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Painful thumbs?

kevgermany

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Anyone else have this problem? Am getting painful joints in the base of my thumbs - but only from playing the sax. If I stop for a week or two it goes away, but a couple of practices and it's back again. :(
 

Richard Perks

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Nanaimo BC Canada
I think keep practicing, also maybe change the position of neck strap to put thumbs in a more natural position. Seem to remember when I started playing 4 hour gigs standing all the time it happened till I got used to it.
Maybe others would have better idea.
Richard
 

Mikec

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Buckinghamshire, UK
I think this may be to do with the positioning of the ring you clip your strap to. I had the problem with my Trevor James sax, but don't have it with the Bauhaus Walstein I now play. The BH is better balanced, so there is less need for the thumbs to exert pressure in an awkward direction, perhaps. A technician can advise and move the ring if necessary.
 

visionari1

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Hi Kev.

You don't say anything about pain while playing, are you aware of any strain on your thumbs, focus on finding a position that is free from pain and loose.

As said above by others. check the strap and how you hold the sax, (ask your teacher if you have one) also even how you hold your head, this could all have an effect on your weakest link...Your thumbs.

Tell yourself often to relax your hands before and during playing!

Best of British
Hope some of this helps?

Cheers

Jimu:mrcool
 
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kevgermany

kevgermany

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Thanks for the suggestions. Will discuss it with my teacher on Wednesday. Should be interesting - we communicate in a mixture of pointing, my apalling German, his poor German and his native language - Bavarian, which I don't really understand at all....

I play it off to my right side with as little pressure/support from my thumbs as possible. I did try playing it pushed out in front, but it made the thumb problem worse. Adjusting the neck strap length gives problems with the angle of the mouthpiece in my pouth and makes some notes difficult...

Pain's there as I play, but not sufficient to affect my playing, and it fades as I play and concentrate more on the music. But there's a residual ache there pretty much all the time. Is much worse when I put the instrument down. And it's worse on the right than the left.

As for the strap ring position, any guides as to where it should be? Compared to say balance point, keys, angle at which the sax hangs from the strap? I'm a little loathe to have it moved (but will if necessary), the sax is an uncommon one, I'm guessing 60s manufacture, but in excellent condition, silver plated and I don't want to mess it up. The strap ring isn't directly attached to the body, but is on a small boss on the body.
 
Messages
59
Thumb joints

Anyone else have this problem? Am getting painful joints in the base of my thumbs - but only from playing the sax. If I stop for a week or two it goes away, but a couple of practices and it's back again. :(
Hi there, yes I had something similar with my left thumb when I started playing. They call it trigger finger (when the tendon gets inflamed and ceases to be able to pass through the joint properly and gets stuck (litereally stuck, like you have to pull your thumb to release the tendon - quite uncomfortable and very disconcerting) - It got really bad with me - as I work as a chef, so everytime I wanted to peel an onion or do something at all strenuous that required the use of both hands my thumb would seize up and I'd have to stop and pull it out of the joint to click it back - I went to see the doctor who told me I was allergic to wheat (!?$%) ended up seeing a specialist who told me to go away and see if it got better! I also did a few acupuncture sessions (which didnt seem to make any noticable difference so I stopped) eventually it cleared up by itself and I havent had a problem since. Bottom line is (IMHO) you may have to stop practising (try doing something really dilligent like practising on the piano r guitar) for while (I know its addictive, and while you're doing it you might even forget that your thumb is being 'semi-abused', cos you're so into what you're doing and you probabaly don't feel it when you're 'on the vibe') do you find that it is worse when you wake in the morning or when the joints are cold? No sax players seemed to have heard of anything similar when I asked by the way! I noticed that the joint at the base of the thumb got inflamed (and still is today 'lumpier' than the right thumb joint so I guess its some kind of build up of calcium or something that never goes away.
All i can say is that I think your body really has the ability to sort itself out but it does take time - but until I saw your post I had completely forgotten about this whole process (which must have taken at least 6-8 months to clear up completely). I must say that I found it really demoralising that I was being limited by this and was very worried that it would never get better. (I think thew whole thing might have something to do with being tense when you're practising too - And also playing for long stretches and forgetting to breath / take breaks etc!) I certainly needed to chill out and slow down - Hope that helps
Jake
 

