Playing guitar takes a lot of work and, like any type of work, it can lead to injuries. In fact, 61.3% of guitarists surveyed in one recent study reported playing-related pain. And while injuries can occur in various parts of the upper body (back, neck, fingers, etc.), the wrists are one of the most common sites of pain in guitarists.
What is a guitarist supposed to do (and not do) to overcome wrist pain? Is there any way to get rid of the pain without having to put your instrument down for a few months?
We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article.
What to do about wrist pain from playing guitar
Here are a few tips you can use to manage your pain:
- Start with ice — Ice slows the blood flow to any area of your body you apply it to, which helps reduce swelling in that area. Most pain stems from swelling to some degree, as the increased blood creates a pocket of fluid that presses up against your joints and nerve endings. So, you should start by applying some ice to your wrist, as it can reduce inflammation, at least temporarily.
- Straighten your wrist — Most of the time, you don’t actually have to bend your wrist when you play, and doing so can actually cause a repetitive strain injury over time. Instead, try to keep your wrist straight as often as possible to avoid putting stress on it when you play. This will prevent your wrist joints from moving around and decrease the chances of any bones or soft tissue slipping out of place.
- Sit up straight — Your back posture is just as important as your wrist posture when you play guitar. Leaning over puts stress on your spine, neck and shoulders, and pain in those areas of your body can radiate all the way down your arm. Do your best to keep your back straight when you play to reduce the chances of such an injury.
- Go easy on the strings — Hard strumming involves more intense wrist motions, whereas you only need a light strum to get sounds from your guitar. Think of it like running on the treadmill versus walking; you’re far more likely to hurt yourself running at full speed than walking at a brisk pace.
- Consult a physical therapist — Physical therapists don’t just treat athletes and people who’ve undergone surgery, they help anyone who suffers from musculoskeletal pain. When you meet with a physical therapist, they’ll teach you stretches and exercises that help you relieve your pain, and they can even help you to correct any bad habits in your posture or strumming style that caused your wrist pain in the first place.
What about rest?
Rest is often recommended to patients recovering from injuries, and this is no different for repetitive stress injuries. However, rest is most effective when used as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan. Plus, it doesn’t always solve the problem. Oftentimes, your injury returns after a period of rest.
Ask your physical therapist whether they would recommend rest, and follow their instructions. They may ask you to reduce your playing time by at least half while they work on treating any injuries in your wrist.
Why Agile Virtual PT is a great option for guitarists
Virtual physical therapy allows you to meet with a physical therapist without leaving your home. This saves you the time of having to commute to the clinic, which is a huge benefit for busy people.
Also, you won’t have to lug your guitar out of the house. Your therapist can take a look at your posture and the way you hold your guitar and determine if you’re making yourself vulnerable to repetitive stress when you play. If you were to go to an in-person appointment (which is still beneficial in many cases), you’d have to drag your guitar there for your therapist to assess your playing posture.
Virtual PT is easy, too. All you need is a mobile device with an internet connection and a little space to move around. Agile Virtual PT has therapists all over the country, making it easier to meet with a specialist at a time that works best for you.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.