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A couple of years ago I started taking lessons in flatpicking soon afterwards my left hand (chord hand) began getting numb at night and when I practiced.

The docs told me I had carpal tunnel and we tried occupation al theapy with no positive improvement.

Finally two weeks ago I underwent carpal tunnel release. After the surgery I asked my doc when I could start playing my guitar again. He said it would be a great form of theapy and I could start after the stiches were removed. He said to take it slow and be patient. It could take up to a year to regain all I have lost in that hand.

Last week I had them removed, the next day I picked up my guitar for the first time in four months. I have lost speed (not that I was that fast anyway) strenght and dexterity.

I'm kinda starting from scratch and as of right now I can only use my little finger on the G, B and E strings for a only few minutes and can't make barre chords... YET.

I practice for twenty minutes three times a day and was looking for some suggestions see if there were some simple exercises I could do to help build up my thumb muscle and also work my little finger.


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Another good thing to do is to get a rubberball that you can squeese with your hand to build up strenght. Or maybe you should get one of these:

Hey Kenny,

I had the same problem with the fretting hand going numb.  I'd practice 20 minutes & it would get numb.  For a long time (6 - 8) years I could shake it & get the feeling back but it would soon go numb again.  About a year ago, it started to go numb & throb a little at night.  I tried braces, etc but it just got weaker & pretty soon the thumb and first two fingers were tingling all the time.   I had CT surgery and my doc told me the same thing yours told you.  

My hand had gotten so bad that I couldn't really play at all for about two months before the surgery, so it was really weak when I started up again.  So I'd play for a while - maybe 15 minutes at first - and then work on right hand drills for a while.  The recovery has been slower than I expected.  It took a good two-three months to get the strength back to a decent level and for the surgery-related healing pain to subside.  Since then it's gotten much better, but I would say "steadily" better.   Iv'e had periods where it was really getting better, and then I'd have a setback where it got sore & even a little numb again.  So I'd back off the practice time, which averages an hour or so a day, and only practice 20 minutes every other day or so until it felt better.  I found that icing it in a bucket of really cold ice water helped with the recovery time.

Bottom line, 10 months after the surgery, my left hand works better than it ever did before the surgery.  I'll occasionally play for 1 1/2 - 2 hours solid on the weekend without it ever getting numb or sore.  There were times when I felt a little depressed about the setbacks, but overall it's worked out pretty good for me.  

 As for exercises to improve the strength, I can't help you.  I think playing guitar is the best way to build the specific muscles needed, but I'm not a physical therapist and that is just my opinion based on my experience.  If your hand is getting sore when you practice, it's probably a good idea to end that session & maybe cut back on practice time.

I don't know how much any of that helps, but I thought I'd share my experience.


Hello folks,

I've been feeling CT-like symptoms for the last few months, particularly tingling/slight numbness in the middle and index fingers. What particular stretches, if any, did your docs suggest?

I amy also have an issue called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which has similar symptoms than CT but originates in the shoulder/chest area. I frequently pick, do lots of computer work, and am an avid strength athlete. I'm sure it's a combination of all these activities causing problems with the nerves of the hand/arm. Most stressful aspect is how it affects my ability to pick.

Best of luck with your recovery. If you are looking strictly for a hand strengthening exercise/activity, which will also minimize repetitive strain on the wrist/carpal tunnel, I would suggest simply hanging from an overhead bar. If you don't have a strong grip, it may take a bit to build up your ability to hang. Don't overdo it, but it's hard to do that with this activity as your simply hanging. When your grip fails, you hangs will simply let go. Take your time, may shoot for 1 minute to start, taking as many breaks as you need (i.e. you may be able to get 10 seconds as a time, so do 10 reps of 10 seconds with necessary rest between.) You're grip/finger strength will improve pretty quick. Why I like this vs. exercises involving repetitive motions is the lower impact this will have on areas such as the carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet in which nerves/tendons/vessels could inflame and become restricted.

Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on my suggestion. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Keep pickin'


Sorry for such a long delay in responding.  A series of family health issues to deal with.  

Thanks for the ideas, my hand is much better, not 100% but better than before CT surgery.

Finger work on the G, B and E strings are good but still buzzing some on the E, A and D strings.

Not complaining just part of the recovery process.


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