Mikec

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Buckinghamshire, UK
As for the strap ring position, any guides as to where it should be? Compared to say balance point, keys, angle at which the sax hangs from the strap? I'm a little loathe to have it moved (but will if necessary), the sax is an uncommon one, I'm guessing 60s manufacture, but in excellent condition, silver plated and I don't want to mess it up. The strap ring isn't directly attached to the body, but is on a small boss on the body.
I assume that that would vary from person to person. My BH hangs at an angle of 45 degrees across my body when not holding it, and it swings easily into place with the mouthpiece perfectly aligned with very little pressure. My TJ hung almost vertically, and occasionally caught me in the eye if I wasn't careful.
I vaguely remember a thread about this in the old breakfast room. It might be worth searching the archives.
 

thehunt

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797
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Studham Bedfordshire
Hi Kev or rather Gruß Gott. I think most of us have experience some sort of twinge or other since playing, i remember i had an awful neck strain, so i bought a bra!! Well that is a harness, that may help alleviate yr problem as it helps distribute the weight more evenly. I use it during band practice but when i do a gig i use my round the neck jobby. although being in Bavaria you would look quite modern wearing a harness, just add the obligatory Lederhosen und Bob ist Dein Onkel. I also suffered with strained tendons in my right forearm, so i agree with Jake, maybe rest your thumb for a week or two, it's hard especially when you want to play but it should heal up then you can get on with proper practice. Hope you enjoy Bavaria, rgds Phil:w00t:
 
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kevgermany

kevgermany

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Thanks. Had a 6 weeks break over summer. Pain came back within a week of picking it up again.

Wrist exercisers, with flashing lights.... Hmmm, wife may not like it.

My music teacher will think I'm taking the p..s if I show up in Lederhosen, especially as brass and the occasional clarinet, not sax is de rigeur for oompah musik. Aber danke Phil.
 

oldcorollas

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50
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Sapporo
maybe have a look at this
Moving neck strap rings, or, "why does my vintage sax hit me in the teeth?"

my left thumb is still in bad position, so i will move the rest.. and probably move the right thumb up a bit too :)

but moving the ring position down took a huge amount of strain off left thumb.. and probably saved my teeth!

can you measure the position of the ring and thumbrests, relative to the length of the horn?? (from bow to tenon)
 
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Mikec

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201
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Buckinghamshire, UK
maybe have a look at this
Moving neck strap rings, or, "why does my vintage sax hit me in the teeth?"

my left thumb is still in bad position, so i will move the rest.. and probably move the right thumb up a bit too :)

but moving the ring position down took a huge amount of strain off left thumb.. and probably saved my teeth!

can you measure the position of the ring and thumbrests, relative to the length of the horn?? (from bow to tenon)
That's the excellent thread I meant.
 
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kevgermany

kevgermany

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Thanks. Gets more interesting. I'd seen OC's thread, but forgot about it, sorry. Really good idea for a thumb rest adjuster!

Let me start by saying that the right thumb is taking more strain and I'm not having a problem with the mouthpiece hitting my teeth, but I do need to hold it out of the way when I'm not playing.

Angle of dangle (between strap and body tube) is about 30 degrees (by eye).

Overall length 71.5 cm (including bow brace). So I'll call this 71cm to make the numbers easier. (The brace is about 4mm, 1mm is less than my error in the length)

Remaining positions measured from neck, but calculated from bottom.
Right thumb 22cm 31%
Ring 41cm 58%
Left thumb 53cm 75%

Ring between thumbs 61%

So that puts me well to the right of OC's graph.

But - if I move the ring down the sax, there'll be more pressure needed from my worst thumb...

