Guitarist - Wrist Issues

Q: I am a guitarist that has been playing for twenty years; I am 32 now. I've been playing professionally for the last 10, and and even though I don't practice as much now, we're talking many hours. Well the problem with practicing you see is that my left wrist has become somewhat of a problem. From what I know about Carpel Tunnel, it doesn't seem like I've got it. The problem then---I'm not sure. I have developed a "bump" on the top of my wrist, that is located about 1/2" inch from the bone that ordinarily sticks out along the side of the pinky. This would be just south of that bone if I were looking at my watch. It feels hard like a bone in itself, unable to be massaged away. When I play, it becomes distinct, and usually there is some dull pain, sometimes a feeling of weakness. Any ideas? I am about ready to see a doctor, but who, what, where? Thanks for your advice. >>

A: What you explain sounds like a ganglion cyst - a small protrusion of a tendon's sheath. This is a benign problem and responds to deep tissue massage techniques and other natural therapies. Medical doctors will typically excise the cyst with a "simple" surgery. (If you can call any surgical procedure simple.) Of course, you would need to be examined to determine the exact nature of the problem. Ganglions develop due to a prolonged stress on the tendon.

So my thought is this - what is making this develop in the first place? I would take a look at your playing style to see if you are stressing your hands in any way. You always have to look at the underlying stressors to determine why the problem is developing. If you don't, you'll simply run the chance of redeveloping the problem again.

As to what doctor to visit - I would recommend chiropractic care simply because of my knowledge of the body's self-healing abilities. I would recommend a hand x-ray to rule out any oddball things that could be causing this bump. I would implement massage therapy in with the chiropractic care to help the tendons heal properly. I would recommend a video-tape analysis of your playing style to determine how you are stressing your hands.

I recommend the conservative care for about four to six weeks. If it does not reduce the size of the bump over that time, than I would recommend a medical consult with a hand surgeon for more invasive procedures. But always do conservative care first before considering surgery.

I hope this helps you out. Good luck in your decision-making.