Heavier gauges and wrist problems - Is there a strong correlation?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by AznCaster, Jun 13, 2021.

  1. mikeford

    mikeford Strat-Talk Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Lot's of Classic guitarist do have wrist problems. Probably partly genetic and partly technique.

    On electrics, as long as you get a good set up, anything up to a 11 set shouldn't bother your wrist. Now if you Pat Martino and use a .15 for his high E and a .16 for his high B, I'm not sure how he pulled that off. I'm sure it's around here somewhere, but has anyone tried those balanced tension strings and if so, an improvement or just another way for the string companies to make money.

    Mike
     
  2. rossmon

    rossmon Strat-Talk Member

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    Just had whats known as a carpal tunnel release surgery on right wrist. Its a small deal but takes some weeks to recover strength. After a week i’m picking about 2-3 songs worth before resting. Next will be left hand that has a lighter case of this issue. One thing I learned is that science has changed its thinking about carpal tunnel problems. First, it’s not a tunnel at all but simply a space where the nerves/ligaments pass through. The problem is genetic and not through overuse. If you have a larger space, you can do anything from hammering to guitar playing and not get the problem. Of course there could be other issues like tearing a ligament but its not the nerve being squeezed.
     
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  3. fattboyzz

    fattboyzz Senior Stratmaster

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    People have to know their own limitations.
    I can play on 9s without arthritis pain, but EB 8s are what I like. There was a curve to get use to the slink but now its gtg ;)

    I even have a set on an acoustic dread :whistling::whistling::whistling:
     
  4. lazloryder

    lazloryder Strat-Talk Member

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    Yes, but only if you’re a lil b. ;)
     
  5. siegeld

    siegeld Strat-Talk Member

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    I'm not a farmer, but when I weed all day it seems to help my wrists and my plaing immensley.
     
  6. siegeld

    siegeld Strat-Talk Member

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    Any concern that the strings do not provide enough tension and the neck will bend as a result? (I was once warned about that when I talked to somebody about going light on an acoustic).
     
  7. hutt8

    hutt8 Strat-Talk Member

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    I have used 10's since I started playing some forty years ago. I have had issues with my hands (trigger finger and arthritis) that I have managed through physiotherapy, technique and stretching exercises before playing. I am also pretty religious about string height and neck relief so that the action stays consistent. I have friends who use 11's who have never had issues at all and one of them is a country player who is all about big double stop bends that can really stress the fretting hand. So , some of it is the luck of the draw but if you do have problems they can usually be managed. I have tried using 9's but they did not feel right after using 10's for so long and at the moment, using all the methods listed above, I have no problems at all.
     
  8. metrokosmiko

    metrokosmiko Strat-Talker

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    When you fret a note or chord, you press your fingers to the fretboard AND push the neck towards the fingers with your palm / thumb.

    On a fatter neck, the palm can do the work.

    On a thinner neck you need to compensate some distance so you end up pushing the neck with your thumb. This makes it more likely to strain your Quervain tendons and get tendinitis.

    I always get tendinitis with thin necks, regardless of string gauge.
     
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  9. StratUp

    StratUp Senior Stratmaster

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    General exercise would probably help you then.

    I didn't even realize that farmers got CTS, but then I got to know a life-long farmer well and he surprised me by mentioning that it was common among farmers. He was equally shocked to learn that IT guys had the issue.
     
  10. bigbang3

    bigbang3 New Member!

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    well there are a number of seasoned builder and techs on this site who can weigh in on this, but in my experience asa tech and builder your set up is probably more critical than your string gauge. In fact you can get lower action with heavier strings and yes, they do sound better. Sonny Landreth plays with 13's on his guitars and he has fairly high action because he frets behind the slide to get different sounds and altered chords
     
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  11. GlockandRoll

    GlockandRoll Strat-Talk Member

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    I used to think it was macho to play heavy strings and have the action a bit higher... but I was foolish.
    Billy Gibbons, Hendrix, and EVH all played light strings with low action. That tells me all I need to know.