OC, if you want to add these numbers to your chart, please do so. Sax details in my sig. Am guessing it's 60s, but no real idea.

Have just heard my teacher has flu, so not sure if there'll be a lesson tomorrow or not :-( Bad news, cos my son has the lesson before me and has broken his hand, so can't play and I would have scored a double lesson....
 

oldcorollas

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Sapporo
Thanks for the great measurements :) graph has been updated.

yoru dangle angle :p seems to about the same as mine before i moved the ring, but your right thumbrest is higher than mine (probably where i want to move it to ;) )

I can't remember exactly, but i think moving reduced pressure on both thumbs.. i will check when i go to work tomorrow. I have issues with my left thumb, so i notice problems with it more. (also, i tend not to lift up so much with right thumb, which then needs more left thumb to balance with the strap....)
measuring is by no means the answer.. more like just another clue.

can you temporarily adjust ring position using string or wire and things?

anyway, i will check and see what effect on both thumbs was..
 

oldcorollas

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Sapporo
sorry it took me a few days, i haven't picked up the horn for a while :(

as per the other thread, i have 4 adjustment holes (all are below the original ring).
the top three holes cause the neck to swing towards me, and the bottom hole swings away (falls away?) when just supported by the neck strap.

i found that starting at the top hole, the pressure on BOTH thumbs was greatest. i had to push away more with left thumb, and hold up more with right thumb.
going down the next two holes reduced pressure on both thumbs. the third hole is where i usually have it (at the modern yamaha balance position).

interestingly, when i went to the bottom hole.. the sax overbalances, and this reduces the left thumb pressure, to the point where the sax falls away, BUT, it also increased the right thumb pressure, as the whole sax had to be controlled by it...

so there is definitely a sweet spot to reduce the pressure on both thumbs, and have more weight/balance taken/provided by the strap. past that point, it goes wobbly again...

edit: that was for slightly infront position....
If i put the sax to the side.. so the weight is nearly all taken vertically (?) by the strap, moving to a higher hole reduced right thumb, but made left thumb much worse... hmm, i think i'm confused now ;)
 
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kevgermany

kevgermany

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Sorry for the delay, was in Belgium without internet last week.

Thanks for the info. Am playing slightly to the side, and the right thumb is the most painful, so I want to avoid increasing the pressure on that one. Have a lesson this week, so will be doing some asking.

I may try making up a bracket like yours, wouldn't damage or affect the sax. And if it doesn't work, all I've done is made sure that it's right.
 

Di in France

Senior Member
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607
Location
France
Sorry for reviving this thread, I know it's pretty old, but wanted to ask Kev how he went on with his problem.
I'm having the same problem with strain in my right thumb. It's not bad, but I find myself resting the sax (alto) on my right leg to relieve the pressure. I've just returned to playing after a short break, so perhaps it will ease once I get into the swing of things.
I'm also considering getting the jazzlab saxholder too as it seems to be well thought of. I did read a post on a forum somewhere that said it also relieved right thumb pressure.
 

llamedos

Senior Member
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425
Location
Lincolnshire
Post#6 refers to a condition known as "trigger finger" which I suffer from in the ring finger of my left hand, totally unrelated to playing activities, for which I had an injection (?hydrocortisone) into the sheath through which the tendon passes and this relieved the problem completely for about a year. The finger locks in a crooked position so that the tip almost touches my palm and I have to either forcibly straighten it (not pleasant)or wait until it flies back straight of its own volition. It goes with quite a snap and if it happens to be close to a hard surface for some reason the air turns a delicate shade of blue. I was not aware that this could also occur in the thumbs

I also have the pain in the basal joint of both thumbs which seems to be sax-related and I relieve this by applying traction to the thumb and gently stretching it; this seems to relieve the worst of the discomfort.

All this might not help significantly but be assured that you don't suffer alone and you have my sympathy.

Bonne chance, as they say in parts of Bavaria.

Dave
 
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