Ask the Expert – finger pain when picking

Ask the Expert – finger pain when picking

Tony emails a medical question:

I have a very puzzling question. I have been playing guitar for around 10 years and alternate picking is one of my strengths. I generally pick pretty hard and hold the pick at a grip of 6.5 if 10 being a death grip.  Just last night when playing at moderate speed (quarter notes at 125bpm) doing little licks I felt a sudden shock from the pick. The shock was on my picking hand forefinger top left part of the nail, the nail part that just touches the pick.  I immediately stopped cause the shock felt very weird, like the string vibrated the pick which vibrated my nail causing a weird shock.  I started playing again and zaapp!! The strings vibrating through the pick zapped me on the corner part of my nail again.  So I trimmed that part of the nail and I still got zapped.  I am in awe…I have never felt this ever in my 10 years of playing and I have always been a hard picker.  This was all playing my electric guitar unplugged.

What could be the cause?  Tonight I was not able to play at all past quarter notes of 80bpm before getting shocked or feeling that weird vibration type shock on my finger corner (top left corner of my forefinger even with nail trimmed).  I am heartbroken because I think I have to give up guitar playing.  Only way I do not feel a shock is if I hold the pick between my first knuckle and second knuckle but this position cocks my wrist too much and is hard for me to play….

Has this every happened to you or any of your fellow teachers/friends/students? Or have you heard of this situation before? Only way now I do not feel that vibrating shock is if I hold the pick very very loosely but then I cant play fast cause the pick is flopping all over.  I am devastated…..would you have any advice/suggestion? What in the world is going on all of a sudden?

Andy replies:

To be honest I’m not really sure what the problem is but it could be some kind of RSI (repetative strain injury) or muscle spasm. I had a similar thing a few years ago with my left arm when trying to practice lots of stretchy Police style add9 chords. The key thing is not to try and play through the pain as your body is probably trying to tell you something.

So, I’d simply suggest, go see your doctor. It may be something very straightforward, but its worth checking out all the same.

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