    And yes, you will have MUCH less fatigue playing lower gauge strings.
     
  12. Jimbo99

    Jimbo99 Strat-Talk Member

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    I think it has more to do with the chords and hours put into playing the instrument, some are harder on the wrist to get into position to finger the strings. There was a day when I golfed more frequently and went to the driving range, that range of motion and is it any wonder gofers like Phil Mickelson is/was a poster child for the Enbrel. I have an Aunt that takes that stuff, it's amazing where her arthritis was for how debilitating it was and what she's able to do today. There was a day her finger joints were so stiff that her hands ached constantly. She had a chair that was a lift chair because getting in & out of a chair was sheer torture. At this stage I won't say she's restored to age 20 condition, but she can do whatever one would expect an elderly person to do in better health.
     
  13. Falstaff50

    Falstaff50 Strat-Talker

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    I'm not a doctor but I like to give medical advise on guitar forums. Anything that puts a strain on your wrists can cause issues. Even just hyper-extending you wrist regularly will cause issues. SRV was known for using heavy strings but per his guitar tech, right before his death he had switched to a lighter set as he was having carpal tunnel issues. YMMV

    I have nerve damage in my left (fretting) hand resulting in weakness and some loss of use in my pinky and so use xtra-light gauge on acoustic and 7 gauge on electrics. Sure makes bending a lot easier. I also tend to bend down other than up to alleviate some of the strain.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2021
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  14. AlanField

    AlanField New Member!

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    First off, string size doesn't equate to manliness. It's what works for what you are doing. I find my Telecaster with 9's easier to play then my LP with 10's. Put's less strain on my hands and allows me to play longer. Remember it's not size, but what you do with it. As you age the damage you do now, you will pay for later. Anyway if you need heavy strings then more power to ya.
     
  15. meat cheese meat

    meat cheese meat Strat-Talk Member

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    A bunch of terrific players do -
    Josh Smith uses .13s
    SRV of course RIP- .13s tuned to Eb
    Vernon Reid - 11
    Joe Bonamassa - sometimes 11s
    Jeff Beck - sometimes 11s
    Slash - 11s
    Keith Richards - open tunings 11s
    Pete Townshend - 12s and he does bends
    Dick Dale RIP - .16 to .60 (no bends)
    Chris Duarte - 11s sometimes higher
     
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  16. meat cheese meat

    meat cheese meat Strat-Talk Member

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    Heavier gauges won't damage you unless you're playing wrong.
     
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  17. bill68

    bill68 New Member!

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    it may be that your strings are not the problem,
    https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/ulnar-tunnel-syndrome-of-the-wrist/
    Ulnar tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve is compressed at the wrist. holding the guitar an angle that compresses the Ulna nerve will cause this ( like having the guitar too low will effect some people) for me it was only a matter of taking my watch off that cured my problem. experimentation with wrist position might help a lot
     
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  18. LilybugPapa

    LilybugPapa Strat-Talk Member

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    Albert King was 6’5” with hands like Paul Bunyan…
    No idea what size strings he used.
    Tone can be made to be fatter with thinner strings and the right pups and amp and most especially proper light touch…
    Counter intuitive but true. I don’t prefer really lite strings because I enjoy a bit of fight from my guitar. String guage is a feel thing most importantly. YMMV
     
  19. mark1406

    mark1406 Strat-Talk Member

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    We weren’t made to last forever and who can say how someone’s hands will hold up over the years, but a lighter load should mean less wear.
     
  20. Dreamdancer

    Dreamdancer Senior Stratmaster

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    Lol...most of them dont play a strat or a 25.5 inch scale instrument or those who do...dont really do regularly wide vibratos in the style of Zakk wylde or YJM.Any gauge is easy peasy until you get to big bends and wide vibratos on a regular basis(that are actually in tune and not random wiggles)....11s on an LP for example feel like 10s or 9/46s on a regular strat....

    Jazz players for example can(are regularly do) easily use super thick strings but guess what they almost never do what they are playing....yep you guessed it right...bend or wide vibrato notes....;)