Q: I am writing to you for a recommendation about a problem that I am experiencing related to guitar playing. Six to ten hours after playing a 40 minute set (normally the next morning) I experience a sharp pain in the first knuckle of the ring finger of my left hand (I am right handed). In addition their is considerable swelling and stiffness which subsides with icings, anti-inflammatory drugs (aleve), and rest within two days. The pain seems the worst when their is side to side force on the finger (eg when string bending). Any ideas you have would be welcome.
A: There's a few things that can be happening here. Even though it is your finger that's hurting we have to investigate many sources for this discomfort. The stresses upon your finger joints from playing the guitar are most likely responsible for the pain, but let's look deeper into why your fingers are resonding to the irritant so severely.
First, you have to take a good look at your overall nutritional state at this time. Are you getting in your fruits and veggies every day? Are you balancing your meals to include carbohydrates (starches, breads, pastas) with proteins (meats, fish) and fats? Poor nutrition will lead you do developing joint irritation. I often recommend that people with joint pains begin taking Essential Fatty Acids, such as Borage oil and flaxseed oil daily to help their bodies regulate the inflammatory response better. Secondly, I recommend glucosamine sulfate for joint pain conditions. This is a substance found in cartilage and helps to rebuild the joint surfaces.
The second avenue I would look into is the health of your nervous system. Joint pains can result from irritated nerves from the neck. The joints receive their nerve supply mostly from the radial nerve - which stems from the lower neck. Irritation of the lower neck can result in joint pains down in the fingers! Think back to any neck injuries or previous neck complaints. A chiropractor can easily determine if this is a problem that can be initiating your finger pain.
The third thing to look at is your playing style itself. How much pressure on your putting on the strings and how much force is being put into the joints? Sometimes simply playing with less force can reduce the irritant to the joints and thus reduce the swelling and pain that follows.
All this must be taken into consideration in providing an answer to your question. Seek a Chiropractor who looks at all these factors and you should see beneficial changes within one to two months.