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Cramps in chord hand

04 Jan 04 - 11:51 AM (#1085798)
Subject: Cramps in chord hand
From: ducksy

Do any guitar players know how to deal with cramps in the left chord hand ?.I used to gig quite a lot and never had a problem.Maybe its nearing the sixty mark.

04 Jan 04 - 11:53 AM (#1085801)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: s&r

Did you stand with a strap? Are you sitting now?

04 Jan 04 - 12:46 PM (#1085822)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: ducksy

it happens st anding and sitting.

04 Jan 04 - 02:19 PM (#1085871)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,Louise

A couple of suggestions:

The opposite of cramping is - you guessed it, stretching. Do gentle and slow stretching of the left neck/shoulder/arm/hand on a regular basis. Even though the whole arm/shoulder area isn't involved in fingering, the blood flow to the muscles involved has to get through a couple of tight places in the joints.

Get in you're playing position and focus your attention on the left arm/hand. Is there more muscle tension there than needed to do the job? Are your joints flexed tighter than 90 degrees? Perhaps even a minor adjustment of position, or learning to relax some of the tension in the left arm/hand would help. Any chronic stress can cause inflammation and swelling that constricts nerves and blood vessels. If you're dealing with a repetitive strain injury you'll have to find a way to avoid the strain.

Work at getting at least 1 Gram of calcium in the daily diet along with 400 Units of Vitamin D (post menopausal women can do with 1.5 Grams) The best dietary sources are dairy products.

If you're taking any medications or herbs check with a pharmacist to see if they could be affecting your potassium levels. Many diuretics do. Potassium as well as calcium is involved in nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

Hope this helps.

04 Jan 04 - 02:51 PM (#1085897)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Cluin

Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Good thing we don't have to follow scripture to the letter, eh?

Do the stretching and warm-ups before hand, as Louise suggests. Maybe some squeeze exercises with a tennis ball too.

04 Jan 04 - 03:14 PM (#1085908)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: ducksy

Thanks for the info.I have been taking anti inflamitaries for gout maybe that is the problem.

04 Jan 04 - 03:26 PM (#1085920)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Peter Woodruff

Do you usually play in a bar? Have a few drinks and fondle something or someone. Your handcramps will subside. Trust me.


04 Jan 04 - 05:53 PM (#1085994)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: C-flat

I once had a cramp problem after joining up with a blues band. After years of playing more complicated styles I was really enjoying playing relatively simple rhythm and bassic chords while the horn section took most of the "fill" work. I discovered that my barre technique was the problem (too much pressure) as I wasn't used to using barre chords for prolonged periods. I sorted it out eventually, but there were nights when I improvised any shape but a barre.

04 Jan 04 - 06:08 PM (#1086004)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Cluin

Never had cramping in my left hand, but I have in my right one. I found I was grabbing the pick too tight. Switching to a heavier pick with a good gripping surface (like the Brain picks have) helped.

Of course I did have another problem with my right hand while working construction years ago. Several months with a large heavy hammer rivalling Mjollnir, with a no-give metal handle, used for making and knocking apart concrete forms for footings and basements for 12 hour days in cold wet weather, 6 days a week, left me with a serious cramping problem for a while. Every morning's first duty was to pry the stiff claw straight and massage it back to life. Lasted for about 6 months after I left that job. Luckily no lasting damage was done (I think).

04 Jan 04 - 06:30 PM (#1086019)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: McGrath of Harlow

Cramps are muscle pains you get because there isn't enough blood going through the muscles to flush away the toxins produced in the course of the work they are doing.

So if you can relax some of the muscles in the arm it should help.

One way would be, if you are sitting, rest the elbow in a table while you are playing. Or I suppose you could rig up some kind of a sling to rest it in while you are playing.

The idea would be that the muscles holding your arm and hand up wouldn't have to be working, so more blood should get through to the hand muscles which are playing the guitar.

04 Jan 04 - 07:40 PM (#1086064)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Callie

I solved the cramps problem by changing guitars. Stopped playing a nylon striong with a thick neck to a steel string with a skinny one. never looked back!

05 Jan 04 - 12:28 AM (#1086179)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,Les B.

I get them once in a while, due to my blood pressure meds. I try to eat a banana for the potassium, and drink milk for the calcium.
Sure is embarrasing when you've got to pry your left hand off the neck. The audience thinks you're doing a "Dr. Strangelove" impression!

05 Jan 04 - 05:01 AM (#1086235)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: breezy

dont play barre chords so much, bout time you played more lead and fill ins at your age.
If you played outdoors your hand would have dropped off in the cold weather.

05 Jan 04 - 03:30 PM (#1086530)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: ducksy

Thanks for all the help i will try as suggested.

05 Jan 04 - 06:22 PM (#1086665)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Liz the Squeak

Guess after today I better give up ironing.... thanks for the hints about meds and such!

Why is it in just the one finger though?


05 Jan 04 - 07:00 PM (#1086693)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Long Firm Freddie

If the cramp's not too severe, a quick cure is to put your hand flat on a table (or bar, perhaps!) for about ten seconds, with your forearm straight upwards.


