View Full Version : uke injury, I majorly need your advice!

08-11-2008, 07:47 AM
Hey! I'm curious if anyone else has ever had this problem.

A couple months ago, I started having a lot of pain in my fretting hand, particularly my pointer finger.

I KNOW, GO TO A DOCTOR! I did ;-) He said to lay off the uke for six weeks, which I really in truly did do.

So I just started up again this week, and I'm getting a little of the pain again. SO yes, I will go to a doctor, promise.

But I'm curious, has anybody else overstrained their fingers playing? How long did it take to go away? I'm wondering at what point I should just give up and restring my uke to fret with the opposite hand... which would be a pain to learn, but better than not being able to play at all. Is it possible that I'm holding the uke wrong??? It doesn't seem like I should be able to hurt my hand so much just from playing. I think a uke teacher might be better than a doctor at this point to tell me if my grip might be what's causing the finger problems!

08-11-2008, 09:02 AM
i can think of a few reasons:
A) grip is to tight.
-might be from the action on your uke is too high
-you just have an iron grip and need to loosen up
B) If you work with computers it might be from typing.playing the uke is the last thing you hand needs.
-can either quityour job or quit work...i would do the former =p
C)depending on your age you might have arthritis

i had a few other reasons in my head while i was reading you post and i forgot them >.< if i remember ill edit this post. Your best bet is find a teacher for a lesson or two and see what s/he says.

08-11-2008, 09:15 AM
I had a lot of trouble with hand pain when I started playing. One of the first things I did was put a strap on my uke. Then I was not supporting the weight so much with my hand. It made a huge difference for me.

I also decided on concert size because Rich's tenor and baritone were enough bigger that I got cramps in my hand playing them. (That's gotten better as my hands have gotten stronger.)

I still occasionally have to make liberal use of Aleve and I keep tiger balm in my gig bag. And when we play on stage, I get so nervous that I grip really hard and my left hand gets really sore, really fast.

08-11-2008, 10:25 AM
My biggest fear is now that I've found the uke, the arthritis that runs in my family will become a problem since that I'm headed towards 50. My poor brother has just about given up guitar but can still play bass, and he's only in his sixties.
Unless your older, it shouldn't be arthritis. Did your doc give you any clue, or is it just from over use? Do string players get carpo tunnel? Maybe get one of those hand squeezie things and try beefing up the muscles in your whole hand, that might help the muscles that your overworking when playing.
Good Luck.

(besides being afraid of arthritis, I have become very careful when using a knife or handling hot pans in the kitchen. And god forbid if I get a hang nail!)

08-11-2008, 01:05 PM
Maybe get one of those hand squeezie things and try beefing up the muscles in your whole hand, And god forbid if I get a hang nail!)

i remember there was a thread about those hand squeeze things, and a bunch of people said they mess up hands left and right.

08-12-2008, 12:18 AM
nope not me, i get cramps every now and again...
but thats only when i play for ages...

i recently cut my point finger open now i cant play dragon :'(

08-12-2008, 12:37 AM

I few months back i was feeling numbness in the fingers of my left hand.
I went to the doctors and got a referal to go to the specialist. I Had Carpel tunnel where the nerves in your fingers have been damaged.

I stopped playing uke for awhile and was ona heavy medication. Lucky it helped heaps and im back to normal.
What i do suggest is, take heaps of breaks and dont play for too long.
trust me, you dont want to go through what i went through

08-12-2008, 03:30 AM
oooh we talking about pain now??

my back is kefe'd and im only 17, it hurts to bend over, bend down... pick something up...
my advice to everybody, do not pick up things without a straight back, it will ruin your life from then on and continuous pain, i got it from my current part-time job..

the pain isn't worth the money.

08-12-2008, 08:48 AM
Oh dear, I hope it's nothing serious like carpal tunnel. I don't think so.

So I actually did manage to play last night pain free. There's three major things that might have helped. First, I cut my fingernail really short. I don't keep them long, but as long as the tip of my finger, so I thought maybe it was forcing me to bend my finger kind of backwards. (The worst notes for me are things like F and Bb where the pointer ends up behind the third finger. I think mine tends to bend the wrong way.)

Second, I bandaged it up. This probably didn't help much since it was still moving, but maybe it forced me to so down!

Finally, I took sailqwest's advice and fashioned a strap out of a piece of string run through this nook on the back of my Flea and around my neck. I think this made the biggest difference. Thanks for the advice!!! I'm wondering how the strap changes the grip on the uke. Perhaps I hold it higher up on my body, but I wonder what difference that makes?

