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Old 03-08-2010, 03:04 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Guitar Cramp Nightmare!

Hi All,
Had a guitarist nightmare on Sat night. Playing to a packed local pub, half way through one song, i got a hideous cramp in the forearm of my left hand. My hand turned into a claw and was forced to finish the song trying to play with just one finger. As you can imagine, it was nearly impossible. Managed to stretch it out a bit and finished the gig ok, but it was awfull and now i can feel my arm aching and my hand feels all swollen. Ive never had that before. I was quite tired at the time and also the gig was sprung on us at the last minute, so we didnt really have time to practice. Anyone else have that problem? Any advice on how to prevent it?
Thanks
Jim
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Old 03-08-2010, 03:55 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Be careful so you don't get a inflammation of the tendons or something similar. I'd go to the doctor if you still have the swelling.

As for preventing strain, possibly using a capo on the neck could be a solution. It can reduce the amount of barrès you have to do.
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Old 03-08-2010, 05:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I still have problems with hand cramps when playing songs comprised almost entirely out of barre chords. I still can't play "scott free" entirely without making a funny face to cope with the pain and I've been playing for about 2 1/2 years with 2-3 practice everyday. Oh and guess what, I can't use I capo because the chords are everywhere on the neck. Barre chords piss me off, and **** all of you *******s who bitch about how uncreative they are (yes, I am talking to you, obnoxious metal***s).
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I get the same thing occasionally. Like Tore said, keep an eye on it for now and maybe use a capo. I've always found that using a capo helps, but it may only work if the majority of the song is played in one key (like A for example, where you can place the capo at the 5th fret).
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I've had this happen a few times. I even mentioned it to my doctor and he said this happens quicker if you are dehydrated and hot. He recommended when playing to not drink any alcohol but just water and even better, that salty electrolyte stuff that athletes drink.

Well, I took his advice and it's not happened again. Also, the shape of the neck on a guitar can make a big difference. If the cramp still happens I would experiment with a different size and shape of neck.

By the way, I play one-man reggae mostly and use a looper so when my hand got stuck on F#m, yes, I remember the chord, I had to make up a whole new melody on the vocals to fit to this one chord until I eventually faded the looper out,ha, ha. Funny now but painful and embarassing at the time.

Try the salty drinks, worked for me.

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Old 03-08-2010, 11:05 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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a capo isn't really going to help as that's not the purpose of the device / limits the range of the neck / alters the key of the instrument.

the vast majority of the time cramps like this are due to a single thing - POSTURE. the fact that it cramped up into a claw sounds like the culmination of potential years of neglect and poor form. especially if it still hurts a few days later. lots of questions coming your way now....

how many days ago was this gig?
has the pain changed at all since? either in intensity or localized area.

have you had any other issues with your hands or wrists? what kind of work do you do? lots of repetitive motions with little variances?

when you play bar chords is your thumb parallel to the frets (good) or angled out in line with the neck (very bad)?

how far into the set were you when this happened?
how long was your set?
how often do you practice?
when's the last time you practiced before this gig?
what sort of warm-up / stretches do you do prior to performing?
how low do you wear your guitar?

if it's continual pain you should probably check with a doctor or some other health care professional before finding out what a bunch of strangers on the net have to say.
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Old 03-08-2010, 08:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I actually used to experience this a lot with many songs that involved a lot of comped jazz-style barre chords, which would result in serious cramping of the muscle between the thumb and first finger. Mr.Dave is very right. Poor form is likely the culprit. It is good to be mindful of your thumb's alignment with the barring fret, as well as how far your thumb extends beyond the neck during normal play, as in when you're not churning out hand mangling barre chords, which, through conditioning, or lack thereof, can have a negative influence on the muscle that is cramping up on you. It's also good to be mindful of whether or not you're exerting more pressure on the barre than what's necessary due to nerves or any other reason.
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Old 03-08-2010, 10:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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a capo isn't really going to help as that's not the purpose of the device / limits the range of the neck / alters the key of the instrument.
How do you figure this? I mean, if you had a song that only used two chords, F and A#, a capo on the first fret would let you play those "as if" they were E and A. Maybe it's not the nr. 1 purpose of the thing and maybe it's not always applicable and maybe it'll only save you one barre chord out of ten, but a capo does bar the strings for you and as such can reduce the amount of barre chords you have to play.
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Old 03-08-2010, 10:57 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It also alters the timbre and many of the relevant frequencies of the instrument. Introducing a capo can have a significant effect upon the sustain and changes the natural harmonics of the instrument. I usually play between a half-step and three-half steps down to accommodate thicker gauge strings, I can't use a capo at all because it fucks with my action too much.

To answer the OP, if a situation presents itself when you're mixing open and barre chords, try flexing your thumb over the neck so that you aren't always putting stress on the same muscles all the time. This should offer enough down time to alleviate hand fatigue.
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