Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

I play guitar and banjo with no issue, but when I try to play on the mandolin, it feels like the tendons or ligaments about halfway up my forearm on the inside are sticking. It’s usually only when I have to play 3 or 4 notes very quickly that would require 3 fingers fretting quite close together.

I have watched some physio videos on youtube for guitar, mostly putting pressure on the parts of the forearm that hurt with your other thumb. They haven’t really helped.

Has anyone else experience of this? Most of the stuff I could find from googling was to do with people’s strumming hands.

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

I haven’t heard of this specifically. It’s a bit weird that it is only with a mandolin. You could maybe use that fact to try to learn more about it, and then take that information to a physician or physical therapist. So why just the mandolin? The two things that I can think of that might trigger it are:

1. The small spacing between your fingers to reach the frets. It’s possible that having your fingers that close together and moving separately is causing an issue in your forearm. Testing that theory might be as easy as playing the mandolin with your fingers spread further apart (you would have to ignore the sound, and just play it as if it was the same scale as the banjo resulting in gibberish, but you might be able to tell if that is the source of the discomfort).

2. The distance of your arm from your body. With guitar and banjo, your arm will be further away from your body, with your wrist at a different angle, which might be the cause. Testing that theory might be as easy as positioning the mandolin on your left leg instead of between your legs, which will move your arm further away from your body.

If you can pinpoint what it is about mandolin that is giving you trouble, then the medical professionals might be able to help you ease the discomfort…

Best of luck!

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Those are two great insights, particularly the second one. I had thought maybe it’s something to do with the way I’m holding the mandolin. I have played guitar and banjo for years now and have good posture with those instruments. I had never really thought about it with the mandolin and I do keep it sitting between my legs.

I’m going to have a go at moving it a bit further from me.

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

This video below may be helpful for someone transitioning from guitar. The mandolin is more like a fretted fiddle. Some of the technique carries over, like not planting your left hand thumb in the middle of the back of the neck as shown here. Also good tip here about the importance of setup.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmagoBQunZI

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Just curious - do ye use a strap when playing or are you supporting the weight of the neck with your left hand?

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Yes, I was going to say mandolin setup too, it’ll make a big difference.

Another would be that the mandolin’s strings have a higher tension and also that you’re using heavier finger pressure on the fretboard to get clean individual notes while your guitar playing might be more relaxed.

Dehydration is another one.

Whatever though, I think most people would say to stop playing if you get any tendon pain at all and figure out where the problem lies before continuing.

(I got a similar problem when I started weight training, so had to make choices)

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Is it to do with the degree your wrist or elbow are bent? I sometimes experience wrist pain while playing tenor uke, but not with octave mando.

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Atsunrise makes a good point about the higher tension of mandolin strings… Cheaper mandolins(I’m not suggesting you are playing a cheap mandolin) usually have a higher action and tend to be harder to "fret".. So, it would be good to check the set up or have someone do it for you. You could also try lighter strings.

I also concur with Reverend about placing the mandolin on your left leg as opposed to between them. Better still, I’d suggest a strap and you can experiment with different positions in relation to your body and arms. I tend to play mine at approximately a 45% angle but I’m not saying if that’s right or wrong. It just suits me.

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Yes I’d say experiment ‘rotating’ the angle of the neck and your left arm - find the most relaxed and comfortable position - then adjust straps, knees - whatever - to fit the best angle

The key is to be able to have a relaxed left hand when playing

Is it possible you are over practising? Rather than 4 hours once, try 15 minutes 16 times

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

I’m not sure about the mandolin, but it could also be caused by psychological stress.

For example as soon as you pick up a ukulele to sing a song, it’s like really heavy vibes and tension.
Palm trees, pretty women, coconuts on beaches… I get tendon issues just thinking about it.

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Hi!

Firstly, I have absolutely no experience playing mandolin but I am a classical pianist. About a year ago I started getting pains in my forearms - I ignored it for about a month thinking it would go away on its own, it did not - the pains got very severe (they were always there even when I wasn’t practicing) and I started to develop tingling and numbness in my entire arms and hands. I told my professor about this and he advised me to go to an osteopath. It turned out I had a trapped nerve in my neck which was causing tension in my arms she released the nerve and I haven’t had any problems since. My advice would be to stop practicing immediately and get it checked out as it could cause long term damage if ignored.

Anyway sorry for the long post. And I really hope you get it sorted! 😀

Re: Pain in fretting forearm when playing in Mandolin

Look at the angles at your elbow and wrist ?