What To Do if the Ball of Your Thumb Hurts While Playing Violin, Viola or Cello

by | Sep 21, 2013 | Play Comfortably | 2 comments

Does the ball of your thumb (thenar eminence muscle) hurts while or after playing violin, viola or cello?

What To Do if the Ball of Your Thumb Hurts While Playing Violin, Viola or Cello

Do you feel your hand cramps and your bowing becomes stiff? Watch this video to learn how you can prevent this and play relaxed without pain. Pain? No gain!

Maybe you have experienced this: if you are playing for a while the ball of your thumb [shows], so this muscle, is going to hurt and stiffens and cramps. You bow hold gets stiff and crampy and in the end you can hear it in your playing. Here in the Netherlands I give workshops how to play violin, viola or cello without pain and how to relax your muscles playing away that is good for your muscles instead of damaging it.

Where does this come from?

In that workshop there was this cellist saying she felt this ball in her hand and sometimes even had to stop playing. Because it really hurt that bad that it kept her from playing or practicing long and it really damaged her bowing technique.

So what she was doing was this [shows]. She was doing a different kind of grip with her thumb than what you are supposed to do. But a lot of teachers do not see this because your thumb is kind of hidden. You do not really see it but it can really hurt you. So the thumb was like this and if you do that you can probably feel the muscle in your hand stretching and you can imagine that if you do this for a long time while playing and all the pressure and the movement from the bow is going on this muscle, then you can imagine if you do it every day that you can get quite some pain by it.

How can you solve it?

Your thumb should be a little bit bend like this [shows] never like this [shows]. Some people like it a little bit more bent than others, but never overstretch it. Never do it as far so you can feel the muscle get tensed. Keep it soft and relaxed. I will leave it to you how much bend your thumb is and maybe you can ask your teacher because there are different schools of bow holds and it will differ a little: different hands, different holds. But it should be a little like this [moves bow and shows] you see what happens to the ball of my thumb? And if I relax it. It has to be able to move during your play. Your bow hold does not seem the same all the time. It has to be smooth and relaxed and a little bit bend or maybe a little bit more it depends on what you like. But it is also a suspension so it has a very important function in bow hold so it should be relaxed and placed in a good way. That will certainly improve your bowing. I hope that if you have had some pain by doing this in the wrong way, then if you do this in the right way I hope you can play pain free! I would love to hear about your experiences, let me know in the comments below.

Is this video useful to you? Please let me know in the comments!



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  1. Katie

    AHA!!! The ball of my thumb was hurting almost from the moment I picked up the bow, and yesterday while practicing, you could really hear it. I’m new to violin (teaching myself) and so it is disheartening when I am practicing and sound like I’m getting worse. I adjusted my thumb after (while) watching this video, and IMMEDIATELY the pain was gone. Now, I’ve been practicing wrong for a month, so I have to adjust and concentrate on keeping some bend in my thumb, but I’m sure the pain will remind me! Thank you so much for making these videos, they are a big help!


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