Anyone switched hands due to arthritis or injury?

sgarnett

Country Gent
Apr 14, 2020
1,039
Kentucky
Lately, I've been pondering left-handed guitars. I'm right-handed, but between pronator teres syndrome in my right forearm (similar to carpal tunnel, but the pinch point is between branches of the pronator teres muscle) and arthritis in my left thumb, playing backwards is starting to seem like an option.

Decades ago, I worked with a woman who was right-handed but played lefty because of an industrial accident, and of course many southpaws (including my father) play right handed.

Granted, as lefties already know, the selection of instruments is far more limited, and at 57, learning all over again is daunting (though at least some knowledge transfers).

I doubt if I would try to switch completely. I'd probably go for ambidextrous playing to reduce the wear and tear. And yeah, after I had to quit playing completely for several years because of ignoring the pronator teres pain until I couldn't, I pay a lot of attention to posture and what my body is telling me.
 

juks

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 26, 2020
3,271
Fremont, California
Ugh, I am so strongly right handed that I can't see how I could ever do that.

However, I have a teenage street hockey injury in my left wrist which makes playing barre chords for example quite painful. After about two chords... Hence I was quite happy to settle being a bass player for many years. No issue with the bass. Now as I'm trying to learn more guitar, I have to kind of cheat my way around the neck with my left hand. As I just can't play all chords the way they are supposed to be played. But as I like playing with distortion, that helps with the cheat too.

A doc did tell me that I likely will get arthritis on my left wrist earlier than I would have without the injury. No sign of it yet, but the damage is there.

The thought of switching to left handed has never even occurred to me, but an interesting idea. In fact in a live situation that would be very cool if half way through the set you suddenly switch from right handed guitar to left handed :).
 

GlenP

Country Gent
Double Platinum Member
Jul 23, 2019
2,566
WA
Maybe try seated lap guitar using an overhand style, like Jeff Healey? There’s also open tuning and pedal steel slide guitar.




Seems like the switching dominant hand trick in the middle of a set would have been cool gag in the Crossroads movie, if the Karate Kid goes like, well I am not left handed, and then totally wails on Steve Vai. Apologies to Inigo Montoya.
 
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Luthier47

Electromatic
Apr 22, 2021
19
East coast USA
That isn’t a bad thought and opened my eyes for a few seconds...but my left hand thumb was injured in a car accident and just has not gotten any better since. And as mentioned by juks, I am so right handed that after 60 yrs of playing guitar, I think it would be nearly impossible to get my brain working like that. Feels like an ice pick going thru the palm under the fleshy part of the thumb. Love the suggestion though. By the way, Healy was terrific In Road House with Patrick Swayze.
 

Viking Power

Synchromatic
Jun 11, 2018
740
Mountlake Terrace, WA
I’ve been tempted many times to go lefty and have spent time as a bassist because my disabled left index finger was mostly a non issue with bass.

I broke my finger on a kid’s forehead after he stole $8 from me. We were both at a temp home for kids in the foster care system and $8 was all I had at the time. Anyway, I end up the loser in the end due to having a finger that never healed right and has got in the way of playing guitar for many years.
All of that said, I decided a few years ago to take inspiration from Django, Iommi, Poland, and others who have kicked a lot of ass on guitar despite fretting hand issues. I have been plugging away getting better and better slowly. A month or so ago I found a guy to take lessons from which is inspiring me, giving me exercises to get my fingers moving better and working with me on any technique limitations I run into. I’m loving it.
I don’t know just how good I might get though my aspirations are fairly humble. I could see jamming with others and maybe some open mic nights in the future.
Weird, after all these years, I think the mental side of my injury was hampering me quite a bit regardless of the actual physical limitations. Now I’m setting the mental aside and I’m doing pretty good!
Here’s the digit for your perusal:

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Everyone’s situation is different and I hope the original poster finds a good path!
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Platinum Member
Dec 27, 2017
6,118
Santa Cruz
I used to try playing left handed years ago early in the learning process just to remind myself how much I had improved actually playing guitar....right handed of course.

It sure would not be easy, you might just want to string up one of your guitars lefty and have some fun trying

I wish you the best of luck
 

Blister

Gretschie
Jan 2, 2021
110
Upstate NY
I'm 67 years old naturally right-handed and due to a physical injury I'm aspiring to play guitar left-handed so far so good. The important thing is to keep the faith and keep pushing aircraft. You already know how to play guitar so you've got a leg up already.
 

Archtops

Country Gent
Mar 4, 2021
1,357
SoCal
Because of osteoarthritis I’ve actually changed my guitar to a lighter one. Gone are the days of playing heavy guitars (Les Paul) etc.
Lately I’ve been playing the Gretsch 6659 because of its smaller and lighter weight. It’s why I joined this forum after I picked up one. I thought my guitar playing days were behind me until I got my hands on this awesome guitar.
Best of luck to those that suffer from arthritis.
 

wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
18,845
lafayette in
Who is this Arthur I. Tis and what did I do to tick him off?
I'm too old a dog to learn a trick as new as playing guitar leftie..
Thankfully, I can still bang out tunes on piano.
 

freddyfingers

Gretschified
Platinum Member
A few times i went out and got a lefty guitar and mandolin. The through process was to train the other side of the brain. Not as easy to do as i thought. It did give me a remembrance of when i first started to play and better players would say “ just play this lick like this”, and then play some lick that was beyond my hands ability. Helped me relate to how the students i had at the time felt.

