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All guitarists have some moments in their lives in which they spend many hours a day playing the guitar, and guitar wrist paint becomes a common problem. Just like what would happen with another physical activity focused on one part of the body, injuries of different types may happen.
It is always important to know the type of injuries that a guitarist may have since this is the only way you have to prevent them. It is also important to know how to treat them, but prevention is the key.
In this article, we will go over the most important ways for guitar players to avoid wrist pain, and how to heal your wrist if this happens to you.
How injuries can happen while playing guitar
While playing the guitar doesn’t sound like a very demanding physical activity (as much as heavy metal fans might say otherwise), that’s not to say that it’s not risky for guitarists.
Among the most common causes of injuries is the lack of correct posture doing prolonged periods of time, which greatly affect the wrists of guitarists. This is one of the most common reasons for guitar wrist pain.
Most are minor injuries that can be treated with anti-inflammatories and ice, patience, and rest. Although in cases where any of the symptoms last or get worse, you should go to the doctor without hesitating.
This type of injury can also happen when we push our playing to the limit, like:
- Play for long hours repetitively
- Playing extremely fast licks, or speed exercises
- Repetitive exercises for too long
- Wrong posture
- Wrong hand position
Common sense tells us that it is not good to go to the gym every day, for 5 hours, and do biceps all the time. The same idea should be applied to playing guitar. Our constant desire to improve can blind us and we might end up mistreating our bodies.
How do I stop my wrist from hurting when playing the guitar?
The best way to stop guitar wrist pain when it appears is to stop playing. Next, put ice or some kind of cold cloth on your wrist. As the pain is most likely caused by muscle inflammation. Try to give your wrist a rest, without playing the guitar and without lifting any weight with that hand.
This is the best way to control the pain and stop your wrist from swelling.
If the pain persists then you should visit a doctor or a medical professional. It is likely that they will prescribe some type of anti-inflammatory analgesic, which will help reduce the muscle inflammation that affects the area.
Why does my wrist hurt from the guitar?
Unfortunately, the guitar is an instrument that has very poor ergonomics. The position in which we need to put our hands and arms to play the guitar is not natural at all.
Especially when you are first starting to play, it takes time for your body to adapt. That means that it is uncomfortable and especially if it is played for a long time (as is often the case with all guitarists, amateurs or professionals).
All guitarists remember the first time they picked up a guitar, and that feeling five minutes after being hunched over trying to get the first few chords out. That burning pain in the neck as well as in the fingers and wrists is because the position required to play the guitar does not come naturally in our bodies.
Although this initial sensation goes away, this is not because the guitar is more comfortable, but rather because your body gets used to the pain and you stop feeling it. The problem is that the tensions in the posture, and consequently in the muscles continue to occur and affect the different parts of the body.
So as you play the guitar, the muscles of your wrist go through overstimulation, which means that they are used for longer periods of time and to do repetitive movements.
This causes the muscle to swell and can cause what we usually describe as guitar wrist pain. Although the initial pain in the wrist can be controlled, it can lead to tendinitis.
Other common injuries guitar players face are chronic back pain due to poor posture, or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is perhaps the most worrying.
Can I get carpal tunnel syndrome from playing the guitar?
Yes, guitar players are more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the repetitive movements their hands make. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually manifests itself through numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist.
This can occur from performing some repetitive and demanding movements with the wrist, such as playing the guitar.
It is a dangerous condition since it can paralyze your hand completely. It can also make any type of daily activity difficult, such as holding a cup or driving.
In fact, it is recommended that people who suffer from this condition do not drive cars until they are advanced in treatment. Since they can suffer from paralysis of the wrist or hand and cause a car accident.
The treatment of the carpal tunnel can vary since it depends on the type of degree to which the syndrome has developed. It can range from rest, ice, a wrist splint, cortisone injections, and surgery.
Injections and surgery are only necessary in cases where the disease is very developed, however, this is always indicated by a doctor.
Should I practice the guitar if my wrist hurts?
If you start to experience guitar wrist pain, you should stop playing straight away. In any case, we know that this is difficult, especially when it is such a pleasant activity as practicing an instrument.
Something you can do is visit a specialized doctor, such as a kinesiologist, or a masseur. They will know what to do, and what advice to give you. Guitar wrist pain may be caused by fatigue alone, or it may be related to a more serious and worrying condition.
Most guitarists continue to play the guitar despite the pain, so it’s technically something you can do. However, this can increase the severity of the pain, and really affect the way you move your wrist.
It is advisable to minimize the daily time you spend playing the guitar, at least no more than an hour, and ideally less than 20 minutes. You need to give your wrist time to heal.
Otherwise, if you continue to play despite the pain you will only make the situation worse since it can cause chronic pain.
Guitar tendonitis symptoms
Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons, it usually occurs in the elbow, forearm, or wrist. It is usually the result of performing repetitive movements on a daily basis, such as playing the guitar for many hours.
The most common symptoms are fatigue in the wrist, suffering from frequent cramps, or feeling a throbbing pain when having to lift any type of weight with the affected arm (even if you are lifting light objects).
In most cases, the symptoms become so strong that you feel that your wrist, and consequently your arm, is paralyzed, making it very difficult to carry out daily activities.
There are some people who feel a total stiffness in their wrist, this happens especially when the tendinitis has been developing for a long time. In the case of tendonitis, the treatment can initially be done by yourself, putting ice or some type of cold cloth on the affected area.
Massaging the wrist area softly, and giving it rest time can also help to ease the pain. In this case, when the tendinitis is already developed, it is recommended not to play the guitar for more than an hour a day.
If the pain persists even after those home treatments, then you will have to go to a doctor. If you don’t treat your tendinitis, it is possible that it will worsen, transforming into chronic wrist pain, or causing potential tearing of the muscles.
What to do if your wrist starts hurting when you are playing the guitar?
If the wrist of your arm starts to hurt while you are playing the guitar, then you should stop playing the instrument immediately. If you feel the pain, it is due to the inflammation of your muscle.
Therefore you should stop playing the guitar as you can make the situation worse. Once you stop playing the guitar, immediately apply ice to reduce the swelling in your wrist as quickly as possible.
How to treat guitar wrist pain
The only way to fix wrist pain from guitar playing is to decrease the amount of time you practice playing the instrument. We know that it is difficult and that it is something that nobody wants to hear, but the ideal would be that you reduce the time until it is only 30 minutes a day, like any physical activity.
Keep in mind that any physical activity in excess is harmful to health. If you want to play the guitar for longer then try to play it for fewer days, so you will be able to reduce the wear and tear on your wrist muscles.
Other treatments that you can do at home to reduce wrist pain is to apply ice or a cold cloth, usually, just one hour should be enough to improve the condition of your wrist. You can also do stretching exercises on your wrist, just as you would if you were going to the gym.
Finally, it is always recommended that if the pain persists for more than a week then you should go to a doctor and get professional advice, as they will know all the particulars of your individual case, something that we cannot know.
A health professional can recommend some type of medication or specific treatment. It is important that you do not postpone this visit since the situation of your wrist may worsen, requiring a longer treatment or involving medications, or even surgery.
Playing guitar is one of the most entertaining and exciting activities for guitar players, but it is important to avoid any injuries. Focusing on having the right guitar posture, and hand position are one of the most important steps to avoiding guitar wrist pain.
Do not keep playing if you start feeling wrist pain, and always give your body some time to rest and recover. When it comes to guitar wrist pain, prevention is always the best approach.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.