Question- I think i know what gripper things you're talking about to improve strength. Where would you buy something like that?

08-12-2008, 08:58 AM
tennis ball should work, but if you want to buy one specific, i would imagine a sports store or body building store would have them.

08-12-2008, 09:01 AM
I am just getting over a tendon injury on my left hand. My middle finger got damaged when I was playing with my dog and for a month I had to wear a splint to keep it from moving or being hit. Very annoying. Very challenging to try and practice the uke with one finger sticking straight up like I was flipping someone off all the time.

Getting better though. Now I can practice and play, albeit my finger isn't as fast or as accurate as before and after an hour or so it starts to hurt again.

When anyone asked me what I'd done, I'd tell them I was playing my uke so hard and fast, the fretboard was smoking, the strings singing. I heard this sudden pop and assumed it was a string I'd broken, but no, it was a tendon...

08-12-2008, 01:18 PM
wow i'm glad it doesn't hurt to play anymore. I can't believe you stopped playing for 6 weeks! :eek:

Liz W.
08-16-2008, 07:05 PM
I'm a former classical guitarist and bassist who's had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. I couldn't play for 16 years. When I fell in love with the uke, I had to learn to play left-handed.

I wanted to add to the advice given so far. Muscle pain is tendinitis from overuse of a muscle too weak to take what you're asking it to do. Tendinitis means an inflamed tendon, which is always accompanied by swelling, however minute. Nerve pain comes when the inflammation/swelling impinges on the nerve. Eventually, the impingement damages the nerve. It's worth your while to get rid of that inflammation before it starts irritating the nerve.

Here's what helps:

Good posture when you play - the nerves in your hand start in your neck and can get impinged and irritated anywhere between neck and fingertip. (this goes for computer use too!)

Rest often - shorter playing periods are better than an extended one. Even a short break will help. Think of your hands like a car: the parts can overheat. Also, muscles rebuild when they rest - give them that chance. The only way to beat tendinitis is to strengthen slowly and gradually. (taking breaks goes for computer use too).

Start out slow - warm up your hands before playing the more difficult stuff.

Stretch, then ice your hands and forearms after you play, especially if you have any pain. Rubbing an ice cube (or 2) over them until the skin is red and cold. (It gets easier over time, I promise.)

Strengthen the extensor muscles in your hands and arms too! Those are the muscles that open your hand. Gripping uses your flexor muscles. Because so much of what we do every day (writing, eating typing) uses the flexors, they are most at risk for overuse injuries. Help them out by strengthening the extensors. (bonus: strong extensors are what give you speed.)

Here's my favorite extensor exercise: Get a thick rubber band. I use the one from a bunch of broccoli as it's just the right tension. Put it around the thumb and fingers of your fretting hand above the second knuckle. Straighten your fingers and slowly and smoothly open them. If you need to, assist with your other hand. You don't want to strain. Do 3 sets of 5-8 reps, resting 45 seconds between sets. Add a rep or two each week.

Happy, healhy playing to us all!

08-17-2008, 12:35 AM
wow i'm glad it doesn't hurt to play anymore. I can't believe you stopped playing for 6 weeks! :eek:

yeah thats what i was thinking, 6 weeks from uke... uke so peaceful to me ;D
and i would lose my touch... not that theres much there, but its there

08-17-2008, 01:41 AM
Liz W - many thanks for your really useful post. It's great when someone posts practical things we can try out.

08-18-2008, 01:29 PM
Hi Liz W! It's great to hear from someone who's been through this, but I'm so sorry to hear about your ordeal. Really good advice though. I just got some rubberbands with my groceries today, so I'm going to try out this exercise.

And hey, welcome to the forum! :p Hope to see you around some more!

08-18-2008, 01:31 PM
yeah thats what i was thinking, 6 weeks from uke... uke so peaceful to me ;D
and i would lose my touch... not that theres much there, but its there

Aw, you could never lose your touch! And don't be so modest, I'm sure you have PLENTY of touch! I wasn't even playing very long before I had to stop, and when I went back, well, it was like riding a bike. My fingers seemed to know what to do. But I'm taking it easier from now on!

08-19-2008, 09:22 AM
Repeating the same motion over and over will cause pain if you don't take precautions. It has been explained to me that one should always strive for the lightest touch possible, avoid hammering your finger down on the string and try to hold the instrument with *gripping* it and deliberately relax your hand between notes, whenever possible. Finally, always lighten your daily work load on the ailing hand. That includes, computer mousing, jar opening, door opening, gardening, wood sanding, etc. Do less of it or transfer that motion to the other hand.