If you are a beginning guitarist, you're probably excited about learning all of the right chords and strumming techniques. You may also be looking forward to playing your first live show or recording your own music in the future. But you may not be thinking about repetitive stress injuries as you begin your guitar playing journey. However, repetitive stress injuries are something every new guitarist should be aware of.
Learning ways to help prevent them can save you a lot of pain. It can also help you avoid missed practice and performance sessions in the future while you're waiting on an injury to heal.
What are repetitive stress injuries?
Repetitive stress injuries are caused by any activity that creates repetitive motion. Some common types of repetitive stress injuries in guitarists are carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and tendonitis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve that runs through the wrist becomes pinched. This leads to pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand and fingers.
Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa sac. Guitar players may develop this condition in the bursa sac of the elbow. The bursa typically provides cushioning between the bones and the tendons. Repetitive motion can inflame the bursa sacs.
Tendonitis can develop in the shoulder, biceps, or the elbow. Repeated strumming, or holding the arm in the same position when playing the guitar, can cause inflammation of the tendons. This leads to pain and stiffness in the affected tendons.
Warm up to avoid repetitive stress injuries
Warming up is crucial for all athletes. While you may not see yourself as an athlete, playing the guitar for several hours gives your upper body, hands, arms, and shoulders quite a workout.
Rigid tendons are more susceptible to injuries. Taking about 5 to 10 minutes to flex and extend your hands, arms, and fingers, before you begin to practice or perform, will help to keep the tendons pliable for your guitar session. A fun way to warm up the fingers is to run basic minor and major scales up and down the neck of the guitar for several minutes.
Consider using paraffin wax hand massages as part of your warm-up routine or on a frequent basis following your guitar sessions. These treatments can work wonders on stiff hands.
Invest in some ergonomic guitar accessories
Purchasing ergonomic guitar picks in a variety of styles will not only make it easier to practice strumming maneuvers, but it may also help you avoid repetitive strain on the fingers and hands. Visit your local music store and try out several types of ergonomic guitar picks to see which ones feel best in your hand.
Use an ergonomic guitar strap rather than a traditional guitar strap. These straps are shaped like a harness and are helpful for providing back support and taking strain off of the shoulder area. You can also purchase ergonomic guitar tuners and peg winders to relieve stress on the fingers when tuning your instrument.
Painful picking and strumming can take the fun out of any guitar playing session. Knowing about repetitive stress injuries, and how to avoid them, can help you avoid being sidelined from practice or a performance due to a painful injury.
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