Gramps Cramps?!

Hello all, I have played for many years but did not play for many also. I have been really getting back into it in the last 8 or 10 months. I try to play for a couple of hours a day but I’m 66 and have started getting TERRIBLE finger cramps on my fretting hand! I mean like have to take my other hand and bend the finger to get it to release! I see the doc next week and will ask but I’d love to hear some real advice from any other older players… Thanks very much…

I do two things I squeeze a stress ball to keep my hands moving and loose also I use aspercream that helps a lot.

Hi Gary,
That sounds like a serious cramp…when I play bare chords for 5 minutes straight, the cramp threatens to come in too…and sometimes it do,but it’s gone within 3 till 5 seconds when I relaxed my hand and then go something else play…but with your other hand untie your fingers :grimacing:…well, then even what the real doctor says and make sure you don’t let it get THAT far until then…otherwise you will go too far and you will have to rest for weeks… Right?

So you think people here will give you better advice than the doc? You clearly haven’t been here long. :joy:. I’m 69 by the way. We are all different so there is no one size fits all.


Haha, that made me chuckle.

I had a real pain in my fretting hand that made no sense to me, it came seemingly out of the blue. Went to the local doctor and he suggested an ultrasound. That really showed nothing and he recommended no specific action other than take it easy and see how it goes. So I asked for a referral to a specialist. I was scared it could be something worse like arthritis. Very glad I took it to the next level, the specialist ordered an mri which showed a small tear in a tendon. Can’t remember the name of it. So I ended up with a wrist brace and a much clearer idea of how long before it would get better. And he also said there was no hint of arthritis.

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I’m sure someone here on the forum would have told you to get an mri scan too. Think of the money you’d have saved if you’d only asked us. :joy:

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I know. And could have put it into more guitars. Thankfully living in Australia we have very good public health system and I was only out of pocket a small amount.

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Excellent news Tony. :+1:

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Hi Gary,


Muscle cramps are frequently caused by an imbalance of electrolytes.

  • Make sure you are hydrated, so that means water, no coffee, tea, beer, etc. for a while.
  • Do some research on things you can eat that improve electrolyte balance. Think about what you are doing to get it out of balance and try to adjust toward balance. Avoid the sugary drinks that claim to help, there are better alternatives than spiking your blood sugar.

Western medicine is pretty good at covering up minor problems so you don’t notice them, but without a cure. They are pretty good with handling problems AFTER they happen. You need to locate medicine that can help prevent troubles. I prefer naturopaths, but they do tend to cost a lot in blood tests and sometimes supplements.

A little research on your part can go along way to altering your diet without the cost of searching for a the right doctor to think up the right thing to try.

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A little off topic but I like to run my fretting hand under some warm tap water and then massage the hand before I start practice. Does a nice job limbering up along with the usual finger exercises on the guitar.


I am a doctor and… what @sequences says is spot on. We do not manage cramping well at all. Stretch, heat, letting up a bit, electrolytes and good nutrition will do the best.

I find that after a while playing, especially holding the same cord for a long time, I can barely straighten out my fingers. They aren’t locked or cramping, just stiff.

My professional medical opinion is that I am old…


Just sounds like you are over practicing and probably not taking enough breaks. Make sure you do a full warm up routine of stretching with and without the guitar before you start your practice schedule and include regular breaks. I’d back off on the overall time for a few weeks and give your hands time to recovery. Your body needs rest to adapt.

67 and get the odd trigger finger in my right hand, makes finger picking interesting.


I’ve mostly found GP doctors not good at muscle exertion / sport injury type stuff, physiotherapists have been better. Although clearly if you have a tear like @tony that is different.

As well as the electrolyte advice, having adequate salt in the diet can impact cramps. Although another really common reason is that you just might not have built the hand strength again yet?


Thanks, I’m going to pick up some Aspercream but I think I am going to bite the bullet and just not play for a couple of weeks and see what that does.

Thanks for the reply Roger. Yeah, it is almost exclusively when doing barre chords. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I think I’m just going to stop playing at least until I see the doc next week.

Yeah, well that certainly is not the case for me. Something like an MRI will be very expensive for me.

Thanks, some great advice there.

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ROFL! “My professional medical opinion is that I am old”. That has to be one of the most honest, realistic medical opinions I have ever heard! Thanks

Thanks for the reply. It’s definitely not anything like tendon issues as every finger excluding my pinky do it!

I got seriously into guitar at 66. I am 69 now and play regularly. Cramping, though it will occur with barre chords, is not as much an issue as joint stiffness and 2nd and 3rd trigger fingers. I did a series of shots to resolve the trigger fingers. After the third round of shots in a year, my doctor said no more shots. Only surgery. Definitely do not want surgery.
Here is what I do to keep my hands as limber as possible:
Avoid strenuous labor involving heavy lifting and vibrations - chainsaw work and lumber milling used to be a staple for me, but now I am supposed to be retired
Do finger stretches and finger gym as the first exercises in my practice routine
Consciously use as light a touch as possible with my fretting hand
Apply a CBD infused menthol cream to my hands just before bed.
I have not had any symptoms beyond some mild stiffness in the morning for a long time now.
Obviously playing steadily and doing the finger exercises Justin recommends has helped me build up my hand muscles in a different manner than before.
Hope this helps. Playing guitar has become one of my favorite past times and I only want to play more and longer.