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Sore Left Thumb And Wrist ...


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I'm new with my duet Lachenal 39 buttons.


yersterday, I tried very eagerly (and nearly all day long, which is probably too much ... ) to learn Inisheer waltz, because I do want very much to play this tune (though it's not an easy one for me, being a beginner and having to get in mind the positions of the notes, and to do with absent notes on the right etc...).


At the end of the day, I overcame some difficulties but at the same time, I got a pain in my left thumb and wrist, really painful which caused a strong waning of my enthusiasm ...


I know I played too long.


But my question is : why is the LEFT thumb and wrist ? and nearly no pain on the right hand ?


Maybe I play my concertina the same way as I play my melodeon ?


and another question is : is there a special way to manage the bellows when playing the concertina ?






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I don't know if it is relevant, but I am learning Anglo and trying to use left hand chords/right hand melody.


The first few days I also had pain in my left thumb after playing. I was using a death grip with my left thumb, but not the right thumb. I have consciously tried to stop myself doing this by watching my thumb and keeping it straight. I also found that if I loosened the left strap completely and put my thumb into a small loop above the main loop then this kept me from gripping with my thumb. I do not need to do this much of the time - just to reset my brain into believing that I do not need to grip with my left thumb.



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I don't use a grip for my thumb, I just put my hands under the main strap.

But it seems difficult to adjust rightly this strap :

if it's too loose my hand is free, but not precise in its movements.

If it's too tight, I cannot use my 4th and 5th fingers ...

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Being an EC player myself I'm experiencing a sore right thumb (only worsened by an unlucky fall) for weeks now. Since I decided to straiten the right strap significantly the thumb seems to recover in spite of resumed playing.


I had to realize that my playing (whilst supporting the right end of the instrument with the right knee) is quite far from being symmetrical. Albeit performing the pushes and pulls with the left hand it's the right hand that is apparently challenged more (due to the resistance it has to put up?).


Maybe these observations apply to your playing in any way too.

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enthusiastic beginings and too much time spent trying to 'hard wire' a new keyboard into one's brain usually results in some pain at the hands or wrists.


This is normal and will go away as you develope muscle memory , strength and more efficient ways to play will come automatiquement.


I often have numbness arriving in my left hand from pinching a nerve at the base of my thumb when playing the Maccann... but it dépends for me on which chair I am sitting... only one chair allows this problem to commence.... why I do not know but it must be due to the height of the chair which causes my hands to enter the straps at an inapropriate angle.


I would suggest finding a good height of chair for you so that your hands enter the straps and your fingers arrive at the keys in a most straight line... that there is no "having to hold the instrument in place".


When I first started on the Maccann I had the straps too tight and I looked on these forums for discussions about all that and several people suggested having the straps loose enough that when you pull your hands outwards against the straps there should be, at the least, centimetre of space between your palms and the hand bars. This allows for some sideways movements that are needed to reach all the keys.


With the loose straps some people will brace the lower part of their palms against the end of the concertina behind the hand rest bar when they need firm control at bellows direction changes or for musical emphasis.

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  • 7 years later...
  • 2 months later...

It is very likely playing too long at a time in the beginning is the cause of your trouble, though things like carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result.  Right now back way off on your practice and stop if it is hurting at all.  Different things happen to your body when playing.  First, muscles get used in ways they aren’t used to, you don’t need a death grip to have a thumb muscle tensed for hours on end.  Also, depending on how you play, one arm may hold its end still while the other moves the bellows.  This means one shoulder area is getting isometric exercise while the other alternately moves and relaxes.  Nerves can be pinched in the shoulder area  from muscular pressure that can be felt in the thumb or wrist or other fingers basically any joint on the way from your neck to your hands can  impact your nerves.  Slowly building up playing time gives your body time to balance things out.  
    Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of a number of repetitive stress injuries.  To avoid it, the tendons that operate your fingers need to pass as close to straight through the carpal tunnel which is like a band around your wrist.  Arching your hand back or in the direction of your thumb causes them to press on the band as they move around a corner  back and forth when playing, eventually causing irritation and swelling.  Holding the concertina too close to your body  causes you to angle your hand thumb-wise as well as bending your hand back.  Ideally, your elbow should be at an angle greater than 90 degrees which happens when you move the concertina towards your knee.  Your arm should make a straight line from elbow to the tip of your middle finger.  The closer you get to this, the happier your hand will be. Depending on your concertina’s shape, this may mean rocking it up a little on the corner rather than flat on your thigh/knee.  
    The last thing is to learn to  relax your muscles every instant they aren’t being used. like when you stop a note or change directions. If you do this, you’ll find you get much less tired and reduce the pain from maintaining muscle tension.  On a duet, try changing direction for phrasing rather than from reaching the bellows limits.


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I got carpal inflammation from playing my first Lachenal in 1999. I had the straps a bit too loose and had to flex my hands back to control the bellows = pressure on the carpal nerve = lost most of a year of playing waiting for it to recover. Take this seriously, and get a medical professional to watch you play. They may spot it right away - my doctor did.

More of my story is in old C.net static pages here and here.



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  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/27/2021 at 10:50 AM, lindaket said:

Are you sure it was caused just by playing for too long? Is it possible that you had underlying medical issues? Because what you are describing sounds like a carpal tunnel. Definitely go see a doctor if it won't get better.

It  has  come  to  this  impasse.  After  suffering minor  loss of   the  sense of  touch  in my left  hand, which  I  thought  was  caused  by  a Stroke   in 2012,   things  have  developed  into  classic  symptoms  of  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Time for  that  visit  to  my  doctor.

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