So, I had two interesting conversations about my left arm this week. Y’know, the one with the nerve damage and messed-up muscles that hurt when I play the guitar or do the dishes.
First I was talking with my massage therapist and we were wondering about some particular muscles in my left forearm. Without really thinking about it, I showed her the position my left arm and hand are in while I’m playing guitar and a look of horror passed over her face. She saw my thumb position and it all suddenly made sense to her. Those particular forearm muscles are completely engaged in order to put the thumb in that position. So, she kinda said, “Um duh, Tom. You’re doing this to yourself.” And she pointed out that the thumb is the most recent evolutionary part of the human body, so it’s a particularly nasty thing to be using incorrectly.
The next day I walked into my local guitar store with my forearm all wrapped up in tape and Icy/Hot stuff (just like Shaq wears!). My local guitar guru/god asked about the injury and then I asked if I could be pitting the frets of my guitars a little more quickly than expected by maybe squeezing the neck too hard. He looked at me and said, “So you walk in here injured with tired, strained, painful forearm muscles with painful shredded nerves and you think maybe you’re squeezing the guitar neck too hard? Duh! Oh, and your therapist probably said the same thing, didn’t she?” So I’m killing my arm and my guitars.
So, I guess there are two lessons here: 1. Yes, apparently it’s me and 2. Stop strangling the guitar while you’re playing! Less is more. Think of the Alexander Technique tenet about using only the appropriate amount of effort necessary for a particular activity and not more.
Last night I played at Metropolis from 8:00 – 1:30 with a couple of breaks. Tons of fun. I did manage to relax my left hand some of the time. Not all night, but it’s a start. I’ll work on it.