String gauge and wrist problem????

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by papersoul, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. papersoul

    papersoul Member

    Messages:
    12,782
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Hey guys,

    I have been having problems, pain in my left wrist and am thinking of dropping string gauges from 11 to 10s for Eb and 10 to 9s for my standard tuned guitars. Should this help? Anyone else have issues? I hate to do this but it may be easier on the wrist?

    Thanks!
     
  2. burner

    burner Member

    Messages:
    2,614
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Location:
    USA
    Yes, it will be easier on the wrist.
    Additionaly, not wearing your guitar slung low will help.
    Of course you won't look as cool......
     
  3. Bruce

    Bruce Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2003
    Location:
    Long Beach, CA
    Absolutely use a lighter set! I had the same thing happen to me many years ago. I was playing a lot of nylon string (I was a classical guitar major at the university here.) I was playing a gig and my hand hurt so bad it kept me up at night. It didn't go away so I went to a hand specialist and he told me that I had a nerve ganglion. It hurt so bad I stopped playing and I never though I was going to play again. After about 8 months I went in to a Guitar Center and saw a really nice 60's reissue Strat and I sat down to play it and my hand didn't hurt anymore. I bought the guitar. I use an .08 gage with really low action and my hand never bothered me after that except about 4 months ago I bought a really nice Martin and thought that I could go back to playing acoustic but after about 3 months the pain came back so I came to the realization that I was going to have to be satisfied with an electric with really light strings. I've actually gotten use to the gage and now after all these years I can get just as good a tone with them as with the heavier strings. It takes a long time to be able to play in tune though, especially if you play chord melody. You can go to my myspace site if you want to hear what the .08 set sounds like (on the tunes I use the electric guitar.) I've got some songs I recorded with my band and also solo as well.

    Here's the link:

    http://www.myspace.com/httpwwwmyspacecombrucebaldwinband
     
  4. stump

    stump Member

    Messages:
    1,267
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    I had the same problem and found that dropping string gauges helped some but raising my guitar and improving my posture were the biggest improvements. I also found that a contributor to the pain was my neck and shoulder areas. I found this out when I told my doctor about it. Good luck.
     
  5. MudPies

    MudPies Member

    Messages:
    11,640
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Location:
    mpls

    +1

    where you place your gitter makes a massive difference. and it doesn't look that cool to have it slung down at your knees.
     
  6. Strat58

    Strat58 Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2006
    HI I keep mine guitar higher then I used to and dropped from 0.11 to 0.10 and are going the use 0.09 after mine supply of 0.10 is gone.
    I always use a lot of bends with fairy high string action and use quite a bit of relief on mine guitar. But now I wear the guitar higher the pain is gone :)
    Peace Strat58
     
  7. burner

    burner Member

    Messages:
    2,614
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Location:
    USA
    You're right, but it also doesn't look cool way up high either....
     
  8. papersoul

    papersoul Member

    Messages:
    12,782
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Why is it hard to play in tune with lighter strings? Is it because it is easier to take them out of tune or the chord/note out of tune by pressing too hard? I know lighter strings are supposed to not be as stable with tuning...but what do you mean about playing them in tune?

    Should I get straight 9s and straight 10s, do the wound strings matter as much or just the lighter strings where the bending takes place. I was thinking half and half sets like 9-46 and 10-49. I was playing 11-54 for years. Maybe playing chords will be easier with the lighter strings and less strain. Not that I ever noticed a struggle but anything you do a lot, making it easier can help. I do where my guitar at a decent level....way higher than most people - I guess at about waist level.

    I have been having weird problems with my feet and they think it is Metatarsalgia. Then I started having this pain in ym wrist and I mentioned it to my doctors because I thought it was ironic it was soon after the pain in my feet. I also had Ulnar entrapment surgery on the same arm(elbow), last year.

    Some people mentioned posture, neck and shoulders. How does that directly impact the wrist? I kind of see how...posture impacts a lot!
     
