Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis, Debilitating is the word.

by Simon
(Montreal, Québec)

The twitches/pain spot for my thumb tendonitis.

The twitches/pain spot for my thumb tendonitis.

Hi Mister Joshua,

Congratulations for this website. I know how long and how much work it took to get it done.

So, I have a tendonitis due to guitar playing in my left forearm (I play notes/chords with the left hand). I've seen a fellow physiotherapist for 7 months now with minimal results so she finally sent me to an Orthopedic Surgeon.

He says I have Tendonitis in one or both of the thumb tendons. His solution : 2 years break OR Cortisone shots. If it does not help, Surgery.

Far from interesting.

The pain is equal to the amount of guitar I play.

If I stop playing, the pain goes away within 2-3 days (the shrinking does not go away).

The pain is rarely present when my arm is at rest. Twitches/pain in my tendons (in a very specific spot (see attached picture)) mainly occurs when I use my thumb and index to pinch things but also occurs when I play piano, type on keyboard, play games with joy stick (anything that involves the thumb).

I have random mild pain in all the muscle (from the elbow to the thumb) but it’s way less than the twitches/pain in the spot. Also everything in my left arms seems to be shrinked. I can't stretch it as far as my right arm.

I guess this is caused by two traumas I foolishly inflicted to me:

Two years ago I had a show to do in a short period of time and had to practice too much on acoustic guitar. I also had to play while standing up which was new to me. I ended doing the show on ibuprofen to lower the buzz I had in my thumb, index, middle and the half of the ring finger. I also experience major pain (like electric shock) accompanied by a click in the wrist when playing barre chords.

The arm shrinkage appeared then too.

I stopped playing right after the show and went to physiotherapy, exercises, ultra sound.. EMG (which revealed no problem). That really looked like Carpal tunnel syndrome but I was told it was only over use. It repaired but my hand/wrist/forearm never came back as strong as before.

I stopped 9 month (just playing once in a while ) and switched to electric guitar (less strength required) and started a course in which I had to learn scales and solos. A new pain appeared in my forearm (thumb muscles) as I was practicing 1 hour a day. Also I learned later that during that period I stretched too much because I misunderstood my physio's directions. I did not do enough warm ups too... One night, I played piano too hard with my left hand (thumb and pinky playing an octave to be precise). That is when my current pain spot appeared.

I continued playing for a while and eventually almost stopped for 6 months (just playing once in a while, until pain was almost gone..) and then started seeing my current physiotherapist.

By the way, I work as a computer technician……

So here are my questions (finally);

of your DVD should I buy? You seem to be directing guitarists to the Tennis elbow treatment.. Does the one for guitarist contain all the info found in the elbow + the ones required for guitarists? Why is it cheaper?

What if the tendon/muscle is injured? Does your DVD will help me repair that?

Does the problem reside in the way I play? Position / too much muscle tension? I would REALLY like to know what move I do that is actually CAUSING it in the first place!!! Nobody seems able to answer that. As for cortisone shots and surgery, won't the DVD "patch" the problem and as soon as I go back to playing the wrong way... It will come back? I mean, how does the DVD solve the very source of the problem?

I have a show in 4 month. I started practicing more since January because of that and the problem is just worsening. Should I continue playing or cancel the show while I start on your DVD? How long does it takes to be cured?

Thank you very, very much for your help!


Joshua Answers:

Hi Simon.

Lots of questions, GREAT! Thanks for the all the details and picture too, very helpful.

I'll try to stay in order here...

1. 2 years break?!? Wow. That is a prescription based on nothing but hope. Meaning, he hopes that'll do it.

It's predictable that if you take 2 years off, when you get back to playing, this same pain will be there sooner than later.

Corticosteroid Injection? Granted I'm biased because I work with all the people that shots didn't work for, but while it may decrease your pain, it's unlikely to 'cure' you.

Surgery? That last in line on the list of 'standard of care' methods. What -exactly- would they cut on to fix this, I wonder?

