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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member Fuzzface's Avatar
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    Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Hi guys. I'm 35, and been playing guitar since I was 7, electric at 13/14. I went to the doctor with pain in my first finger on left (fretting) hand, and he has suggested osteoarthritis and sent me for an x-ray as soon as he heard I played a lot of guitar. To be honest, he isn't the most "attentive" of doctors.

    Looking at the internet, the area of pain is the Distal inter-phalangeal joint on my first finger..the joint between the first two bones. It feels swollen and very tender if I squeeze it. No other fingers are currently in pain. This has been going on for 6 months, and is not getting better, even if I have a break from playing. The pain is not continuous - really only when I apply pressure i.e. when I play guitar, and occassionaly typing.

    And I do a lot of both - I work long hours, and then play as much as I can. I'm no pro, but playing guitar is what keeps me sane.

    But right now, it just hurts too much. I do play with a lot of heavy vibrato on the first finger, and I wouldn't be surprised if I have worn the joint down. Oh...this all started after I started massively playing bass around December...playing pretty agressive bass "trying" to learn slap bass. Not sure if that is important, but this was a change to my regular playing.

    I haven't had time to go for the x-ray, but if it is osteoarthritis, is there anything I can do? Any injection/surgery? If I cannot play guitar, I think I will snap.

    I'm very worried...and quite down. I've booked time off just to play and toda was the first day and I sounded awful, wincing in pain. I would love to hear if anyone else has experienced this and how to alleviate it.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member troyad's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Does it occasionally feel like someone has a red hot needle stuck in the joint and is wiggling it around?

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member Fuzzface's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Definitely "occassionaly" intense, but always there, partic on vibrato. Now it even comes on playing simple cowboy chords but less painful. I'd describe it as a shooting pain. We all learn to play through pain barrier, but now it's too much..as in sometimes i pull away and swear.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member troyad's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Yeah I get the aforementioned red hot needle but it's only once every couple three months. It hurts like heck! I'm sure it will be more frequent as the years go by.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member Fuzzface's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Aiye...hurts like heck. You ever seen a doctor/specialist on this? I keep putting off the xray, but today was so painful I have to do something.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Jurius's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    You might try taking an over the counter anti-inflamatory like Advil 30 minutes before playing. It's not right to give medical advice over the net because for all I know you may be allergic to Advil, but assuming you're not, I'd take about 800 mg (4 tabs).

    Warm soaks will also help inflamed joints. My mom used to have me soak my sprained ankles in Epsom salts dissolved in warm water and it helped a lot.

    The main thing you don't want to do is keep aggrivating the joint. If possible, give it a rest. Use ultra light strings and quit slapping the bass; in fact quit playing the bass becuase it takes more effort.

    You can cause permanent damage by trying to "play through" the injury. If it persists, seek professional help. You may need a prescription medication.
    Desire - Dedication - Determination

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member bluesforstevie's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    You may have gout. If it is hot or warm to the touch and VERY painful...throbbing sometimes....it could be gout. Ibuprofen or other GOOD NSAID...not Tylenol....should help. I have attacks of gout too. Sometimes in the finger, ends of the toes, joints in general. It is VERY painful...

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    I have osteoarthritis, mostly in my left hand.

    It bothers me most of the time. Sometimes, in the winter, if I wash my hands with cold water, it feels like my joints are bing stabbed with needles. From the inside!

    Ibuprofen helps.

    I've been for x-rays- they took a lot of pics, and had blood tests- they drew a lot of blood, to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.

    This is why you need to have those x-rays taken!

    My doc says it's due to overuse. I've been considering switching to lighter gauge strings to lessen the damage that I'm doing now and prolong my ability to play.

  9. #9

    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Ive presently got problems in both wrists from doing a lot of touring this year, and all the playing, lifting etc that involves. Im off again next week for a clutch of support gigs then a full on summer of nationwide gigs so there's pressure to get myself together before hand..
    I went to a sports/musician physiotherapist and she's been doing accupuncture on me and its helped immensely- but her one constant point was STOP PLAYING! there's precisely *nothing* better to irritate your painful joint than repeating the motion that caused it, and no healing will take place unless you take as much pressure off it. Listen to your body- the pain is telling you to stop those motions- you cant 'play through the pain', thats crazy..there's more to life than guitar playing (for a couple weeks anyway ) so get serious about getting better, find a sports/musician therapist and ask what treatments you can get.
    My doctor also told me there's pretty much nothing she cant fix- just takes time and money, so dont be too freaked out, you'll be playing again in no time, just take the time to heal properly instead of fighting yourself.

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member Fuzzface's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Thanks guys for advice. I'm not a regular poster, but I read this forum a lot and not just for les paul info. Sorry for dumping my medical problems...I''ll save you the details but work/family health is a hell-hole at the moment and this week for given to me as a freebie from work and I fully intended 9-5 guitar. This has been an issue for 6 months so I know something is up. Time to work on slide maybe..

    Not sure if connected, but had a lot of bad luck with this finger. Had to have a wart burnt off and the whole took ages to heal over the hole it caused. I learned to play without that finger rather than stop playing.

    I've tried a break from playing, and work sends me off on travelling that forces it, and I always think it's gone...then pick up the guitar and it's back. I'll leave the bass for a few months for sure...tough as it's the most fun I've had in years.

    I just squeezed gently all joints on both hands and noticed it's faintly there are on the second finger, same joint...not noticed this before. Also noticed that I try to clench a fist, the first finger will not roll tightly in and it starts to throb if I push the last few mm, which it wont physically cross anyway.

    xray on Tuesday.

