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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member BGReed2's Avatar
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    Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy content

    I guess I'm pretty much dating myself, but my left hand/thumb is starting to get a bit painful these days when grasping the big ol' neck on my Historic R8 or TV Special. So far the fingers are fine, but my thumb joint is sore & painful to the touch at times when playing.

    Has anyone else out there had this experience? I love my (4) Les Pauls, of which my '69 Custom has more of a '59 neck and is a bit easier. I have heard of others that find it more painful to play a thin, R0-style (or early 60's SG) neck, but wonder if it would help in my case?

    Thin or thick neck?
    "Know tubes, know tone. No tubes, no tone"

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    I have this issue and have dealt with it for many years. I cannot think of any reason why a thinner profile would ease thumb pain. It doesn't typically work that way. You may need to seek relief in other ways. If it is the neck, you may need to adapt your technique. I ended up going to a physical therapist who was a great help.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    Depends on how you hold YOUR thumb, but as I wrap mine I find a fatter neck feels easier USUALLY as I can use the rest of my hand more easily 'to dig in'.

    But I also find having a thinner one sometimes lets me play longer when things start acting up.

    I.e. switching around seems to help.

    Going from early 50's style really fat to a soft V to a thin and back can keep the smiles lasting longer.

    And
    Aleve...


  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member deytookerjaabs's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    Dating yourself? I started having scarring/inflammation/aching when I was 20 years old and it's been a battle now for many years.

    The only thing that's kept me going at a high level is the concept of repetitive motion and adjusting that motion. That said, some or many people can't adjust very well as it takes fundamental playing & practice changes. For instance, as a kid, I mostly picked with my right hand as a fist and the tiny jazz 3 picks clenched in there. When that went to hell I began, temporarily, picking with my right hand open and the pick between my clutched index & second finger. Then I went to an open right hand holding the pick at the tips of my thumb/index finger. As that got bad I started with a thumb pick alternating between index/second finger as I gradually adjusted back to picking normally and with the thumb pick. Then, the thumb pick and my second/third finger, which I've had to do the past two months after a notable flare up to which I blame overplaying my Les Paul, perhaps being it was my main guitar for almost ten years I've developed an ergonomic sensitivity to it? Dunno.

    The left hand? Done/do it all. I mainly play now with a very loose touch with my thumb extended horizontally parallel to the neck keeping my wrist straight. But I can play most any way with my thumb over, angled, horizontal, wrists bent or straight.

    Big necks, the giant ones, I find very uncomfortable in the first few positions after extended playing but mainly in the wrist/elbow no matter how far out I hold my elbow. But, that's really only the ones damn near or at an inch towards the nut.

    Hmm, if I have to advise on anything. First off, if you change up do so gradually if you're experiencing issues. A few hours the new way, some time the old way. My body hates me if I play a new guitar for 6 hours the day I get it, ooh, major regrets. If something is uncomfortable address it with change to something different. And, try all the stuff to see what might work. There's a million suggestions out there from epsom salt to acupuncture to diet change to certain drugs etc, the latest craze I'm hearing is CBD oil. I haven't found a clear winner yet myself.

    Good luck! If all ya end up needing is a different neck size I'd say you're in good shape.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member ourmaninthenorth's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    Quote Originally Posted by renderit View Post


    Going from early 50's style really fat to a soft V to a thin and back can keep the smiles lasting longer.

    That, in a nutshell.

    I've worked with my hands all my life, and recently developed problems that have limited me somewhat playing wise. I've done the google search doctor acrobatics and either have an Ulnar Nerve issue or Leprosy.

    Either way if I go to my Doctors it'll involve dropping my pants...if I went in to see him with an axe in my back, the first thing he'd say is drop your pants, and all without buying me dinner first. I've told the Wife that I think he's a cheeky bugger, all I got for my trouble was one of those looks....



    Hope you get sorted Pal.

    Shakespeare walks into a pub, the Landlord says "get out, you're Bard"

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Dave P's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    I've been dealing with an arthritic thumb on my left hand for years, and had surgery on it in 2016. I've had to adjust my technique and for quite a while I didn't play huge necks because of the pain. I stuck to slimmer and moderate sized necks for a while. It's only recently that I've been playing my guitars with chunky necks again. I found a hand position that works on chunky necks that looks a bit awkward but doesn't cause my thumb to hurt. I always wear a strap now even when sitting to take any extra weight off my left hand, it makes a difference when I don't have to support some of the guitar weight with my left hand.
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    “It is only through inner peace that we can have true outer freedom.” — Sri Chinmoy



  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member BGReed2's Avatar
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    Re: Which LP neck is better for arthritic thumb - fat 50's or thinner R0? Old guy con

    Thanks for opening up and sharing your experiences, I really appreciate the sincerity. I guess the main thing that bothers me is a small bit of bone that developed at the inside base of the thumb joint, so when I grab a non-Barre "F" chords it hits the back of the neck directly... and ZAP!

    It is at the point where it hurts just bending my thumb anyway, so it goes beyond the guitar and is a matter of how much pain I can take until I see a specialist. I work for an M.D. and he said the next step is a specialist. I have a good recommendation for a acupuncturist, also a musician, so may go that route first. I also have other stuff going on that he could help as well. TMI? Sorry!

    I'll break out my '63 reissue Tele with a wide & thin neck and give that a shot. Thanks again!! Bruce

    P.S. Ren - Aleve is an integral part of my daily intake! Thank God for NSAIDS.
    "Know tubes, know tone. No tubes, no tone"

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