Hand Cramping

  • The Good News: I am back to practicing every day!
  • The Bad News: I am experiencing a lot of hand cramping when practicing!

Hand cramping is caused by muscle spasms, which is uncontrollable or involuntary muscle contraction. These spasms or contractions do not allow the muscle to become relax and cause pain prompting me to stop playing every few minutes until the pain subsides. I am experiencing these pains in both hands at the bottom of my thumbs.

I experienced hand cramping when I first picked up the fiddle and began learning, but it has returned with a vengeance. Hand cramping can be caused by a number of conditions:

  • dehydration
  • electrolyte imbalances
  • exercise in high temperatures
  • diabetic stiff hand syndrome
  • arthritis
  • overuse injuries

I don’t believe my hand cramping is the result of the first four causes listed above, however, at 63 years of age, I do know I have some arthritis in my hands, and this arthritis is aggravated when I overuse my fingers, hands and forearms.

If you have been following my blog, you know I run a home business selling jams, salsas, bbq sauces and other jarred foods on the internet, at craft shows, and in a few dozen retail locations. We are in our busy season right now, have been for the past couple of months, and this will continue right up until the holidays. A case of full jars weighs on average about 20 pounds, and by the end of the year we will sell about 3000 cases. From the time a case is produced until it is sold, we handle each case, on average, six times. That comes to 120 pounds per case and about 360,000 pounds a year. Since I do the majority of case handling, I am probably lifting or moving about 300,000 pounds of cases, most of it during this busy season. On top of that, I lift each jar individually twice when labeling it, not to mention all the finger and wrist movement involved in labeling. Is it any wonder I suffer from overuse injuries?

I believe this is the main reason why I am experiencing so much hand cramping at this point, and it seems to become even worse as I try to learn and play songs up to tempo. Why would playing up to tempo make the problem worse. I think it is because this is new for me, and as speed up my playing, I tend to become more intense and lose a degree of flexibility and looseness in my hands. I grip the bow and the neck of my fiddle tighter.

So, what’s the solution? Well, I can’t give up my business, but I can go back to doing my exercises that I wrote about a few months ago, and fell out of when my initial cramping stopped and all was well. With that in mind, I am reviewing and re-starting these exercises in the hope it will help alleviate some of my cramping:

Hopefully, paying a renewed attention to and performing these exercises will help with my current round of hand cramping and pain, as I look forward to the off season when my hands will get a rest!

Do you experience hand cramping and pain when playing? What are you doing to help remediate it. I am always looking for tips and hints.

  6 comments for “Hand Cramping

  1. Stewart H Holder
    September 21, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    I have used the Chinese Iron Balls also known as Baoding Balls to recover from hand cramps for more than 20 years.
    Each has a different chime sound (internal mechanism) representing Yin and Yang (soft and hard).
    When placed in the palm of my hand and gently rotated a mixed relaxing sound is heard and the acupressure points are gently stimulated to obtain a very relaxed feeling. They come in various sizes and even with exotic painted coverings, I have both types and one with painted dolphins.
    They can usually be found in New Age shops and even Martial Arts shops and don’t cost a lot.
    I use them if I have over exerted by playing my violin for too long and can recover by using them for just a few minutes

    • September 21, 2019 at 12:53 pm

      I have never heard of them before. I will research them tonight or tomorrow morning, and most likely order them. I’ll let you know. Thanks for that tip, Stewart; I appreciate it.

    • Stewart H Holder
      September 21, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      Hi You are more than welcome.
      The other (complimentary) approach that I have used (since a car accident in 1994 which resulted in a brain injury) is that of the late Kato Havas. Kato published many books (translated into many languages) and showed how to play the violin (fiddle) in a very relaxed manner. I only get a hand cramp when I forget to take a break and rush ahead. So her New Approach really does work when you work at it as recommended ! (and rest as soon as you lose it !).
      Just search on Kato Havas and let me know if you need further help.
      Best wishes Stewart (73) and playing much better and in tune !

      • September 22, 2019 at 8:25 am

        I just wrote a new blog post on Baoding Balls (http://fiddlingforolderfolks.com/baoding-balls/) and ordered a set. I looked into Kato Havas’ New Approach (two books on Amazon), but I don’t think I have the patience right now for the “abstractness” (for lack of a better word) of her approach. I did watch part of one of her YouTube videos (K. Havas workshop series). I may go back to them at some time.

  2. old cowboy
    September 21, 2019 at 9:26 am

    I went thru a time when I was practicing doing slides and I would get cramps in my hand. I would stop and massage my hand and try to learn to relax and not be so rigid with my hand, if that makes sense! At any rate I no longer get the cramps. I have been finding it hard to find the time for practice for the past few weeks because of family duties and Drs. appts. for my wife and I. It has been very discouraging. Hoping to get back in the groove. enjoy your blogs. Always looking for help and advice.

    • September 21, 2019 at 9:50 am

      Good to hear from you! Yes, that makes total sense. I am doing a lot of massaging lately, and reminding myself to relax both my hands. (I’ve been practicing Swallowtail Jig for the past hour, and keep reminding myself to relax.) I’m sure I’ll work my way out of these cramps. I need to get back to my stretching exercises. Like you, I too find it discouraging when I can’t seem to get practice in on a regular basis. I begin to feel like I am slipping, and almost get this fear that I won’t get back on track. I’m glad you like the blogs and always enjoy your insights and feed back! Thank you.

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