2. Re: Twitching. This could be spasm from a Trigger Point (meaning a small set of muscle fibers stuck in spasm and creating lots of irritant/waste product).

My first suggestion for spasm and twitch is to supplement with Magnesium for Tendonitis.

That page will explain that, make sure to follow the 'magnesium dosage' link at the bottom.

3. Re: Elbow to thumb pain: Overall, you're looking at a Pain Causing Dynamic affecting the entire area. Meaning, progressive mechanism of Process of Inflammation, tightness, and pain.


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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Jul 20, 2014
electric shock pain in thumb
by: Anya

For the last couple weeks my left thumb gets this periodic painful sensation that is almost like an electrical shock.

It happens from the top of my bottom knuckle up to the second knuckle then radiates out around my finger nail. It's on the top of my thumb, only on my left hand and only occurs when I'm going to grab something by opening my hand wife and gripping something, which can be as light as a pencil.

It's not painful, just annoying and makes my hand weak. I noticed it after gripping a sheet tightly a couple weeks ago. I type a lot at work. I'm 33 & a mother of a very active 5 year old.

I'm right handed for writing but am left handed for all sports.

I do work out with a trainer with kettle bells and free weights. No visible injury, no bruising, no swelling, no disfigurement of any sort. I hope I've been specific enough.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Anya.

That's plenty specific, thanks.

Partly it's nutritional (lack of specific adequate nutrition), partly it's that somewhere you have too tight muscle (probably some number of muscle fibers stuck in spasm).

Nervous system-wise (which is all electrical) the shock is either caused by spasm and electrical is just how it feels as it sends a 'twinge', and/or, the nervous system is sort of confused about what's happening, so as you use it it sends out a 'ping' to see what information it gets back.

Read this thread, get back with questions and updates.

See Related: Recent Carpal Tunnel Surgery Still Have Weakness Pain And A Grinding Feeling

See Related: Injured Woodwinds Musician Who Needs Help With Shooting Wrist And Arm Pain

Mar 09, 2010
PART 5 - So... - Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis, Debilitating is the word
by: Simon

Hi Joshua,

It's my 7th day of ice dipping/bone broth/vitamins today. The pain/sensitivity is not gone in the spot but I think the twitches are. I will continue for a couple of days and see what happens.

I'm writing because pain has developed on the exact same tendon at the exact same spot in my other forearm.

I use my right thumb to massage and it is the exact same griping movement as for playing barre chords on the guitar. So what do you think of that?

I'm happy to discover this in a sense. Maybe it will help to point to a solution.

How can 3 days of massaging screw my tendon as much as guitar playing? There is obviously something wrong with me and maybe not the way I play guitar (yay!)


Joshua Comments:

Hi Simon.

(Don't worry about the response notification, sometimes I later edit for spelling or some such, and apparently that sends off a notification.)

1. No twitch. That's good.

2. If that spot(s) is the only place you have pain, then drop the Ice Dipping and focus more on the specifid work, on the spot and up the rest of that structure.

3. The massaging didn't mess up the other side. It may have irritated what was already there, or irritated something (that was already there).

4. It's possible that you have pain on both times from overuse/repetitive activity. It's possible you have pain from nutrient deficiency (though you are assumable supplementing adequately so that's becoming less of an possibility, but could still be.)

It could be you are a 'slow healer'. Which just means that you have to keep at it a while more.

And if you -were- deficient, and you're supplementing adequately now, it will take your body a bit to catch up. I'm leaning towards this option at the moment.

5. Instead of using your thumb, use a knuckle, fingertip, edge of wrist, etc. If using the thumb is causing problems, stop.

6. You're this far into it. I'd keep at it more than a couple days. For some people, it's just too soon to stop, as there's a lot happening under the surface of the skin even though you don't feel it.

Fine tuning what you're doing is good though!

Feb 28, 2010
PART 4 - Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis, Debilitating is the word
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Hi Simon.

I LOVE questions, thanks!

1. The thing with scar tissue is that it's really about making the tissue -healthy-, meaning soft and gummy.

Scar tissue 'heals' injury by laying down in such a way that it gets dry and crunchy.

