Hand Pain

03/06/10 01:03:48PM
Decades ago, I tried to learn chords, but had to give up. Playing chords seemed to be the way everyone was going, even had a workshop instructor tell the group that noter/drone style would bore the audience. So I went at it, and then went to my doctor for the horrible pain that had developed in my left hand and would radiate up to my shoulder.

When he asked what I had been doing, I discussed my daily activities and when I mentioned playing the dulcimer, I got the typical "What's that?" and then "Show me". I played "air dulcimer trying to demonstrate chords when he said simply, "Don't do that anymore, or you'll end up losing the use of the thumb."

I tried going back to the noter, but I was even having problems holding it. For many years my left thumb has been very painful and difficult to use to hold things with. I have developed a finger/dancing approach to playing on just the melody line. This keeps my fingers from stretching too much and straining the thumb joint. I never use my left thumb to play with at all.

This year my right hand has flared up and it has gradually developed enough tenderness and pain in the thumb joint that I can't strum with a pick. At first the pain only came if I was doing an inward strum, now strumming either way hurts. I tried thumb picks, but it is the pressure of the strings pushing against the pick that causes the pain.

At one point I found myself strumming with the nail of my index finger across the strings, and found that doing so produced a muted sound, but no pain. I now cut a pick the width of my index finger and use surgical tape to tape it on over the nail, extending beyond the finger to increase the sound. I still can only do an out strum as the pick catches coming in, but at least I can still play.