A few years back I crushed my ulnar nerve in my right elbow. It made delicate picking difficult for a while, and i dropped picks all the time. Eventually i learned to play around it, but tried lefty again. If given no other option i would go at it full force, but with right handed playing still an option, I’m ok.

PS

Lap steel might be an easy option to learn the basics of, as mentioned earlier in the thread, but take it from a guy that bought a pedal steel recently , lefty, righty or ambidextrous, its a Lifetime of work.
 

MotorCentaur

Synchromatic
May 11, 2016
589
Seattle
I know Jerry at Jerry's Lefty Guitars did because of a work related injury. He cut off or up his left hand index finger with a Skil saw.

For myself, I have been lucky enough to keep all my fingers intact, and there have been a couple close calls.
I am totally left handed. Holding a guitar right handed is and always has been uncomfortable. I cant even curl my left hand around a guitar neck in such a way that it would be useful for fretting strings anymore, 30 years of carpentry and concrete finishing will do that to one.
 

Lacking Talent

Country Gent
Aug 5, 2010
1,164
Los Angeles, CA
Insurance unfortunately did not cover this and so I had to go out of pocket for it (which I was able to do once the cover was closed and the clamps were undone).

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That said, the restored mobility has really improved my fingerpicking.
 

KelvinS1965

Gretschie
Jan 11, 2019
323
Wokingham
Interesting thought to change hands, good that it hasn't put you off wanting to play and hopefully some will transfer over. It doesn't sound like it applies in your case, but having a selection of guitars with fat and thin necks, long and short scales has helped me with some hand problems I had. I used to have to stop playing for a few days to give it a rest, but then found that playing a guitar with a different neck stopped the pain and I could carry on.

I don't know if the change helped strengthen my hand/wrists in some way or just that it didn't aggravate my problem, but (touch wood) it hasn't happened much at all recently.

Perhaps something to consider for anyone else reading this thread who might be prone to have hand/write problems. Don't get stuck in a rut and think 'oh I only play xxx profile, www frets, yyy radius and zzz scale length' as in the words of Sheryl Crow: A change will do you good. :)

A very good friend of mine has had problems with both his wrists in the past year, which has really impacted his playing. Just as his left wrist was sorted out, an old injury on his right hand flared up, so he's having to stop and have an operation next week. That'll be another 6 weeks of not playing/being strapped up, so he isn't very happy about that prospect...it sucks getting old. :(

FWIW I'm a weird mix of left and right handed: I write/draw left handed, but play guitar right handed. This makes it hard on touch screens though as my toughened fingertips on my left hand don't always work so well when I'm typing on some screens at work and I instinctively use my left hand for that. :confused:

On drums I realised that my legs are better for a left handed kit, but my hands suit a right handed kit, which might explain why I'm not very good at complex bass drum parts. o_O At least with tools I can swap around, which is handy in my job as access isn't always great, so being able to reach in with either hand is a bonus.

Good luck OP, hope it works out for you. :)
 

loudnlousy

Gretschified
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 18, 2015
12,734
Germany
This is an interesting topic.
Although I am lefthanded I play my guitar righthanded. Because I was not aware of it when I took it up and someone told me how to hold it "correctly".
When I found out that a friend of mine was ambidex and even able to play the guitar with the bass strings towards he floor I was so flashed that I wanted to try it out, too. I found it to be extremely hard and gave up after some weeks of trying.
In fact there are other guitarists like Tony Iommi who gave up on this and found a work-around to play the guitar as they used to even after losing two fingertips on their fretting-hand. That speaks books.
I wish you good luck, friend.
(Maybe -as a first step- switching to lighter strings would be helpful?)
 
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capnhiho

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 16, 2013
1,518
California
Switching hands won’t help me, as I have arthritis in the carpal/metacarpal (C/MC) joints at the base of both thumbs. Naproxen (Aleve) is my remedy of choice because it relieves most of my thumb pain (and the pains in other joints) for 12 hours at a time. Some days just moving my thumbs hurts, some days it’s my fretting hand, other days it hurts simply holding a pick. Guitar neck shape seems to have a critical role in the comfort of my left hand - I’ve sold off every guitar whose neck shape isn’t similar to Gretsch’s “standard U” like my G5420.
As @KelvinS1965 stated above “It sucks getting old!”
 

amp360

Synchromatic
Oct 21, 2012
658
Maryland
I blew my wrist out several years ago due to poor playing technique and overuse. After I had surgery I really had to go back and work on things to get my playing back. At the end of the day my technique is way better than it was and I don't have the issues I used to have.

I don't know where you're located but at the time I was in the Boston area and went to a few sessions with a group of doctors that specialize in injuries/preventing injuries unique to musicians. IIRC they were at Brigham and Women's. You may want to reach out to a local hospital and see if they have something similar.

EDIT - Found it

https://www.brighamandwomens.org/neurology/performing-arts-clinic
 


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