Whether you are performing for a sold-out crowd or jamming with friends in the basement, playing guitar is a fun activity. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to be able to ring out that beautiful sound and anyone who has picked up a guitar can remember that initial feeling of your fingers pressing on the strings. Being able to play full-length songs and epic solos take time, and many guitarists find themselves spending hours at a time perfecting their craft. Although it is important to practice consistently, it is crucial that all musicians, beginners, and professionals alike, do not overdo it because this can lead to injury.
Overuse injuries and nerve compression injuries are the most common type of injuries in musicians. According to The Bone & Joint Journal, over 50% of professional musicians overuse their limbs with consequent pain. Constant repetition along with poor posture, fatigue, incorrect positioning of the hands and arms, excessive finger angulation, and increasing playing time too quickly are all risk factors for overuse injuries. The most common injured areas include the wrist, hand, elbow, and shoulder.
Listed below are three common injuries seen in musicians.
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon, which is a strong band of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone
- Causes pain and stiffness throughout the affected area
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Compression on the median nerve as it travels through the wrist
- Causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers, pain that can move up the forearm to the shoulder, and reduced grip strength
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve (which you may know as your “funny bone”)
- Causes numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers especially when the elbow is bent, weakness in the hand, and difficulty with finger coordination
Injury Prevention Strategies:
It is important for guitarists and all musicians to be aware of common injuries and to place a strong emphasis on injury prevention strategies. No matter if you are first learning to play or are working on your latest album, it is easy to find yourself losing track of time or forgetting about proper technique. To ensure that you can maintain your new favorite hobby or have a long-lasting career, it is important to follow these injury prevention strategies:
- Warm up with gentle stretches and easy guitar technique exercises to prepare for your session.
- Check your guitar to make sure the strap is comfortable, and that the guitar is positioned correctly on your body.
- Use proper technique making sure that you maintain good posture, relaxed hand positioning, and consistently smooth strumming.
- Take lessons and watch instructional videos to evaluate and improve your technique.
- Pace yourself and take breaks. Be patient and remember to gradually increase playing time. Strength and precision will come if you take care of yourself and practice proper technique while playing.
Despite these prevention tips, these common injuries can still occur while playing guitar. Our team of fellowship-trained physicians at OAA’s Hand & Upper Extremities Institute are here to help you get back to playing your favorite song. To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, call 610-973-6200 or fill out our “Request an Appointment” form.