Scale Length & Hand Pain

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by BORR4, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    Lately I have been having some issues with pain in my hand & wrist. I went to see the doctor and was told it was not CT but a repetitive stress issue. I've noticed that when I play my guitars with 25-1/2 scale I have the pain. When I play my Les Paul I have no pain (or very little).

    Anyone else have similar problems? I would be extremely bummed out if I could no longer play my 25-1/2" scale GMP's but I'm thinking more & more that I might have to sell them because of the pain.
     
  2. 8Painting

    8Painting Member

    Messages:
    2,207
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago
    I've got this problem with fender's regular scale length, I got rid of a tele and a strat because of it. Wish I woulda kept the strat, as I could just grin and bear it, but I did notice a smaller scale length, 24.75, and 24, helped a lot.
     
  3. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    Thanks for the reply. Sounds like we have similar issues.

    I absolutely love my GMP's and this is killing me. I never thought I would sell them, ever. They are the nicest guitars I've ever played. But I guess you have to do what you have to do sometimes.
     
  4. diego

    diego Member

    Messages:
    2,580
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2006
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Do you wear a guitar strap with each guitar?
     
  5. uberpict

    uberpict Member

    Messages:
    503
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Ventura, CA
    I'm suffering from Degenerative Joint Disease (extreme osteo-arthritis), in 90% of my joints including my fingers and wrists and understand what you're going through. It seems the 25 1/2 length does contribute to the problem with the longer stretch required but more importantly neck size and shape seems to make a difference for me. You might try a different neck shape to see if it makes a difference.

    Thin necks like a Rick are easier on my joints but cause cramping of the muscles and really fat necks like a 50's Gibson shape aggravate the joints more. I'm in the "Goldilocks" camp with my 25" regualar carve PRS. The wide-fat is a little harder on my joints but not terribly so. No matter what guitar though, once the arthritis sets in it's going to hurt after playing for awhile. The guitar is a pretty tortuous instrument in how you have to have your left hand curved around with the proper fingering technique required. I look at it as therapy, keep the joints moving or they'll seize up. Good luck and I hope you don't go through what I'm going through.
     
  6. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    It happens when I am sitting and standing (with strap). I've adjusted the straps every way possible. Believe me, I've tried everything to help with this and no matter what I always get some pain when I play the 25-1/2 scale guitars. Just that little extra stretch really bothers me.
     
  7. showofhands

    showofhands Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2006
    Location:
    El Paso, Tx
    I have a bit of trouble with 25.5" necks, especially when doing a lot of playing down in first position. I have long arms and big hands, but my wrist just sits at an awkward angle when it's out that far. I always assumed maybe I was keeping my elbow too close to my body, but my form has become such a deeply ingrained habit over the years that I find it awkward to do it any other way.

    I got rid of my Tele and switched to a 24.75" LTD, and my wrist feels much better. I can play longer before experiencing fatigue or hand cramps, which of course makes for a more enjoyable playing experience overall.
     
  8. cram

    cram Member

    Messages:
    13,400
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Location:
    Southern NH
    Do you play with a heavy stroke/hand contact?
    How is your hand tension?
    Do you play with a thinner neck? - this can contribute to it. Fatter seems to be more comfortable for most.

    I've been focussing on something for the past few weeks that has helped my hand pain. I have been working through learning some new phrasing through a lot of repetition; starting slow and incrimenting until I am comfortable with it. This causes the hand pain for me. I usually play on a strat. But switch to a shorter scale for certain tunes.

    I noticed a thread at the start of this effort where someone talked about hand tension (in both hands) for difficult playing like this. I was tending to "game up" for the sections I was having trouble with and I believe this is wasted energy and contributed to my fatigue.

    I've spent time since then playing with a lighter touch while trying to make my movements as minimal as I can be comfortable. Breathing was mentioned in that thread that triggered this for me and it truly helps..

    Last evening I was simply working an intervalic phrase as a straight ascending and descending pattern to get used to the feel. I'd incriment the metronome and play it for a bit. Without stopping the pattern in time, I would recognize my tension and subsequent pain in the digits; I would back off the "effort" I was putting forth on each fingering and the pain would go away without me stopping. I also noticed that I could go on for longer durations this way.

    I don't know for sure about all this, but I think it's helped me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  9. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    I have the same experiences. When I play my Les Paul it doesn't bother me at all. Then i think to myself "hey, my hand feels pretty good today" and then I grab one of my GMP's. 15 minutes later and I'm putting it back down.

    I guess I just might have to sell them and accept things the way they are. Anyone interested in some nice GMP's?
     
  10. atquinn

    atquinn Supporting Member

    Messages:
    9,322
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    Mineola, NY
    I would guess it has to do with more than the scale length. Les Pauls have different shapped necks and larger radius fretboards. Fret size could have an affect and then there's the overall balance of the guitar and where the neck ends up lying in relation to your hand. I suppose it's an academic question at this point since, if a guitar doesn't work, it doesn't work regardless of the reason, but I wonder if you'd get hand pain from playing SG's.

    -Austin
     
  11. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    One of my GMP's is an SG but it doesn't bother me anymore than the other ones (a double cut and an Elite- like a McCarty). The necks on the GMP's are pretty substantial except for the Elite which is more like a PRS wide/thin. They all make my hand hurt the same after about 10-15 minutes. I can't think of anything other then the scale length that makes my hand hurt.
     
