Playing Pain-free


Well-known member
Feb 21, 2018
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Portland OR
This year is my 6th year for playing a stringed instrument. It's also the first year I experienced some hand/finger discomfort. To be honest, at first it scared me. I'm in my 60's and know it can be an age related issue. I don't want to lose the ability to play pain-free. Here's what I did:

1. I stopped playing/practicing for a week (wow, that was hard).
2. I moved from high to low tension strings.
3. I lowered (when needed) the string height of my main ukes.
4. I reexamined my playing posture and made corrections.
4. I practice finger stretching per this video:

The results? I've been playing pain-free again for several months. I do miss the pop of my high tension strings but it beats not playing at all.

What have you found helpful?
Picks. Get some picks and use them for longer playing sessions. That is for the strumming hand.

For the fretting hand. Get a strap. Get a Strap. Learn how to hold the uke in the crook of your elbow so your elbow does the work and you just need to lightly press with your fretting finger tip. You do this by pulling the uke body end into your body with your right elbow, this makes the headstock end push out against your finger tip, instead doing all the work with your fretting hand. You have to have a strap to make this work while you are learning the skill. Start out by just holding the uke in the crook of the elbow and making the headstock wave back and forth with your elbow. This technique moves most of the fretting strength power from your fretting hand muscles to your much stronger elbow muscles. You do not even need to use your fretting hand thumb when you get this technique working, it can rest comfortable where it rests. The technique works best with soprano and concert sizes, but it also works with a baritone.

You can not do this easily with a guitar or if you use a guitar type playing position and technique. If you want to take the stress off your hands, move away from techniques where you have to strangle the neck and where the instrument is not held in place by your elbow and a you use a strap as a safety net.
I modified strum and comfort pick by removing the hard pick and gluing in place a Wedgie rubber pick. Works so, so well.
Flax seed oil ( 4 capsules daily). Voltaren as mentioned above or Aspercreme roll on if can't do Nsaids. Using a squeeze ball during the day. Fingerpicking patterns as practice every day for right hand. Left hand moving fingers up and down the fretboard in a forefinger/middle finger, ring finger/pinkie finger, forefinger/ring finger, middle finger/pinkie finger pattern.
Had repetitive strain injury before so I'll chime might have imbalances in muscle strength somewhere. In my case it was the outer forearm muscles and I mostly got rid of it by taking a small dumbbell and working those muscles. Just hold it in your hand and raise it up slowly by bending at the wrist and repeat.
Thanks for sharing the stretches. I realized one day, while at some event, that lots of clapping had improved the tendinitis/arthritis in my left wrist.

I intended to write a book called "Applause Therapy", but after saying, "clap your hands", I couldn't come up with the next chapter, maybe lots of illustrations of people clapping.

I did find out while responding to this post that tendinitis and tendonitis are are both acceptable spellings so I guess I do have a second chapter.
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