If you work it enough, you can get it back to pre-injury state. But most people aren't going to put that much time into it.

There are the other variables to deal with, of course, but specfifically on the topic of scar tissue, the way you 'keep it from coming back' is by keeping it soft and gummy. Once you get it there, it's easy to keep it there with a little bit of awareness and ongoing maintenance.

Also, when the scar tissue no longer 'adhered' and stuck, then it moves freely. The free movement helps keep any wear and tear injury from coming back, as there is no unnatural restrictoin causing microtrauma.

Does that get it out of the gray area?

2. How do you get tendonitis in the first place?

That all depends on what is causing the pain?

Pain can come from too much chronic tension, and/or wear and tear damage and scar tissue build up, and/or fascial restriction, and/or nutritional deficiencies, etc.

Just because you have pain doesn't mean that you have any damage.

3. Posture and how you play is a factor, but even with perfect ergonomics, muscles still fire over and over.

I don't look at how you play, I look at getting your structure happy again. When you learn to keep your structure happy, then it (sort of) doesn't matter how you play. Granted, the better you play, the less self care you'll have to do, but perfect playing ergonomics won't necessarily save you from developing a a pain causing dynamic.

4. I'm not at expert on how to play guitar, so I'm not going to talk about that. And, there's lots of sources out there.

It's a great idea, but A. I'm not an expert on that and B. see #3.

Do keep me updated, and let me know how things go. I'm always available for fine tuning.

Feb 27, 2010
PART 3 - Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis, Debilitating is the word
by: Simon

Hi Joshua,

Thanks for the quick answer! I bought the ebook. Read it. I agree, it all makes sense and I will definitely do it all.

There are still gray zones..

First, How destroying scar tissue to remove adherence through massage will prevent them to come back?

Second, as I said in my first post, and like you say, there is something missing. What is the cause of the tendonitis in the first place? It is good to heal it but how do you prevent it to ever come back again?

If I play in a bad position, clearly, tendonitis will come back, whatever I do or eat, no?

I think you should do some additions to your book. You should talk about the right position to play guitar.. straight back, guitar not too low, warmups before playing and how much are required.. how do you know you are warmed up.. and stretchings? Are they required or not? Examples of positions etc..

You may like to take a look at Jamie Andreas "Guitar principles". (google it).

Anyway, this really is constructive critic and I do not less agree with what you say in your book. I will keep you posted on how well it works on me!

I already started to call slaughters for shopping bio bones (not as available as one could think.. I had to order some and it will take a week..)


Feb 24, 2010
PART 2 - Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis, Debilitating is the word.
by: The Tendonitis Expert


4. When you say 'Carpal Tunnel Syndrom repaired' you really mean 'the pain went away but lots of the tightness etc remained'.

5. Were I you I would get the Reversing Guitar Tendonitis ebook.

6. I directed guitarists to The Tennis Elbow Treatment That Works DVD because I didn't have the ebook out yet. I need to find those references and remove them, thanks for the reminder.

You have more of a Wrist Tendonitis issue than a Tennis Elbow issue. The dynamics are very similar, of course, and Guitar Tendonitis is a flavor of Wrist Tendonitis. Ultimately, you need to deal with the ecology of the enitre area.

7. Why Cheaper? Various factors, and I'm going to put the DVDs on sale here pretty quick

8. Yes, the ebooks and dvds show you how to repair any injury. Though it's really not so much agbout the wear and tear injury as it is all the other factors that exist long after the injury is 'healed'.

9. "Does the problem reside in the way I play?"

Sort of, not really, kind of. I focus on the physical dynamic, and not really -how- you play, type, etc. The way you use your body really isn't the problem (unless you're doing something REALLY wonky), as you'll see.

Come back to that entire paragraph once you get the ebook, read the ebook, and start following the protocol.

10. Keep your gig date in 4 months.

If you are motivated and put in the time and effort to do it right, you'll have little to no pain well before that, even with praticing. Having said that, you'll need to counter the irritation from continual playing, but I don't foresee any real problems.

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