Sharp or shooting pain from base of thumb to wrist when opposing thumb with index as when playing barre chords or grabbing anything

by John
(Donegal, Ireland)

Do I have thumb tendonitis, wrist tendonitis or some other injury? I've been playing guitar for about twenty years without many problems, I play vintage acoustics with fat V necks using medium strings & use my left thumb for fretting a lot (Rev Gary Davis style) even though I have quite small hands, initially this was difficult & painful to learn how to do & somewhat forced.

But now I can play all those crazy Davis five fingered chords & make stretches players with larger hand would struggle with, it takes a couple of hours practice a day to maintain the strength required for this.

About a week ago I was out for a walk with my kids when my eight year old son walking alongside me tripped, as he fell I instinctively grabbed him by the back of his coat & prevented him from falling, unfortunately I wrenched my thumb.

Since then when I oppose my thumb with any power as is needed to play barre chords or to grab anything I'm experiencing a pain which is quite sharp in the base of my thumb which travels into my wrist & palm between the thumb & index.

I experienced similar pain once before for a few weeks after driving a friends car which had the kind of hand brake that you grab palm down & press in a button with the thumb & pull up to engage, but the pain is worse this time & I can't play barre chords at all.

Does this sound like a strain that just needs rest or tendinitis?

It's possible that the damage was already done from 20 years of guitar & that the wrench to my thumb/ wrist /index finger ??? was just the
straw that broke the camel's back, I'm not sure.

What I am sure of is that it is getting worse, what started out as pain around the base of my thumb when I opposed it with my index finger has now become almost constant soreness there & in my wrist beneath the thumb & in the palm of my hand between the thumb & index & when I use my thumb or index with any strength I'm experiencing sharp shooting pain that can feel almost like electric shocks right from my index through to my wrist.

I strapped my hand up for a couple of days to prevent me from using it unintentionally & the pain disappeared until I began try using the hand again.

I can not play guitar at all now & missed my first gig last night.

I am beginning to feel very depressed as besides the loss of income from the gigs I'm having to cancel & having to let people down, for me playing music is what jogging is for some people, I need to do it in order to keep my head right, musicians just need to play music!!!

I don't know if this is a one off injury or if this is tendonitis in the wrist or
tendonitis in the thumb or what ? Or is this Carpal tunnel syndrome?

Which book do I need?

Please help me ...


Donegal, Ireland


Joshua Answers:

Hi John.

Well, it's VERY likely that you already had a Tendonitis dynamic in place.

Which means, even if you had no symptoms, you had (at least) ever-so-slowly-progressing tightness, inflammation, and nutritional lack.

So maybe you actually injured your thumb, meaning, something rip/tore.

See: Thumb Injury

But -probably- you just pushed things over the edge when you grabbed your kid to keep him from dirt/pavement.

And now you're stuck in acute pain/pain response. It's all mechanism.

See: Pain Causing Dynamic

If your thumb pain is thumb joint specific, then things were tight and thus not working properly, so force wasn't absorbed and instead transfered somewhere at the joint and that made things very unhappy, and then that triggered other unhappiness, like the Process of Inflammation.

That process releases chemicals which enhance your sensitivity to pain, and thus everything hurts. A lot.

Rest in general doesn't work, but in your scenario, two days definitely wasn't enough for things to simmer down.

If your pain isn't joint specific, then it looks like you kicked off more of an acute Dequervain's Tendonitis dynamic (which is a fancy term for Thumb Tendonitis).

In that scenario, things were too tight and force wasn't absorbed as it should have been and force went somewhere...but primarily a DANGER signal was sent to the brain that kicked in a HUGE defensive mechanism....more tightness, more inflammation, more pain...which causes more tightness, more inflammation, more pain.

That's the pain causing dynamic...a downward spiral.

Maybe you have an actual rip/tear injury. Maybe you just have sprain/strain (which is a minor injury but a big pain causing dynamic response).

Or maybe you have no actual injury but a lot of pain and defensive response.

One can have disabling pain and no actual injury.

In any of those scenarios, I of course suggest the Reversing DeQuervain's Tendonitis.

It shows you how to quickly reduce pain (and inflammation), reverse the muscle and connective tissue tightness, and correct nutritional lack (that is necessary to allow muscles to relax and inflammation to dial down).

It doesn't matter what you call it/diagnose it as.

If you do have a rip/tear injury, you need to do those things anyway. After pain is gone and other factors back to/towards 'normal, then we can see if the injury is problematic. It just might not be.

If you don't have actual rip/tear injury, then you need to effectively (and quickly) do those things anyway.

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

Reversing Wrist Tendonitis ebook cover

Reversing DeQuervain’s ebook cover

Carpal Tunnel Treatment That Works Dvd cover

Reversing Guitar Tendonitis ebook cover

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Sep 11, 2018
Sharp pain right below the thumb on the back of the left hand
by: Ayesha

On 12th oct, 2016 i was travelling and was in the train when suddenly a heavy bag fell on my left hand from the top seat.

My hand was paining for sometime and yhen the pain vanished. Next day i noticed that whenever i touch a particular spot on my left hand i used to feel a sharp pain. The pain is on the back of my left hand right between the thumb and the wrist.

It was 2 weeks since i injured my hand & the pain is still very much there on the particular spot. There is no swelling or redness. I don't have any problem while moving my arms or carrying heavy stuff. It just pains when i touch that particular spot.

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