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MP173
(@mp173)
Eminent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

I have been playing about 4 years off and on, but really making some good steps the past year or so.

I have a new practice discipline this year and I am following a book on exercizes. I am now to the part on barre chords and am running into some pain in my fretting thumb.

When I play barre chords for a period of time, usually 3 minutes or longer, my thumb really starts to get sore.

Any suggestions? Any comments?

Is this something that builds up strength with time? My guitar teacher has been playing for almost 30 years and he thinks it is a matter of building strength.

ed


   
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PsYcHoNIK
(@psychonik)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 268
 

noooooooo! it's not just a matter of building up strength, it's a matter of playing them with the least amount of tension possible...and using a heavy arm, letting the weight of your arm push down the strings with less "pinching" with your thumb... It's difficult to find the way, but once you do it will be so much easier (not saying that building up strength won't help...because it will, but build strength properly, instead of putting constant pressure on your thum, inevitably doing damage...
guitarprincipals.com has more on the subject...


   
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Alan Green
(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

Absolutely - the thumb's job is to stop the neck of your guitar from moving around.

Practice barre chords without using the thumb at all - seriously, and see how possible it really is.

You certainly need to build stamina, but that's not the same as the Vulcan Death Grip.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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Wes Inman
(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

MP173

I can totally relate to your thread. I have had problems with the thumb on my fretting hand for years. Not only does it hurt, I even have times where I get numbness in my hand. I have had to learn to be aware at all times and not put a lot of pressure on my thumb.

It has never prevented my from playing, but the pain can be intense. The numbness is even worse.

All I can say it try to figure out which positions and conditions are causing this and see if you can alter your thumb position. Be aware of pressure on your thumb.

This is something that happened slowly over time, but I have never been able to completely get rid of this problem. But I am careful now and my thumb does not give me as much problem anymore.

But do something about it. It can become a permanent injury.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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bltc
 bltc
(@bltc)
Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 62
 

Sometimes I get a numb feeling too, but only when I grip the neck too hard, or the wrong way.

This may sound strange, but you might want to pick up a stress ball.
I won't boldly correlate the reduction of thumb pains with the stress ball, but ever since I bought a stress ball over the holidays I noticed that I haven't encountered thumb pains or the numb feeling while trying to bar for a long time.


   
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MP173
(@mp173)
Eminent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

Thanks for the responses.

This is not numbness, but is pain that extends into the meaty part of the thumb.

BTW....I am in my late 40's and also have some joint pain in my elbow and also some muscle pain (both in my left arm). I have never really experienced much pain in my life (lucky) and consider these to be due to playing guitar. Neither the elbow or the muscle pain is critical in that I need to stop, but more of an annoyance.

The thumb causes me to stop the barre chords. So, I guess the solution is ... no barre chords, or at least limit them with open chords and other voicings which are not painful.

Which should make me a better guitar player.

ed


   
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Alan Green
(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

You should pay more attention to your warmup routine. By the sound of it, you're running the risk of tendonitis. Spend 10 minutes at the start of your practice session just playing single note melodies, open chords, that sort of thing.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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RollnROCK89
(@rollnrock89)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 342
 

Yeah, a good warmup really helps my playing. Hopefully it will keep me injury free as I get older. I always start off by doing simple single note runs and easy chords.

The first time I heard a Beatles song was "Let It Be." Some little kid was singing along with it: "Let it pee, let it pee" and pretending he was taking a leak. Hey, that's what happened, OK?-some guy


   
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m07zm4n
(@m07zm4n)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 184
 

I have this sometimes, too (I think I even posted it here some time ago...)
If I'm carefull AND as aware as possible it goes away.
Sometimes it helps to use some lotion for muscle, tendon and bones after a practice session. It helps alot in my case.
It's not to say that this will substitude propper playing but in case you did something wrong a good lotion can change a world afterwards...
That's atleast my little experience and my two cents...

NO MORE THEORY!!
um...
KNOW MORE THEORY!!!!

<------>
motz
<------>


   
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undercat
(@undercat)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 959
 

I had this EXACT same problem. Barre chords for any length of time have given me trouble since day one, and the solution came in the form of several important changes to the way I played.

1. Stopped relying on barre chords. Well, no, it's not exactly elegant, but you have to face the idea that if you are doing the exact same motion for long period of time, the muscles get stressed. If I still need the voicing, I can close like this:

Normal Barre:

E-A-D-G-B-E
1|||||||1|1
||||||2||||
||3|4||||||
|||||||||||

Replacement 1:

E-A-D-G-B-E
1||||||||||
||||||2||||
||3|4||||||
|||||||||||

Replacement 2:

E-A-D-G-B-E
||||||||1||
||||||2||||
||3|4||||||
|||||||||||

Replacement 3:

E-A-D-G-B-E
||||||||2|1
||||||3||||
||||4||||||
|||||||||||

These are especially handy if you're just trying to emphasise a particular part of the chord anyways, and don't need the full "church" effect. I tend to use these more on electric, as they keep the sound less muddy than a full barre anyways.

2. Realized I was thinking about it wrong: At some point I picked up on the fact that I was really concentrating on squeezing, rather than just applying enough pressure to do the chord. That changed things.

3. Built some strength and technique. When you first start out with anything, you're going to be wasting some energy because you don't have a good grasp on exactly how it feels to do it right, once you get that figured out, it will take less strength. At the same time, the more you do it, the more conditioned your hand muscles will become, and that will make it easier too.

Anyhow good luck with all that, and above all, experiment with approaches to find out what works best for you.

Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...


   
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Pitney2000
(@pitney2000)
Eminent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 29
 

i hate barre chords ...i dont use them much anymore only when i want that particular voicing ... you might want to look into some d'jango/gypsy/jazz chords... you can play most anything and never use a barre chord...for the pain a good friend and massage therapist told me ...when i was having a lot of trouble with pain in my fingers... to be sure to massage my arm from the shoulder through the fore arm all the way to the hands ... its really easy to get caught up in playing and stress out those muscles before you know it.. it helped a lot for the pain in my hands ...now i do fight with pain in my upper arms but im working on massage and some strengh training at the gym to give me more endurance....i agree that the thumb is really just there to keep the guitar neck from failing around... you may want to check your hand position ...being self taught i got into a bad habit of playing everything with my hand in the first position ...when i finally broke that habit my hands got a lot better also ....i did post some of the jazz style chords i have learned in the
Improving Chord Knowlege thread in this forum if you want to check it out...anyway good luck i hope this helps

joyce..


   
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nathan1709
(@nathan1709)
Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 47
 

I know exactly what you mean about the sore thumb! Personally i tend to turn my thumb slightly at an angle rather than have it flat against the back of the neck and i think this makes it worse. Try and keep your thumb as flat as possible and although it sounds simple try not to tense up and choke the neck!

"This is a public service announcement.....with guitars"


   
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