  9. captainT

    captainT Member

    Messages:
    107
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Florida
    Have you ever thought to get medical attention regarding the wrist first? I had a problem such as yours and when I went to a hand specialist I found out that I had some type of cysts in a few of the bones in both my wrists. Also some perforation's in the bones. Both of these problems caused great pain on and off when using my hands but the real kicker is that they will eventually have to fuse the wrists; there goes my guitar playing. What I'm trying to say is try to get to the real root of the problem ASAP before you cause or your own body works against you and you develop an even greater problem. Good luck!
     
  10. papersoul

    papersoul Member

    Messages:
    12,782
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    I am going to see a specialist, thanks I agree! Should it be an orthopedic specialist or a hand/wrist specialist? Thanks!

    On the strings guys...in the meantime....is it best to use a half/half pack like 9-49 or straight sets like 9-42? 10-46 vs 10-49 for example. Thanks!
     
  11. hb_nz

    hb_nz Member

    Messages:
    326
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Location:
    New Zealand
    On this subject, I've been using 11's for about 18 years and never had a problem until I dislocated a wristbone (left wrist of course, being a righty) at work early last year - turns out I must have done some nerve damage as a year later after a cortisone injection and many physio sessions it's getting worse - I am literally in extreme pain after some gigs. I'm almost at the point of trying a lower gauge and if that doesn't work, having to give up playing for an un-determined length of time.
     
  12. alex_toney

    alex_toney Member

    Messages:
    128
    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    Location:
    Greater Vancouver, B.C.
    The MAJOR factors involved with wrist and arm pain for guitarists are POSTURE, any possible nerve issues in the arm and shoulder, HEIGHT of the guitar, and the MAIN one that is affected by all these and does the worst damage, WRIST POSITIONING. When I started playing guitar my teacher taught me adamantly to keep my wrist straight. There are so many people out there that play with their wrists bent (looking sorta like an L underneath the neck) and that will be the biggest factor of wrist problems, not string gauge.

    You need to learn to play with your wrist straight and if it makes playing harder so be it, you need to learn to play that way. With a bent wrist your the tendons in your wrist are being forced to work hard in a constricted place and they will just start screaming because of it! That is likely your cause of pain, there shouldn't be much else that causes wrist pain in a guitarist, unless you are not using your wrists properly in other areas of your life such as work and guitar is just compounding it.
     
  13. TD Moyer

    TD Moyer Member

    Messages:
    707
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Location:
    Orange County
    Going down a string guage will help...but...it's only a quick fix and not the cure to what ails you.

    I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands a little over a decade ago forcing me to stop playing for 6 months (right before a tour of course!). It never goes away completely but the solution was to retrain myself regarding my posture (esp. how I type when on the computer), get some therapy, and bring my guitar straps up just a bit (but still within the cool factor I hope!).

    I'm not saying YOU have CTS - but get to a doctor and do your own research to see what you can do for yourself starting now. I had to resolve to playing less often in order to keep playing at all. Ironically it's made me a better player...go figure.

    Ah...one last thing...I've learned to love the 'capo'. I still get the joy of soloing like a madman but holding down bar chords can become torture...using a capo has saved me on many a session/gig to the point where it's now as indispensable as an overdrive pedal!
     
  14. Bruce

    Bruce Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2003
    Location:
    Long Beach, CA
    You are exactly correct about “playing out of tune” with the use of light gauge strings. It isn’t as apparent with 9-46 but if you go to 8’s then it is and then it’s only when playing chord melody. It’s not that the strings are less stable but rather that it takes much less force to push them out of tune. Even picking them. It takes a really light touch and very low action. You should definitely go to a 9-46 set and have the action lowered as well. The idea is to get much less tension on the neck which will cause much less tension on your wrist.

    Posture and guitar position can play an important role on wrist pain. If you hold your guitar incorrectly it can put undue strain on your muscles, tendons, joints, and bones. There is a guy named John Stowell (johnstowell.com) who holds his guitar at almost a 90-degree angle to facilitate wide chord stretches. I’m not suggesting that you hold your guitar this way but you might want to check it out just to see how he gets around the problem.