06 Jan 04 - 12:25 AM (#1086848)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,Tim Ausburn

I find that if I rub both hands with Super strength Ben-Gay about an hour before playing and wait about 15 minutes and wipe my hands with a hot wet towel I get the blood circulation going and the joints loosened up. I take a couple of Ibuprofen pills a day also. As I get closer to 70 I need all the help I can get to keep the fingers moving.

06 Jan 04 - 12:40 AM (#1086855)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: LadyJean

The muscles in my neck and shoulders tie themselves in knots. When they do this, I have problems with my hands. Massage therapy makes the knots go away, and my hands are happy.
Oh, my special hand therapy from when I broke my arm. Hold a good read in one hand, and a set of chiming balls in the other. Manipulate the chiming balls while enjoying your good read. It gives you an excuse to read longer than you should. It also seems to help.

06 Jan 04 - 03:13 AM (#1086886)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Gurney

I get cramp down the edge of my palm, below the little finger. I put it down to not playing the box as much as I did once, and stretch them out like Long Firm Freddie suggests.
I've also noticed that I usually get cramp (elsewhere, usually legs)when I haven't taken enough liquids during a hot day, which may tie in with the dietary and medication observations.

06 Jan 04 - 04:02 PM (#1087286)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton

If you could learn to play the chords gently rather than over pressing the strings with a relaxed shoulder and a curved arm, sitting in an upright but comfortable relaxed position without leaning over the instrument, this can help. The angle of the hand and arm over the guitar is important here.

Another aspect of muscular tension is related to diet. High concentration of dairy products can inhibit the flow of blood to the arms and hands. This idea is controversial to many. I know there are those who won't believe this or support it and it may not be true for everyone but this has helped me over the years considerably. I am principally a chord player and use this daily in my work as a pro musician.

I've noticed that sometimes when I try to play a fast passage, the idea of not making it ties up my hands and aggravation can bring on tension. The way out of it I've found is to think about something else and let the fingers do the walking. Often, concentration on what I'm trying to say musically rather than worry about whether I'm going to flub the next note. This becomes pronounced for me when on a recording date and I have to find a way to deal with it by forgetting my fingers and concentrating on the musical values.

Another idea would be to practice standing up with a comfortable guitar strap. I use a Slider which balances the guitar and keeps me from slumping forward. When the blood is circulating in a standing a moving manner it frees up my arms and hands.

Hope this is some help to you. It's a problem every guitarist is familiar with.


06 Jan 04 - 05:37 PM (#1087371)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: DonMeixner

Warm up the fingers with simple excercises. I used to cut cards one handed which worked fine drink lots of fluids like Gin and Quinineonly skip the gin. Or a sports drink. Raise the electrolytes.
But warm ups are the best source of cramp relief.


06 Jan 04 - 05:48 PM (#1087381)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand

Accept the fact that you'll be dying soon, and be thankful that God took the time to remind ya!

06 Jan 04 - 10:45 PM (#1087584)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: nager

Rest from conventional tunings and use open tunings for a while which require less fingering. Try and lower the fretboard action and use a smaller width fretboard too.

25 Apr 04 - 12:06 PM (#1170465)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,bobby

I just a bought a 51 d28 at a yard sale yipie

26 Apr 04 - 09:25 AM (#1171182)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: The Fooles Troupe

Two things help with my cramps.

1) Quninine - you can get quinine tablets from some chemists - but the easiest way is Tonic Water - a Gin and Tonic has two relaxants...

2) Acetosalicylic acid - Aspirin - 'dilutes the blood' inteh flok parlance, but it does assist the circulation. Only small quantities - less than a tablet a day about 100 Mg at most is necessary to achieve the effect. When my hands were feeling 'slow' a dose of this an hour or so beforehand would asist in 'loosening up' the hands to ripple on the accordion.


26 Apr 04 - 01:50 PM (#1171447)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Mudlark

I dont get cramps, per se, but have a trigger finger that drives me crazy sometimes. Best way for me to loosen up is to take fingers off strings for a beat and flex, it amazing how many of these tiny breaks you can fit in to smooth playing.

Also, if you decide to give calcium a try (and it's a good suggestion) be sure to add magnesium (which has just as much effect on muscle tension). Ratio: 1000 mg cal/500 mg magnesium.

Frank...interesting info on effect of dairy products on muscle tension. I've never heard that. Indicates that supplements might be a better way of getting needed calcium than drinking a lot of milk.

26 Apr 04 - 10:46 PM (#1171871)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: Scoville

I try to avoid chords that give me cramps (mainly, A and C) by using a capo as much as possible (I'm in my mid-20's, so I hope it's not an age thing, although I've probably played instruments long enough to do at least some damage to my hands). I second the open-tuning recommendation, too.

27 Apr 04 - 04:46 AM (#1172032)
Subject: RE: Cramps in chord hand
From: GUEST,Bryant

When I get 'em (lots of barre chords are usually the culprit) I'll run my wrist under hot water (as hot as I can stand) for a minute or two. That'll usually buy me another hour.