Help!! Hand is Cramping

thomasdalton

Junior Member
I have been having a problem with hand cramps lately. This started about 3 months ago. It started in my right hand between the thumb and the index finger. It's in the "meaty" area, if that makes sense. I'm a right handed drummer so this hand get most of the work. I use to be able to play for hours with no problem but now I have this cramping sensation after a few songs. It gets to the point where I can barely hang on to my stick. Has anyone else had this problem? And, if so, where you able to find anything that works? I'm really worried that my playing day may be numbered. Any advice would be most appreciated.
 

That Guy

Platinum Member
I dealt with that early in my drumming and found that I had an improper grip. I noticed that as I played my stick would creep down to the hilt of my index finger which caused me to tighten the grip between my thumb and index causing the cramping. I don't know if yours is the same case, but make sure your stick lies in the proper joint of the index finger and focus on keeping your grip relaxed. Just pay a little more attention and see if your allowing your stick to slide toward the hilt.
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
Thank you for the reply. I have been playing for over 20 years and don't think it's the grip. I hold my sticks in the proper position and hold them fairly loose as well. It seems to happen more when I'm playing the ride cymbal and less in the hi-hat position but my hand seems to be at the same angle. Palm down stick held between the first and second knuckle, using my middle and ring finger to bounce the stick. Is this wrong?
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I've commented on this a number of times, because I've had a similar problem. For me, the culprit was the sticks and overplaying (because it was too loud to hear myself). I prefer a thinner, 5a diameter, but I tend to overgrip if my hands get sweaty. This leads to quick fatigue of the hand (especially the right hand) and then I have to finish the song holding the stick with all fingers, like a baseball bat, lest I drop it and not be able to fish another out of the stick bag.

My fixes:
1) I changed my drumstick. Got a slightly larger diameter that fits my hand better. (If you are concerned with a larger stick being heavier, I recommend maple, as it is far lighter than hickory.)
2) I started carrying different size sticks in my stick bag, so if I start to cramp, I can switch to a larger diameter, or something with more grip, and not overgrip. To some extent, a heavier stick will do some of the work for you, and therefore you don't have to play so loud.
3) I turned down my monitor so that I could hear more of myself. I have noticed that when i use in-ear monitors and the drums are miked up, my ability to control the drum volume in the mix prevents me from playing too hard. Similarly, there's almost always too much volume coming off the stage, especially if amps are miked. Time to ask your bandmates to try bringing it down to 9 or even 8.
4) I brought a hand towel with me and use it between songs and during pauses to wipe the hands and sticks.
5) I don't use gloves, grip wax, or tape on my sticks, but I have sanded them to increase grip.
6) Eating and drinking properly leading up to the gig, and stretching. Hydration and nutrients prevent premature drying of your muscles and tissues, and stretching will help prevent shock to your muscles. I try to have a Jamba Juice with about 5 of the boosters maybe 30 minutes before playing, or a homemade nutrient shake (thank you wife!) Stretch in between sets, during long pauses, and have some water or Gatorade handy. Save the alcohol for after the playing is done.
 

That Guy

Platinum Member
Sounds like your grip is proper, yet I've seen people with worse grip technique not develop cramping. Where is your ride placed? Traditional right side sitting flat? The only reason I ask is because I'm trying to understand the angle of your hand when playing?
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Thank you for the reply. I have been playing for over 20 years and don't think it's the grip. I hold my sticks in the proper position and hold them fairly loose as well. It seems to happen more when I'm playing the ride cymbal and less in the hi-hat position but my hand seems to be at the same angle. Palm down stick held between the first and second knuckle, using my middle and ring finger to bounce the stick. Is this wrong?
Your hand may be in the same position, but it sounds as though you are increasing the pressure applied with the thumb when playing the ride cymbal. Instead of just looking at your hand, try getting as deep inside the musculature as you can and feel what's happening. Sometimes closing your eyes can help achieve this as our brains are wired to override sensory input from other sources when the eyes are engaged. It may be that the increased rebound of the ride cymbal is causing you to choke the stick to control it.
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
Thank you all for the replies and I will most definitely try your suggestions. Just an update on the hand:
I got up today have some swelling where the hand was cramping as well as some tenderness. Going to head to the doctor and see if it's a carpal tunnel issue. Worried as I have gigs coming up. Like I said, I'll incorporate your suggestions and be sure to post any updates. Thanks again.

PS. Feel like this may become a soap opera.
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
I had a similar issue though it wasn't cramps, it was causing strange nerve sensations in my hand, in the exact spot you describe. It was due to the over-use of the muscles in my hand, as a result of tension. Tension is a creeping, silent monster that can find its way into your body (and playing), without notice, sometimes.
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
Went to the doctor and will be on anti-inflammatory med. for 5 days. After that, if this presists, have a referral to a hand specialist. To be continued...
 

