I would say but this seems like a bit of a specialist area where I wouldn't expect the average doctor to know what the issue was. I thought perhaps having a guitar instructor locally look at my technique as well might be an option.


As a side question what sort of seating do you use for playing guitar? Is a stool better or a chair with a good back support a better option? Do you like to keep your back straight or slouch a bit over the guitar when you play?

This post has been edited by Serberuss: Jul 10 2016, 06:25 PM
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Kristofer Dahl
post Jul 10 2016, 07:04 PM
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QUOTE (Serberuss @ Jul 10 2016, 07:24 PM) *
Kris - how come you had to see a chiropractor? How did it help resolve your issue? I'm not at the point where my arm is painful or anything like that, in my day to day routine there is no pain. It's only when I play guitar can I start to feel tension building up at certain times, but I always stop before the pain comes and allow the arm to rest for about 10 seconds before I resume playing again.


I had the same thing but (maybe) a bit worse: It only bothered me when playing, but I had no strength whatsoever and was feeling pain (not extremely bad though). As soon as I picked the guitar up it was obvious I wasn't supposed ot play it. After a couple of month of no playing I decided to do something about it - as time did not seem to heal it.


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