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I am looking for a good reference for hand exercises and advice on pinky problems.

After an accident on 2017 where I sprained my wrist (3rd degree that forced me away from my guitar) my index and pinky fingers have a slight bend outward, which is reduced a bit by exercise. I’m retaking the guitar, but I can’t hold some basic chords like F and want to know if anyone has had a similar experience and how you managed it, especially if you went through surgery. I’m an MD so you can be sure I'll ask around, but surgery is a bit radical and has more complications than possible benefits for a non-professional guitarist, and not many docs play any instrument so their advice is very limited.

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  • Could you say, what is an MD? – tommsch Nov 12 '20 at 11:28
  • @tommsch - I bet MD means medical doctor. It's possible that the OP has a specialty that does not cover fingers. – Dekkadeci Nov 12 '20 at 13:08
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If your injured hand is in good enough condition to hold a pick, you might want to try switching from righty-to-lefty (or vice versa depending on how you play today). You might also want to start with holding the pick like James Hetfield - uses 3 fingers instead of two just for additional stability.

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Good day, Rob. I am very sorry to hear about your problem. It's disappointing, to say the least, to have something like that happen if you are dedicated to your musical instrument, regardless of whether you are a professional musician or not (I'm not a professional musician either).

I assume you meant spraining your wrist, especially given the rest of your description, which sounds like some of the carpal bones got dislocated due to complete rupture of some of the ligaments (had you actually immobilised the wrist following the accident?). I had a somewhat similar experience as a child (I had 2 fingers sprained in addition to the wrist on my left hand). I personally recommend finding a good chiropractor first, before attempting anything more "invasive", that's what's helped me (and fairly quickly as well: within only 3 sessions).

Other than that, physiotherapy... And a physiotherapist will be able to refer you to a doctor who specialises in sports-related injuries (that's the secret with problems like that when it comes to music: pretend you're an athlete and look for professionals an athlete would try to find if they had a similar issue).

You could also try switching to a lap guitar. Having the fretboard aligned horizontally should theoretically take some pressure off your wrists.

If none of the above helps, the last resort I can personally think of (because ligaments don't really "heal" except through scar tissue and only in certain areas of the body) before attempting surgery is to switch strumming hands. Assuming you're right-handed, just switch to strumming with your left.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend much in terms of exercise, because I haven't had any mobility (or finger-bending) issues myself. Except a small rubber band for the hand (if you can find one in your country), which is a rubber ring that you place into the palm of your hand and then "squeeze" with your fingers. But I would be very careful with that and not overexercise. Alternatively, hand grips follow the same principle, but try to find some that offer as little resistance as possible. And please run this suggestion through a specialist if you intend to attempt it, because I am not a qualified physician and can only recommend what I have learnt from people who are actually qualified.

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My question to you would be how well were you playing before the injury? And were you playing classical, acoustic, electric? Taking lessons or self taught?

I have rolled my ankle many times, snapping the ligaments or tendons. It can take more than a year before things get back to normal and for serious sprains things may take longer than that. But you're a doctor so you know that.

Some guitarists tend to over exert themselves, squeezing way too hard when they don't need to. If your guitar is properly adjusted and your technique good it should not take a lot of force to hold chords down. The F is probably more difficult than others but it should only require a light touch.

I am a professional guitarist and 25 years ago developed a ganglion cyst in my left wrist. It was horrible, crippled my hand and I could barely play. I didn't have surgery but a hand doctor used a syringe to extract the fluid. The problem was to some degree self inflicted by playing with bad left hand posture, emulating Jimmy Page with the thumb over the edge of the neck and the wrist bent back. Since then I've developed my chops 100 times better and now play classical as well as modern guitar. I've never gone back to the old habit that led to the cyst. Your case is different being a sudden injury but I think it may be an opportunity to revisit your technique and make improvements. I can't make any judgement about needing surgery but will say that if things do not improve then a corrective procedure would probably not be such a bad idea.

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