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I was hoping I could get some advice from more experienced players, musicians about this issue I'm currently suffering.

I'm an 18-year-old girl who plays guitar. In fact, lately I had been playing for long hours a day (8 to 10 when possible). I started to notice that I woke up with stiff fingers. I could perfectly move them but it felt like they were swollen. They did not look swollen, just felt like it. The next weird thing I noticed was that when I started playing my left (fretting) hand went numb. Not completely "asleep", but kind of numb. I continued playing and it quickly went away. That didn't happen again for a couple of weeks.

Fast forward to yesterday, I woke up with stiff fingers as always, but this time when I started playing I felt that numbness once again, and I got a little scared, so I made some research and I found out about CTS and other similar conditions. I immediately stopped playing.

I don't feel pain whatsoever, just a little uncomfortable in the base of the thumb. What I do feel sometimes is that tingling feeling, but not just on three fingers but on my whole hand. Sometimes I feel it also in my right (non-fretting) hand, just not as much.

I'm going to the doctor tomorrow, but I wanted to have also another musicians opinions, and a bit of encouragement also, because I want to study guitar in the near future and I feel like this is going to ruin everything.

Sorry for the long rant. Thank you in advanced to everyone.

  • i had tendinitis years ago and it hurt...a lot. what you are describing sounds more like CTS, but i am not medical expert. going to the dr is the correct thing to do. – b3ko Jul 2 '18 at 13:24
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    Seeing the doctor is the best thing to do. 10 hours a day is a lot of practice, so it's not surprising that you might encounter some kind of repetitive motion problems. You might have to practice a bit less and/or make sure you are using the best technique. In addition to a doctor, I'd suggest a guitar teacher who can make sure you're not using a poor technique. Aside from all that, this question itself isn't a great fit here. This site isn't about offering opinions or discussions, and as you fully understand, we're not in a position to offer medical advice. – Todd Wilcox Jul 2 '18 at 13:25
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10 hours is a little much even for a pro. You're not proving anything by taking on that much practice. Like anything you need to take breaks. Getting good at the guitar is a matter of programming your muscles and nerves and that programming requires rest time to work properly.

I'd ask if you are a music major in school or planing a career in music, or just obsessed with playing guitar? This would drive my advice in a slightly different direction. I've seen and answered similar questions on this sight and will give the same information.

First, stiffness in the fingers can be due to multiple conditions. It may be a result of over practicing but it could also be diet. Too much salt, coffee, or alcohol will cause one to wake up with stiff joints. If this is the issue you will recover easily since you are young. On the more serious side finger stiffness and pain is a specific symptom of psoriatic arthritis which is an auto immune condition that needs medication to bring under control. CTS is another condition that will make your thumb and first two fingers feel stiff due to a pinched or aggravated nerve.

I am a professional musician (have been for decades) but also earn money programming. I get CTS from typing too much. I have had almost every hand related condition known and I can say from personal experience that every one was self inflicted by bad posture or incorrect hand position.

If you are self taught you may have developed some bad habits that are causing the stiffness and other symptom you are experiencing. Without seeing you hold the guitar and play there is no way to ascertain if your posture is causing the problem. Take a break and see if it goes away, then go back to a lighter practice schedule and make sure your posture is correct. If it persists see a doctor. Most of these conditions can be corrected fast without surgery but if you continue to injure yourself over years the problems will be chronic and irreversible.

Some points to be aware of:

  1. The left hand (hand that fingers the strings) should be open with the thumb behind the neck, not over the edge, and not squeezing too hard.

  2. The right arm (picking or finger style picking) elbow should not be closed at an extreme angle.

  3. Wrists should not be bent backwards, only slightly forwards if needed.

  4. If the right forearm is resting on the edge of a large acoustic guitar this will pinch the nerve that induces CTS.

Other than that see a doctor and take lessons from an experienced professional guitarist.

Before considering the worst option

  • Note that Tom Morello practiced for 8 hours a day every day while he was in college. It shows. – Todd Wilcox Jul 2 '18 at 14:43
  • 8 is not 10, and if he had good posture habits and took breaks not problem. Segovia had a similar schedule all his life. – ggcg Jul 2 '18 at 16:30

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