5 Ways to Reduce Joint and Finger Pain From Playing Guitar

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Oct 19, 2020 . 4 min read

5 Ways to Reduce Joint and Finger Pain From Playing Guitar

Finger pain associated with playing guitar is a real problem. The same is true for joint pain, tissue pain, and muscle pain.

And there is nothing worse than seeing your passion become a source of pain. However, many guitarists ignore the warning signs that precede injuries. The good news is that finger and joint pain from playing guitar can be prevented. It is just a matter of developing good habits and listening to your body. Let’s make sure the guitar keeps on bringing you joy and not anguish. Here are the five ways to reduce joint and finger pain from playing guitar.

Stretch before you play

So basic, so simple, yet so few do it. Stretching can be a great practice to prevent joint and finger pain from playing guitar. Take the time to stretch your hands, fingers, arms, and back. Feel free to also include a leg stretch. After all, everything in our bodies is connected. Make sure you stretch before playing. And please know that stretching, like most things guitar-related, is a very personal practice. You might need to spend more time stretching your back than, say, your fingers. And that is totally fine. You need to find what works for you and stick with it. Just make it a point to incorporate stretching as a part of your guitar playing journey. 

If it hurts, stop

This is another deceptively simple piece of advice. Did you start feeling a sharp pain in your index finger after playing for 30 minutes? Then stop. Nothing less, nothing more. Just stop. It can also be valid to stop playing for a few days. Or perhaps reduce your practice session from three hours to 20 minutes a day, for a period of time. Some might think that this is too drastic. However, there is nothing more drastic than not being able to play at all. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: “play through the pain” and “just plow through it” is not wise when it comes to playing guitar with pain. 

Always apply measured increments

Do not abruptly increase your practice time from 30 minutes to five hours a day. That is a recipe for disaster. Instead, apply measured increments. For instance, if you have been comfortably practicing 30 minutes a day, try increasing that to 45 min or even an hour a day. From then, increase it to an hour and a half. You get the idea. And always make sure that you are not stressing your body too much. Finger, joint and other guitar-related pain can lead to nagging injuries. Better safe than sorry.

Pick the right gear

Do you have strong hands? Then you can use a heavy string gauge if you wish. Stevie Ray Vaugh had massive hands and played on .13 gauge strings. He had no problem bending the strings. Jazz legend Pat Martino plays .16 gauge strings. Most people wouldn’t be able to stand 15 minutes on that. The common wisdom is that thick strings provide a better tone. But what’s the point of having a better tone if you can’t even bend a string? Do you have tiny hands? Then you might want to take a look at some options like smaller necks. To clarify, you need to find what works for you. However, do keep in mind that when you’re starting out, everything will be difficult on the guitar. Even if your hands are stronger than King Kong’s. 

Keep a relaxed playing position

If you are too tense while you play, chances are you will get injured. Look at your hands and try to connect with what they are doing. The same for your arms, shoulders, back, and even your face. Is your shoulder always raised? Try to relax it while you play. If you can’t play a part relaxed, you need to slow that part down until you can play it fully relaxed. From that point, you can incrementally speed it up. Sure, you might tense up at some points and that’s ok. Just remember to breathe and keep a relaxed playing position. 

In conclusion, injury prevention is the best strategy. Joint and finger injuries from playing guitar are unlikely to occur if you follow the tips above. These are simple and inexpensive ways to avoid not only injuries but pain and discomfort while you practice and play. Make sure to leave a comment. 


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