Buddy9832

Member
Maybe its diet. This may sound dumb. But do you get enough potassium in your diet. Because that will lead to cramping. Try eating more bananas or something.
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
Not dumb at all. Potassium was actually the first thing that came to mind. I did increase my potassium over the past few day and we get together again on Sunday for a few hours so I'll see if anything makes a difference. The doctor didn't seem to think it was potassium since I didn't have cramping anywhere else. We shall see.

I have been doing a lot of exercises, playing patterns, etc. for about an hour at a time and didn't have cramping so that was good. Unfortunately my kit is rather large and I keep at the rehearsal room. I usually use an E-kit at home. One thing that came to mind was that the cramping seems to happen most when I'm playing the ride. I started using a 20" Z Custom about 7 months ago and I wonder if the weight is an issue. I love sound of the cymbal and would hate if that was the case. I'll know more after Sunday. Until then...

Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. I'm loving this forum.
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
Your hand may be in the same position, but it sounds as though you are increasing the pressure applied with the thumb when playing the ride cymbal. Instead of just looking at your hand, try getting as deep inside the musculature as you can and feel what's happening. Sometimes closing your eyes can help achieve this as our brains are wired to override sensory input from other sources when the eyes are engaged. It may be that the increased rebound of the ride cymbal is causing you to choke the stick to control it.
This may very well be the case. I'll make it a point to try this Sunday.
 

madgolfer

Senior Member
As suggested before by other posters, hydration is very important. Coupled with the anti-inflammatory meds, you should see some improvement. Can you post pics of your grip and setup? This may shed light on the "technique side" of your problem, if there is one.

I had a similar problem a few years back and it turned out to be a pinched nerve. I switched to left hand ride for a while (very positive results) and payed very close attention to my tension level when playing. I had been practicing a lot of uptempo figures and simply overloaded my hand. The problem eventually went away when I cooled out my practice and playing to only what was necessary, in addition to what I mentioned before.
 

ace76543

Senior Member
Stretch stretch stretch. Look up hand and wrist stretches and do them 3 times each, holding for 20 seconds
 

thomasdalton

Junior Member
So the band has played for about 6 hours over the past couple of days getting ready for a show and I have been more conscious of hydrating, etc. And it seems to have helped. I have been making a conscious effort NOT to look at my right hand when it's playing the ride (suggestion by Boomka) and that has been very interesting. I am much more aware of my hand position by feeling it rather than looking at it. It's funny that I was looking at it so much because it's not like I don't know where all the cymbals are anyway.
The first day of practice I had no problem and the second day I only had some minor cramping sensations during one song that goes from 4/4 to 6/8 time and there are a lot of fills so I just instinctively look at my hands because they always moving from cymbals to toms when the song goes to 6/8. Did not feel that I needed to go to a specialist so ever forward. Once again thanks for all comments.
 

fess

Senior Member
Yes, it's very comfortable and works well. But if you don't use it often, it will make for a nasty blister on the inside of your index finger, at least for me.
 
I have been having a problem with hand cramps lately. This started about 3 months ago. It started in my right hand between the thumb and the index finger. It's in the "meaty" area, if that makes sense. I'm a right handed drummer so this hand get most of the work. I use to be able to play for hours with no problem but now I have this cramping sensation after a few songs. It gets to the point where I can barely hang on to my stick. Has anyone else had this problem? And, if so, where you able to find anything that works? I'm really worried that my playing day may be numbered. Any advice would be most appreciated.
Wow,

I had/have this same exact problem. It is between the "webbing" of the thumb and index finger right ? I had the exact same issue where I could barley hold on to the stick. It has gotten better from switching to a smaller stick. I went from 5b to Steve Gadd model. If you play hard music you will break the hell out of these if you dont allow natural rebound. Learning to allow rebound helped me the most.

I think perhaps it may be that too much shock is getting absorbed by the hand from not letting the stick bounce back enough. Also make sure you are drinking tons of water and eating foods high in potassium. This really seemed to help a lot. I find that it still happens from time to time mostly on fast 16th note ride patterns but no longer to the point of feeling like I am going to lose a stick. I have been playing for 27 years and this was a new one. I just thought maybe age was catching up with me. Take a break if you can and reposition some things on your kit. Move the ride to a different angle. Try everything you can think of but dont let it get you. It may be worth seeing a doctor or taking anti-inflamation that are available over the counter.

Good luck... OH and I used Carmine's grip too but it was only out of desperation to get through a song. Nasty blisters were the result however it beats the alternative.
 
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