Snapping pinky new development

June 9, 2020, 4:47 PM · Hello,

I seem to have recently developed the problem of a snapping left pinky, as described here:

I never had this problem before...I played violin regularly up till high school and now only play once a month or so for many years, but still never had any issues until recently. Just a few months ago, I started having my left pinky snap back uncontrollably when I lift it from the fingerboard. This usually starts after I have warmed up with scales, etc. When I pick up the violin and play my first scales, etudes, etc of the day, my pinky is fine!

Has anyone developed this new issue after having no problems for many years? Any other tips to get rid of it? Thank you!

Replies (7)

June 9, 2020, 7:37 PM · How long is the fingernail on your pinky?
June 9, 2020, 9:23 PM · You may be pressing the pinky too hard, which could be from the way you are holding your hand, or could be another factor. If your pinky is tense, overextended and overflattened, then you may be losing the control that you would have if you positioned your hand in a way that allowed your pinky to be rounded at all times.

I'm not familiar with this particular issue, but the most likely cause to me sounds like tension. You might also want to examine whether your thumb is light and relaxed, or if it's pressing into the neck, which might be locking up other parts of your hand. Also, whether your wrist is straight and relaxed, or if it is bent one way or the other.

You may be getting progressively more tense as you play. Are you not taking enough breaks, or are you trying to play too fast and muscle through stuff? Could be a lot of things. I could be way off base, too, but tension would be my best bet.

Edited: June 9, 2020, 9:54 PM · I had this issue -- big time -- when I was a teenager. For me, "over-straightening" that joint was the problem, and it would get "locked" or "jammed" in that position and then "snap" back painfully when I lifted it off the fingerboard. Maybe this is what you are experiencing? It could be caused by a slight amount of what is sometimes known as double-jointedness, but I am not sure.

I learned that I had to be very careful about putting stress on the last joint of my LH pinkie, and that my vibrato did not ever entirely straighten the finger. That helped a great deal, but it was annoying to have to be thinking about it constantly when playing in the upper register of the violin. If you are practicing 3-octaves scales, be watchful at the top end of your major scales where your fingering is 4-4 that you are not fully straightening your pinkie. Watch also when you "shoot" your pinkie up for a harmonic as violinists sometimes do.

Nowadays I can sometimes sense when I'm on the verge of having another bad pinkie experience so I know when to lay off and start being careful again, and the painful back-snapping only happens a couple of times a year. Note that between my teenage years and now there was a period of 25 years when I did not play the violin at all and you'd think that would have allowed the strain in my pinkie to entirely heal, but it'll never be 100%.

My suggestions are: First, manage stress on that joint very assiduously. Second, give it time to heal if need be. Pain is a warning shot! Third, see if you can do some strengthening exercises for it -- but make sure that those do NOT exacerbate the strain/pain that you are feeling. If they are, STOP doing them.

Edited: June 10, 2020, 10:13 AM · The snapping pinky is a symptom that your left hand is not positioned properly. Briefly, your pinky base knuckle is too far away from the neck, but it is also related to how you hold your wrist, how you hang your elbow, etc. It is a tricky but very common issue. There are many threads on this forum that discuss this issue, search for "pinky" or for "fourth finger" or for "left hand position", or click here for just a random one. Heed Adrian Heath's advice there: "the fourth finger rules!"
June 10, 2020, 10:54 AM · It sounds like it could be a "trigger finger," which is a treatable physical problem. Google it. You should see a doctor for examination asap.
June 16, 2020, 1:45 PM · I looked up "trigger finger" and it's not what I experienced as a young person. If I think about how I was "careful", it's probably consistent with jean's advice about hand position.
Edited: June 16, 2020, 2:00 PM · I had a trigger finger in my left pinky, and the symptoms were like what the OP described. It had to be fixed by surgery, and that worked great. If I had seen a doctor earlier, I may not have needed surgery. It can be treated with cortisone injections and rest to let the inflammation subside.

It gets worse during practice because playing irritates the tendon and increases the inflammation and makes it "trigger" more.

He should definitely get it checked out by a doctor to to rule it out. Trigger finger can sometimes go away on its own, but it usually gets worse and painful.

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