12 years of guitar pain in neck, shoulders, hands, forearms, and I fear I Have it All

by Mark M.
(Nevada USA)

Hello, My name is Mark. I'm 30 and I've had chronic pain issues for over a decade now. I started playing guitar at 12.

At 15, I got a job as a gardener/landscaper, a trade I worked for the next 10 years. I had a few snowboard accidents in my formative years, including what was likely a mild separation of my left shoulder on two separate occasions, and one severe neck injury at 16.

By 18, neck pain and back pain were at least intermittent, if not ever present. At some point during these years, I suspect I was already experiencing some tendonitis issues, and can remember pointing out a strange bulbulous knot in the underside of my forearm that becomes apparent when I move my fingers in succession(does not appear on my right arm during an identical motion)This suspected malady is still there today.

At 18, I enrolled at an intensive music school for guitar, but it wasn't long before I experienced a "confirmed" case of tendonitis/carpel tunnel. I had a nerve conduction study done around this time, and the neurologist mentioned that it was "odd", but wasn't necessarily carpel tunnel.

Over the next few years, I returned to gardening as a full time profession, running my own business from age 20-25. The nature of this job is such that I was almost certainly exacerbating the various chronic pain conditions which I'd developed over the years.

At around 22, I was in a bad rollover accident in which my left arm was crushed under my truck as it rolled multiple times, but which miraculously left me with nothing more serious than a small fracture of the coracoid process. It certainly didn't do my condition any favors, and exacerbated my neck and shoulder issues.

I gave up gardening at 25, worked in the event business as I established residency before finally leaving manual labor behind(for the most part) and returning to school 3 years ago at 27. I've since been pursuing a degree in neuroscience, with a tentative goal of going into physical therapy in the hopes of finding a solution to my problems and helping other people in similar conditions heal their injuries.

This sedentary existence has actually proven to be at least as detrimental for these issues as the hard work.

I'm still working on the degree(lots of sitting), and now work in a neurobiology lab, often spending long hours at a microscope doing meticulous dissections of fruit fly brains, none of which is good for the neck, back, and left shoulder elbow, wrist, and fore finger pain which have't gotten any better, and in the 6months-1year seems to be getting worse. The "trigger finger" symptoms are definitely worse.

There were periods of more and less pain over the years. I probably experienced the most relief during a year or two long period of solid daily yoga practice and exercise, but for the most part, this pain has been ever present.

Ice and heat have been a daily part of coping throughout. I've slept on my right side or my back (if I can manage) for the last 10+ years due to the fact that my whole arm falls alseep from the shoulder to my finger tips.

My sleep is not great and involves much tossing and turning. My left arm feels a bit like dead weight, as if hanging loosely out of the socket or something. I'll often realize I have my left hand sitting on my thigh kind of limply and think I''m experiencing atrophy or some kind of neglect due to nerve damage. I have pain/tenderness in my elbow, in my forearm near the wrist, the wrist, and more acutely of late, pain and stiffness in the middle knuckle of my forefinger.

Basically, I've got pain and tension at the base of the skull on the left side, all around the left shoulder/shoulder blade, and radiating down my arm to my finger tips.

Throughout it all, I've somehow been able to improve as a musician by modifying what little playing I do manage to avoid making things worse and listening to music far more intently. I recently jammed with some buddies(respectable musicians to be sure) and pretty much blew their minds on both guitar and bass after not picking up an instrument in months.

"Why aren't you in a band!?"

That's when I decided it's time to stop ignoring these problems(something I've done partially as a defensive mechanism to avoid the emotional pain of having to give up my dreams over and over again) and make a concerted effort to arrest this problem before it gets any worse, and to heal and restore my mobility to whatever extent is possible after letting it go for so long.

That's it. I need whatever help I can get.

What's possible?


Joshua Answers:

Hi Mark.

What's possible is a pain free and active existance.

This is serious stuff though, it's going to take some time and effort and most importantly, diligence.

You've got Whiplash and Whiplash Symptoms.

You've got the Guitar Tendonitis version of Wrist Tendonitis.

You have a chronic Process of Inflammation.

You have a lot going on, but it's not particularly complex, per se. The same basics of tightness, inflammation, nutritional insufficiency all apply, but over a broader area. So it is more complex than just a single location of pain, but it's all the same stuff.

But ultimately, you have to effectively deal with the Pain Causing Dynamic, and the long term effects of chronic tightness and pain.

The Trigger Finger should be reversable, though if certain tissue has deformed permanently we'll just have to make it pain free and as mobile as possible. Shouldn't be a problem.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Comments for 12 years of guitar pain in neck, shoulders, hands, forearms, and I fear I Have it All

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Mar 07, 2014
Thanks for the quick response
by: Mark

Thanks Josh,
The link to the book/s is not functional, but it's easy enough to find on here.

I've been doing the ice dip and ice massages for the past week or so with noticeable, albeit minimal results. I've been icing my neck and back with a higher degree of regularity, which are both presently in rough shape from a marathon cramming sesh for a couple of exams this week.

I've been taking magnesium regularly, as well as vitamin D, turmeric, and B complex intermittently. I eat a relatively healthy diet with lots of raw greens, and little to no red meat, but occasionally,sometimes often, skip meals(an issue I'm trying to remedy).

That's all I can think of worth telling right now. I was (selfishly?)trying to avoid making a purchase, but it seems I'll have to give in and buy the book. ;-)

Thanks again for taking an interest, much obliged.


Joshua Comments:

Buy Buy Buy!


I say that jokingly, but the reality is, we look for answers until we find the answers that work for us.

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