    From what you have said about your prior medical condition (ulnar entrapment surgery) I suggest that you contact the surgeon that did your surgery. It sounds to me that your wrist pain may be due to your prior surgery. There could be some temporary nerve damage or bruising. This takes a very long time to heal. One thing you can check for is a small bump in your wrist that you can move around and is kind of soft. This is a nerve ganglion cyst. Your surgeon will be able to tell if you have one but I’m guessing that your problem is from your previous surgery and will go away with time but you should still use lighter gauge strings and lower action as not to aggravate the problem any further. You surgeon may suggest that you see a neurologist or a hand specialist if he doesn’t see any evidence of a nerve ganglion or if he doesn’t think it has to due with your prior surgery.
     
  15. Bobby

    Bobby Member

    Messages:
    80
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2005
    This may sound a bit extreme but after owning several guitars I realized that the higher the frets the heaver guage string I could use with little or no problems with my wrist. 10's feel like 8's using jumbo narrow frets on my strat.
     
  16. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I've also got wrist & thumb problems. One clinic diagnosed it as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and Steve Kimock told me that my symptoms were just like his and he had tendinitis. He told me he used self administered acupressure, and was gradually healed.

    I believe my problems have occurred primarily due to having a disabled child - 19 year old girl @ 125 lbs. We have to move her around, etc, and although I've been very cautious about my back and such, I neglected my hand/wrist area and now am paying the price. I can still play, but I have to make adjustments to not tweak the aggravated areas.

    I recently got a book by Jamie Andreas, who's been teaching guitar for decades. She spends many pages addressing the area of posture and body tension. Once you start becoming aware of how much tension you have in different parts of your body while playing - arms, hands, fingers, wrist, etc - you'll understand how those tension points are creating impediments to your playing. We all do it and the tendency is to work around that, which is not good in the short or long term.

    So now when I practice/play, I'm constantly monitoring myself to see exactly where this tension exists/manifests during playing, and I've taken steps to rectify it, and develop new habits and behaviors, so my playing isn't impeded, and is more relaxed and fluid. I've also adjusted my handling of my daughter and that's helped to.

    BTW, I used progressive tensioned string sets...

    10-13.5-17-28-38-52 and 10-14-18-28-38-52
     
  17. papersoul

    papersoul Member

    Messages:
    12,782
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    The thoughts on posture, wrist position, etc are interesting and make sense. I am not sure exactly how I should have my wrist at this point but I know I picked up bad habits over 20 years. Obviously your wrist will bend in a bit so your fingers can touch the strings but I think you mean to not bend to the side or up the neck.

    I will admit, that I noticed my leads seemed not as fat when I went from 11s to 10s but honestly I thikn that was something else at play that night. Anyway, I did notice my leads sounded a bit more out of tune, maybe because I typically pressed harder with 11s. Possible? Tough transition. Maybe just using corect position, posture and some other changes will be enough. I already have the action pretty darn low.

    I don't know what to do now.......not sure what to pick up or order.

    Maybe I should find a good book on technique, posture, etc.

    Macaroni, what are progressive tensioned sets???? Not sure what you mean. So, you order custom gauges.
     
  18. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles
  19. papersoul

    papersoul Member

    Messages:
    12,782
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Wow, thanks! Do you buy strings from Zachary or Roter? I will look into it for sure!!! I know exactly what they mean. However, I thought they were going to say to buy different gauges as in just buy a .50 instead of a .46 in some sets but it appears they have special made strings wound to the right tension using the same gauge. Correct?

    What about the expensive hand made string guys like Snake Oil? Are they wrong as well????? I am looking into the Zachary strings and emailed them for recommendations.

    Marc, I posted for you in the other thread. Thanks man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  20. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    There's no right or wrong IMHO. I just took the essence of what they both said and experimented for myself. That's how I came up with those sets of gauges for my guitars and my requirements. I have both FireWire and SOB strings & I got custom sets from each.

    As far as your wrist, you'll probably benefit from a step down in gauges, so I thought you might be interested in experimenting with progressive tensions at the same time. For me, these sets feel very evenly balanced across the strings and it feels great to play with them - very fluid and responsive, but that's also the high quality of the strings too. YMMV.

    It boils down to personal taste, but it's an easy/inexpensive experiment to try. I just bought singles and put together test sets until I arrived at what was optimal for me. Then I got sets from both FireWire & SOB, both of which are excellent strings.
     

Share This Page