How To Avoid Guitar Shoulder Pain? Explained

guitar shoulder pain

If you’re a guitar player, you know that it’s not easy to play for hours on end without complaining about pain in your shoulders. Guitar shoulder pain can happen for a combination of reasons, from poor technique to wrong hand position and several other reasons that could be affecting how you play.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common reasons for guitar shoulder pain, and how you can fix and avoid them.

Why you are experiencing guitar shoulder pain

There are several reasons that explain why your shoulders hurt after playing guitar:

  • Hand position 
  • Body position
  • Guitar position
  • Guitar strap
  • Playing for a long time
  • Type of strings
  • Weight of the guitar

Hand position

One of the most important things to focus on when you are learning guitar is to have the correct hand position. This could help you to avoid guitar shoulder pain. Having the correct hand position starts with positioning your fretboard hand with the right wrist angle. Having the wrong wrist angle can lead to wrist pain also.

You need to keep your hand relatively straight. This can be difficult when you are first starting out, but it is crucial to adopt the right-hand position.

If you are a right-handed guitar player, make sure your left-hand thumb is on the back and top of the guitar neck, and the four fingers are touching the strings.

Body position

Not only is the position of your hands important but also the way you position your own body and arms. You should either play sitting down or standing up. If possible try to have your left leg a little higher with the help of a guitar foot rest.

Especially when you are learning it can be important to have a foot rest to help you adopt the right body position.

If you play guitar while seating down, make sure you are seated with the spine straight, the shoulder blades down, and the upper arms parallel to the floor. Always keep your feet flat on the ground, unless you are using a foot rest.

Additionally, you should also use a guitar strap to help you hold the weight of the instrument.

Guitar position

Placing your guitar in the right position is also an important step to avoid guitar shoulder pain. You want to make sure your guitar is in a position that is comfortable for you to play even for an extended period of time.

The correct position is with the guitar resting comfortably against your body, and on top of your right leg if you are right-handed. 

Guitar strap

Guitar straps can be a double-edged sword. They can help you make hold the instrument higher, and help you with the weight, and the right guitar position, but it can also lead to shoulder pain. 

You need to make sure you pick a guitar strap that is cushioned so that it is comfortable for you to play for a long time. Especially if your guitar is on the heavy side. 

Some guitar straps are of poor quality and can put a lot of weight on your shoulder, and this can lead to guitar shoulder pain.

Playing for a long time

Playing for extended periods of time can also hurt your shoulders. This is why it is important to adopt the right posture and to consider a guitar foot rest and a good guitar strap.

Type of strings

Another thing that can contribute to guitar shoulder pain is the type of strings you are using. Guitar strings have different gauges, some are thinner and require less strength and pressure to be played. While others are thicker, and this requires more effort and strength to press the strings.

If you are struggling with guitar shoulder pain, you want to avoid heavy gauge guitar strings, and stick with light ones.

Weight of the guitar

Finally, another reason that can explain why you are having guitar shoulder pain is the weight of your guitar. Some guitars are heavier than others, and especially if you are using a strap to hold the weight of your guitar this can make a big difference.

Always get a good guitar strap if your guitar is heavier, and even consider playing sitting down, because it will be easier for your leg to hold the weight of the instrument.

How do I stop my shoulder from hurting when I play guitar?

To stop your shoulder from hurting when playing guitar you need to work on a few things:

  • Guitar, hand, and body position
  • Avoid playing for several hours
  • Always buy a good guitar strap
  • Choose lighter strings if you have heavier strings

How to fix guitar shoulder pain

There are several ways to help you with shoulder pain. One of the most common is a massage, you can even do it yourself with a tennis ball lightly pressing against your shoulder. 

You should also avoid playing guitar for a few days until the pain has completely passed. Once the guitar shoulder pain has passed, make sure you are adopting the right posture and hand position. You should also think of getting a better guitar strap, a guitar foot rest, and even lighter strings. 

Make sure you sleep in the right position to avoid putting additional pressure on the shoulder that is hurting.

You can also consider using a pain relief cream and applying it to your shoulder.

Importance of having the correct guitar posture to avoid shoulder pain

Having the right guitar posture will allow you to play effortlessly. Some guitar students start learning on their own in the beginning and adopt the wrong guitar posture. This can lead to back and shoulder pain. It can also prevent you from developing your guitar skills.

To play certain songs, you need to have the right posture otherwise it will be nearly impossible.


Guitar shoulder pain is common among guitar players, but there are clear reasons why it happens. It is important to understand what can be causing it, and how you can avoid it going forward.

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