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Top 7 Tips to Take Care of ” Guitarists’ Hands ” !

“How to take care of guitarists’ hands, wrists and elbows?”

I believe all guitarists have this similar question. No matter you are an acoustic or electric guitar player, amateur or professional,  you may have been suffering from playing-related injuries in your performing artist career at some point. Therefore, it’s essential to implement and share the following healthcare tips for guitarists! ?

 1. Understand Common Injuries / Problems in Guitarists

Guitarists' hands

✨ Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

It happens when your ulnar nerve is compressed in your elbow, causing tingling and numbness in your inner forearm, ring and little finger. Eventually leads to whole hand weakness and clumsiness. 


Guitarists' hands

 Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

CTS is caused by median nerve compression in your wrist. You will feel more tingling and numbness in the palm side of radial three fingers. It can also cause muscle atrophy and shooting pain in your hand.


 Wrist Tendinitis

Tendinitis means inflammation of the tendon. For guitarists, the most common wrist problem is Flexor Carpi Ulnaris (FCU) tendinitis, which results in severe pain and weakness of inner wrist.


 Trigger Finger

It occurs when the flexor tendon in the affected finger becomes inflamed and swollen. The classic symptom is “snapping” or “locking” when moving your finger, it becomes extremely painful in the later stage.


 Finger Arthritis 

Due to the direct and repetitive stress on finger joints of the fretting hand, finger arthritis is also one of the common problems among guitarist,


 2. Warm Up

 Warm up is extremely important for every string musician! 

Step I: Cardiovascular exercises, such as 5 to 10 minutes climbing stairs or jogging around the room, until you are lightly sweating. Then focus on wrists and fingers stretching. (video credit: Bullet Cable)

Step II: Guitar-specific warm-up, such as scales or other musical exercises to get your fingers ready.  


⭐ 3. Take Regular Breaks

“Taking regular breaks” might be the most overlooked principle. In order to protect your upper extremity from repetitive strain injuries, you should always take a 3 to 5 minutes break every 30 minutes.

Remember, it is usually too late when you stop because of the pain!

⭐ 4. Maintain an Optimal Posture

 Sitting Posture 

* Make sure you sit up straight (ideally a lumbar support will be great), NOT slouching your back!  

* Keep your neck in a relaxed and neural position, NOT forward!  

* Both of your feet should touch the ground evenly, to ensure an optimal hip positioning.

✨ Wrist Posture 

* Make sure to keep your wrist in a neutral and straight position, NOT over flexed or extended!

* This helps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist tendinitis.


⭐ 5. Use Assistive Device

✨ Guitar Armrest 

* It helps to relieve direct pressure on your ulnar nerve in the elbow, preventing cubital tunnel syndrome. A padded elbow sleeve can also protect your ulnar nerve from the stress when playing.


✨ Wrist Brace / Orthosis

A wrist support is always helpful when you are feeling some soreness or pain, but still need to play. This picture shows a custom-made wrist orthosis fabricated by a hand therapist.


⭐ 6. Stretch After Your Play

Every stretch should be held for at least 20 seconds

✨ Make sure to stretch your each finger, wrist, forearm, neck and upper body! Visit here for more stretching exercises !

⭐ 7. Strengthen Your Muscles

A general strengthening exercises for your shoulder stabilizer and core muscles is always helpful, you can also refer to the elbow strengthening exercises, and thumb strengthening exercises, which make your guitarist hand stronger!


Now let’s follow these 7 tips, so you can promote the longevity of your guitarist career!  ?


* Special thanks to Bill Kuder, for demonstrating the guitar-playing postures and assistive device. I won’t be able to write this article without his kind advice and generous help! Thank you Bill!


Andrew Tan, OTR/L, CHT, CKTP, CEAS
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Andrew Tan, OTR/L, CHT, CKTP, CEAS

The founder of "Rehab For A Better Life", specialized in ergonomic consultation, rehabilitation for upper extremity injuries, sports injuries and work-related injuries. Andrew believes rehab-related knowledge should be easy to learn and follow at home, because "knowledge is power only when we can share it" !