RSI and the Guitarist

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...

RSI and the Guitarist

Post by AndrewD » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:05 am

Anyone ever suffered from any kind of repetitive strain injury induced from playing?

Recently I have started to feel what can best be described as a "click" from the palm of my left (fretting) hand while putting my ring finger down on the neck. I have tried different positions for my left hand and moving my thumb as I move across the neck from top to bottom. After a two day rest from playing I ran a simple chromatic scale and as soon as I hit the 3rd string with my ring finger there it went again. Has anyone ever have this specific symptom before?

Andrew Stowell

Post by Andrew Stowell » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:00 pm

Hmmm I haven't had that but I do know that guitarists are susceptible to all kinds of trouble and injuries if they aren't relaxing properly or have something wrong with their technique. I'd say watch out, go over the fundamentals of your technique, ask an expert, take it easy til you figured it out etc, cos if its something bad then you might not be able to undo damage. I do get a click in one of my fingers at the exact same point in Bach's E major Prelude every time I play it! but that's because it's a very specific/probably slightly weird LH configuration.

You've probably thought of this but right now I'm having quite a few issues with my posture and general ability to relax/focus and I've been going right back to the core stuff, making sure my back's straight, that there's no build up of tension anywhere in my body, checking on the energy efficiency of both my LH and RH (i.e. no tension build up there), revisiting the fine details of my hand positioning. The body is a complicated thing and it could be that your problem is coming from somewhere, something you're not expecting... :?


Post by AndrewD » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:44 pm

Andrew Stowell wrote: The body is a complicated thing and it could be that your problem is coming from somewhere, something you're not expecting... :?
That is very true. I intend to see my GP but she won't really know anything about the mechanics of playing a guitar! I intend to take a week off playing and see if that helps my hands a bit. After that I will look solidly at posture and go right back to basics. Trouble is I use a computer keyboard all day - that really doesn't help, I suspect. The click was happening this morning with a really gentle and slow chromatic scale so I think there may be some inflammation or something around the tendons.

Andrew Stowell

Post by Andrew Stowell » Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:02 pm

Yeah probably a GP isn't going to help much, don't know if there are specialists like chiropracters? who would be able to look at you playing guitar and perhaps detect where a problem is coming from?? Or maybe need to find out if there's any guitar teachers who specialise in these kind of issues who you could consult? Could be nothing to do with your guitar technique, might be your 'keyboard' technique...

Andrew Stowell

Post by Andrew Stowell » Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:14 pm

Just noticed a current thread 'Joint care' under 'Public Space' which might be of interest to you.

Being new to this I don't know if there's a better way than that to point you to it!


Post by darkshark » Mon Mar 27, 2006 10:43 pm

I have had some success aleviating a click, which I heard sometimes when playing, in my left wrist by using one of the grip strengthening device - shaped like a V with two grips and a spring at the apex. This along with stretches against the wall has given me more hand strength. What I'm suggesting is perhaps you could develop a finger strengthening routine, which may protect somewhat against this type of injury.


Post by kfisherx » Mon Mar 27, 2006 10:53 pm

Andrew..... Many, many players (myself included) have given ourselves pains and RSI due to playing the guitar incorrectly. If you have pain, take time off right now and let it heal. Then get on a plan to fix the root cause of that pain. If I am a typist and get RSI, I can take time off but as soon as I go back to typing my old way I will shortly get RSI again. The same thing will happen with your guitar playing if you go back to playing like you have been. And NO a GP will not be able to help you with that but a competent guitar teacher most certainly would. Your technique should be assessed ASAP by onen such teacher and you should follow all recommendations to fix your technique.


Post by AndrewD » Tue Mar 28, 2006 7:54 am

Thanks Karla. I intend to use the lack of left hand mobility to practise my right hand technique for a few days. Then I can look at addressing the root cause of the left hand problem.

Andrew- thanks for the pointer to that thread. I hadn't spotted that one so I'll give it a read.

Darkshark - I know what you mean about the hand exercisers. I actually have a pair of them somewhere so I'll dig them out (I'd forgotten about them). And there seems to be a link with my left wrist in that after my hand clicks my wrist often does as well...could be a pointer to a general left-arm position problem.


Post by johnakline » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:59 am

Sometimes - even playing the guitar correctly can cause pain. There are a lot of factors and some people are more predisposed to joint or tendon problems. Also past injuries (not from guitar) can be aggrevated by playing. Etc. Anybody with persistent pain should see a specialist for solutions.


Post by kfisherx » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:15 am

It is my experience that playing the guitar correctly NEVER causes joint pain. My teacher has never produced a student that has joint pain and yet he has fixed MANY of them that came to him with joint pain. I guess it matters on what your definition of playing correctly is. ;)


Post by johnakline » Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:12 pm

never say never. There are some with arthritis and other conditions. For these folks, any definition of correct playing can cause pain. Unless they can play without moving, and that is quite the jedi mind trick.

fatigue can be painful (bar chords)
building callouses on the fingertips can be painful
Personally, my rear gets sore on occasion...but lets not get into that

In an ideal world, maybe no pain ever. Like I said, serious and persistent pain should be dealt with.


Post by AndrewD » Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:39 am

I have bought a copy of Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon". Page 7 and there was what I think is my problem. I was bending my left wrist too much which meant the tendons were dragging over the joint instead of moving smoothly. I have adjusted my position so my wrist is much flatter, in line with the rest of the forearm and I did a couple of hours playing and practice last night with no problem at all. I will keep an eye on this but hopefully I should not have any repetition of that problem.


Post by danny31374 » Tue May 23, 2006 3:20 am

WARNING: I got tendinitis in the left thumb from playing barre chords by squeezing rather than using arm strength. My thumb would pop a lot and never was the same. I even quit quitar for a bunch of years and didn't go to school. So if you have a sharp pain anywhere when playing, stop and figure out what's wrong.

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