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Does playing the guitar cause carpal tunnel?

Posted by zhangxiaoqing on

Whether you're a professional guitarist, playing for fun, or just starting your guitar playing journey with a passion for learning, music is a great way to relieve stress and express yourself. However, as a guitarist, there are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to playing your guitar and staying healthy. As silly as it may sound, there is a link between your health and body and your ability to play guitar. In this case, we focus on the carpal tunnel.

In this article, we'll learn what carpal tunnel is, whether playing the guitar can cause it, and how to treat and fix it.


What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

First, it's important to understand what carpal tunnel syndrome actually is. This syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the forearm and palm squeezes the wrist.

The carpal tunnel consists of bones and ligaments in a narrow "tunnel" at the bottom of the hand that helps flex the fingers. It also allows sensation and sensation in the palm and fingers (except the little finger) and is responsible for controlling some of the small muscles at the base of the thumb.

When you develop carpal tunnel, the ligaments and tendons in this area become thicker than normal. This narrows the tunnel in the area, compressing and squeezing the median nerve.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel include:

  • combustion
  • tingling
  • itching
  • numbness
  • swollen fingers feel useless

Symptoms usually appear gradually. They are felt on the palms and fingers, usually including the thumb, middle and index fingers. Your symptoms can start in one hand, but can also develop in both hands at the same time.

Usually, the first symptoms of carpal tunnel occur at night, but as the condition progresses, these symptoms also occur during the day. Eventually, you will find it difficult to grab and hold objects with the affected hand.

How Compression Gloves Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Does playing the guitar cause carpal tunnel?

Carpal tunnel forms most days when someone performs repetitive movements with their hands. Typing on a computer, bakers and cooks, assembly line workers, cashiers and musicians are just a few examples of how people often develop carpal tunnels.

Because repetitive movements increase the risk of carpal tunnel, so does playing the guitar, because playing the guitar with your hands and fingers is a highly repetitive movement.

Women are also more likely to develop carpal tunnel, so if you are a female guitar player, your odds of developing carpal tunnel from playing guitar will be higher.

6 Ways Guitarists Can Relieve Hand and Finger Pain

1. Lowering action (string height)

String height or "action"

String height or "action" is measured from the top of the metal fret to the bottom of the guitar string.

I'm always surprised when I pick up someone's guitar and find that their strings are a mile above the fretboard. I can barely hit the strings and I'm an experienced player! Even more amazing is that they didn't know it was a problem and could have done better. If you find playing guitar extremely painful, one of the most important things you can do is lower your motion (string height). Don't try it yourself unless you know what you're doing. Take your guitar to a qualified guitar technician or repairman and tell them you want "the lowest possible action without string buzzing."

2. Use lighter strings

Sore fingers playing guitar?

Sore fingers? Try ultralight guitar strings.

You don't have to stick with them forever, but at least try them. Once your finger or hand pain subsides, you can use heavier strings if you prefer. However, I only use ultralight strings on my acoustic guitar now - I absolutely love them. I have arthritis in my hands and these strings have helped me a lot.

3. Press close to the fret

This is one of the most common technical mistakes I see:

Pressing the guitar strings closer to the frets will require less pressure. Less stress = less pain.

Pressing as close to the metal fret as possible (without muting the note) requires less down pressure than pressing somewhere in the middle of the fret. Not only is this a great micro-movement technique, it also reduces finger and hand soreness. You can play longer before you need a break - necessary if you want to play the full song.

4. Warm up

Because of my arthritis, I now have to warm up every time I start playing guitar. If you feel the pain in your hand is in a tendon, joint or muscle, you should warm up before the game (after seeing your doctor, of course). If you're not experiencing these symptoms yet, warm up anyway. It will help you prevent future injuries. Essentially, your "warm-up" can be anything you want, as long as you're hitting very slowly and carefully at first, and hitting something that doesn't put too much strain on your joints, tendons, and muscles. Allow yourself to play at a very slow pace for 10-15 minutes and resist the urge to speed up and start improvising. Only after doing it slowly and easily for 10-15 minutes should you start increasing the speed and difficulty. You'll feel the difference, and you'll play better if you warm up first.

5. Stretch

Well, admittedly, it's a "do what I say, not what I do" case. To be honest, I rarely stretch before playing, although doctors and other guitarists recommend it.

In fact, it's a very good idea to spend 2 to 3 minutes carefully stretching your fingers, wrists, forearms, and even shoulders before playing guitar, especially if you're dealing with a medical condition that affects your performance. It's also a good idea to occasionally stop and stretch during guitar practice.

Here's an excellent guide article on stretching: Keep it loose: Stretch for guitarists

6. Try finger cuffs

Silicone finger cots like this could help guitarists with certain medical conditions

Silicone finger cots like this could help guitarists with certain medical conditions

First off, I've neither tried these nor endorsed them, and I don't usually advocate putting something on your finger. However, there are some (rare) medical conditions that may prevent some people from playing the guitar because they bruise easily. If you're one of those people trying to manage the disease, a finger cuff like this one might end up letting you play guitar.

How is carpal tunnel treated?


How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Without Surgery

There are many ways to treat carpal tunnel. There are natural remedies and home remedies, as well as traditional remedies that require a doctor. If you're looking for ways to help treat and manage carpal tunnel at home in a natural way, there are a few options to try. Some medical experts recommend the following:

  • Consider using compression gloves
  • stop activities when you feel pain
  • take frequent breaks from activities
  • Keep your wrist in a neutral position
  • If you hold it for a long time, adjust the way you hold the object
  • relax your hand when holding something

You can also get regular physical activity and use your hand and wrist muscles to help strengthen this area. Research has shown that this can help mild carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other treatments you can try are alternative treatments. Yoga can help improve your symptoms through stretching and strength training. Certain hand therapy techniques can be used to improve symptoms, and physical therapy is usually recommended.

Ultrasound therapy is another common treatment. During this treatment, the affected area is heated, which is thought to aid recovery and reduce pain in the affected hand. Acupuncture and chiropractors can also help carpal tunnel in some people.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to treatment, so finding the option that works best for you can take time and experimentation. It is necessary to discuss options for your condition with your doctor. Playing guitar is a meaningful part of your life. Taking care of your health will ensure that you can continue to play guitar for many wonderful years to come.