John E. Walker: Nerve Issues from Playing and Work (INJURIES. RECOVERY. GUITAR)

John E Walker- Nerve Injury Recovery Guitar Focal Dystonia Classical Guitar magazine

John E. Walker is an amateur guitarist who lives in Billings, Montana. Here, he talks about how his love of playing classical guitar was derailed by a nerve problem.

I’ve been suffering from ulnar nerve issues in my right forearm for many years. In the mid-1990s, I put down the electric guitar after many years of being obsessed with it and decided I was ready to commit myself fully to the classical guitar. I would spend my days working at the computer as a computer tech/network admin, and four to six hours every evening working on my two hours of standard classical guitar repertoire. I played this repertoire at various weddings and churches for a couple of years and wanted to become the best player I could become.


However, my hopes and dreams were eventually dashed, as I began to experience numbness from my right elbow, down to my ring and pinky fingers. I tried moving my mouse hand from my right hand to my left—which I still do to this day—but it didn’t alleviate the numbness. I eventually saw a specialist, but the stretches he gave me weren’t enough to combat my growing issue. So, I reluctantly put down the classical guitar and went back to playing electric guitar in country and rock bands. I have always been able to do that because solid-body guitars are thinner, and I usually stand while playing. I believe that my long days of computer work, combined with nights sitting hunched over my classical guitar, with my forearm resting on the lower bout, all combined to create a perfect storm for my ulnar nerve.

Fast forward 20 years… I can now play acoustic guitar again in moderation (and have been gigging my solo acoustic material on and off for several years). I spend more time working on my “flamenco-jazz” stuff these days than classical pieces. But I love it all and want to do it all again. Only this time I am aware that I have to remember not to over-do things. Maybe one day, after I’ve retired from my computer-related job, I can go back to spending hours every day playing the classical guitar.