    Am i right in inflamed joints is better than bone damage? I'm hoping playing bass was just too much.. (i have very small hand...like angus, so I bought an old mustang bass).

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Sorry for your pain,you should really try elations it's
    a drink,it helps cartilage and bone health,it helped my
    knee's alot.I used to have crunching and poping in my knee's
    but after about 2 weeks I noticed it getting better,its worth a try
    anyway. Good Luck...

  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member SheltonGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzface View Post
    ...this all started after I started massively playing bass around December...playing pretty agressive bass "trying" to learn slap bass. Not sure if that is important, but this was a change to my regular playing...
    I think that playing the bass is probably the cause of it all. I've played guitar and bass since I was 9, now 41. I started getting into slap bass in high school. Light strings (especially that big E), huge frets, super low string action, and a light technique are a must if you want to slap with speed and clarity. All this decreases the output and low end of the bass, but you can make up for it with active electronics and/or other gear. Get your bass (and guitar, for that matter) set-up properly and you'll probably see a reduction in finger pain.

    As for dealing with the current pain, rotate heat and ice back-to-back 3-4 times a day. 15-20 minutes of heat followed by 15-20 minutes of ice and repeat. During the day, tape that joint to provide support and minimize bending when you type at work. Might even do you some good to tape it for a while when you play.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member Fuzzface's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    I've laid off the bass and it's much better. I can solo again, with heavyISH vibrato and is only causing pain, but much more bearable, when I play chords like Am/F/Dm which is when the first finger bends back on itself the most. I haven't had the xray yet, but in my mind it was the bass that did this. Sucks. Thank you all for the advice/help.

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member bluesforstevie's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzface View Post
    I've laid off the bass and it's much better. I can solo again, with heavyISH vibrato and is only causing pain, but much more bearable, when I play chords like Am/F/Dm which is when the first finger bends back on itself the most. I haven't had the xray yet, but in my mind it was the bass that did this. Sucks. Thank you all for the advice/help.
    Have you thought it may be gout?

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member Reinhard's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jurius View Post
    You might try taking an over the counter anti-inflamatory like Advil 30 minutes before playing. It's not right to give medical advice over the net because for all I know you may be allergic to Advil, but assuming you're not, I'd take about 800 mg (4 tabs).

    Warm soaks will also help inflamed joints. My mom used to have me soak my sprained ankles in Epsom salts dissolved in warm water and it helped a lot.

    The main thing you don't want to do is keep aggrivating the joint. If possible, give it a rest. Use ultra light strings and quit slapping the bass; in fact quit playing the bass becuase it takes more effort.

    You can cause permanent damage by trying to "play through" the injury. If it persists, seek professional help. You may need a prescription medication.
    For inflammation you want to use cold not heat, as heat increases bloodflow and thus increases the swelling. More swelling means more pain.

    If it indeed is osteoarthritis, heat will help for the symptoms.

    I second the idea of checking whether you don't have gout.

    Hope you get it sorted out

  16. #16
    All Access/Backstage Pass Wilko's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Gout will show up in blood tests as excess uric acid.

    I have gout. Being that gravity makes gout almost always first show in lower extremities, I'd probably rule that out.

    I'd also change my vibrato to a stronger finger like the more common 3rd finger.

    Playing with a lighter touch comes from good practice and "proper" technique which you can learn through classical studies. It's called proper because once mastered it is much better for your health and fretting access.

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member bluesforstevie's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    I have gout also...and sometimes its just hot spots on my fingers...it maybe the big knuckle in my thumb, or the tips of my index finger....its very weird and hard to figure out where it'll show up next.....but it is always VERY painful, hot to the touch, and doesn't last more than a day or two typically.

    It seems to be triggered by drinking beer or eating red meat....with me anyway. Very strange....sometimes I'll go months without any problem....even though I'm not using the allopurinol as prescribed and then sometimes it doesn't seem to follow any trigger or make any sense.

  18. #18
    All Access/Backstage Pass Wilko's Avatar
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    I take allopurinol semi-regularly.

    drink lots of water and pee whenever you can.

    cut down on protein and purines. And tannins and booze... and anything worth eating/drinking.

  19. #19

    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    there are joint replacement surgeries but you have to get the x-ray done to know how severe the problem is.

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Quote Originally Posted by drrajindersingh View Post
    there are joint replacement surgeries but you have to get the x-ray done to know how severe the problem is.
    What you are describing is what i have had for over 10 years
    In my left hand Thumb and joint i know it is extremely painful
    There is no easy fix you have to stop playing for a while it needs a rest
    You need to see an Orthopedic Doctor and a hand specialist an X ray won't
    Show anything much an MRI of your hand will show the doctor and you
    what the problem may be i have had cat scans of my hand and a MRI's
    I take Prescription Anti inflammatories and Cortisone injections twice a year
    it helps but the best thing is to stop for a good long time and let it heal
    If you have an operation to fix it they will not guarantee it will be any better
    There is no easy way around it you may have torn something and thats why the pain
    won't go away it a tough deal just try to take it easy and talk an acupuncturist
    They may have some thoughts Good Luck

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Intense finger-joint pain - osteoarthritis?

    Don't automatically assume your guitar playing is causing your finger joint pain.

    More than likely it is from opening pop bottles or pickle jars, etc.

    Start opening bottles, jars with channel lock pliers. Stop acting like superman. Try to take the load off your hands and fingers.

    Pay attention to how you steer your car or truck. Look how you are using your fingers. Try using your palms more and your fingers less.

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