  12. Polynitro

    Polynitro Member

    Messages:
    23,659
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2008
    the only difference I find is the tension is less with shorter scales. When I had my Jaguar (24")I would put 12's on so they would feel the same as 11's on my Tele(25.5").

    Do you properly warm up/stretch before playing? This is very important.
     
  13. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    Yes, I absolutely warm up before I play - especially since my hand has been bothering me. The doctor that I saw gave me some good stectching exercises and those definitely have helped. I've always made sure I was warm and loose before I played though - long before this.

    I use 10's but I did try lighter gauge strings (9's) and while that did help I couldn't stand them. They didn't solve the problem but there was a difference as far as how fast the pain came on. The 10's would take me about 10-15 minutes before the pain set in, the 9's took maybe 1/2 an hour. But beside that I just couldn't stand the 9's. Maybe that's something I could get used to after a whille if I had to use them.

    The kind of pain I'm talking about isn't agonizing or anything. It's more annoying than anything else. But it's enough that I know something isn't right. If I try to play through it my hand feels like it wants to curl up - my pinkie towards my thumb with sharp pain in my wrist.
     
  14. bynt

    bynt Member

    Messages:
    2,103
    Joined:
    May 18, 2006
    Location:
    Flagstaff, Arizona
    I too, have had issues with this. I could play my Les Paul forever and not have any issues but then I would pick up my Strat and catch nine kinds of hell from my fingers and wrists.

    I went to a HAND SPECIALIST!!!! Do it if you can!!!! My regular doc ROCKS but he misdiagnosed what was going on (He's the one that sent me to the specialist). I can't stress how important this step is because they know way more about the hand than a GP.

    Anyway, the other thing that I did (including following the specialist's instructions) was to scrap my long scale skinny neck on the strat. I bought a replacement from Warmoth (boat neck)with a short scale and it's like playing my Les Paul. Some will argue the point I'm sure but I don't notice any tonal difference whatsoever. Best thing I could've done, period. I also play nines and like my tone better now than I ever have. I do a lot of finger picking as well as with a pick and I just like the snap I get with the nines better than with heavier strings. I also play a great deal of slide and have no problems with nines.

    Just try the neck if you can. I was afraid I'd lose my strat which has been my #1 guitar for fifteen years or so. I wished I would have done the swich right after I got it!!!
     
  15. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    Thanks for the reply. I did see a hand specialist. She was excellent and gave me some good advice and stretching exercises. She works with several people from the Boston Symphony so she knows her stuff.

    I can't swap out necks on my 25-1/2" guitars - they are all set necks (GMP's). Absolutely killer guitars but unfortunately I think we may have to part ways soon.

    I'll give the 9's another shot as well.
     
  16. MBreinin

    MBreinin Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,844
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Location:
    New Orleans, Booziana
    I was having MASSIVE hand problems. My hand was so weak when I bent my wrist that I could not exert enough pressure to make a bar chord. I could barely bend notes and could bend nothing over the 14th fret or the such. It was much worse on guitars with larger necks, so I sold them all. Then, I had to take apart my motorcycle and it has been down for seven weeks. Within three weeks my hand was much better. It is now 100% back to normal. I guess the vibrations from the bike, and possibly the bar angle have been seriously impacting my hands. I also type all day and have problems when driving sometimes...like my hands falling asleep. I installed some nice gel grips on the bike, and got some gel gloves, but I am afraid to ride it again. I am going to try this weekend, but I think my biking days are over.

    So, moral is....look at everything you do with your hands daily.The source may not be the instrument itself, but something outside in your routine.

    Mike
     
  17. rex kwon do

    rex kwon do Member

    Messages:
    359
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Location:
    Birmingham, Alabama
    Same problem here - but in my case, larger necks became the issue. The skinny ones didn't affect the pain. Wrist and thumb, but not the fingers. Of course, I have a Warmoth Boatneck on my Esquire and it plays great. Just doing some exercises to warm up now.

    And I'm not saying this to be funny or disgusting, but years of porn watching and self-love pretty much ruined my left hand/wrist. Guitar was a lot more important so I stopped that and concentrated on girfriends - let them do some work!
     
  18. BORR4

    BORR4 Member

    Messages:
    27
    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Location:
    Brockton, MA
    That was one of the things the hand specialist went over with me. I type a lot as part of my job and everything I was doing was completely wrong. Terrible posture, hand positioning....... I've fixed all that and that also made a difference.

    There's just something about that little bit of extra stretching with the longer scale guitars that sets off the pain. Good example - last night I played my Les Paul for a couple of hours straight with no issues. I picked up one of my GMP's and within 15 minutes the pain was there again. I guess the solution is simple but I'm struggling with the thought of selling my GMP's. Maybe a couple of new Les Pauls will take care of that if I sell them :)
     
  19. MBreinin

    MBreinin Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,844
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Location:
    New Orleans, Booziana
    GMPs are great, but your hand is more important.

    Also, to the Self Love master above...I am glad I am right handed. :RoCkIn
     
  20. playon

    playon Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,858
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Location:
    Washington State
    Not just scale length, but string tension, neck shape, fret height, all are factors. Is it pain from holding bar chords, or from bending strings? You can change string guage, use taller frets, thinner neck shape, etc depending on the problem.
     

Share This Page