Taking care of your hands is one of the most important things for a guitarist. If you are playing the guitar incorrectly, or not exercising your fingers – then your hand would hurt after playing the guitar, and can even cause finger joint pains. Therefore, it is extremely important for a guitarist to take care of his hands if he wants to play the guitar pain-free for years.
For a beginner, it is normal for your hands to hurt if you are not used to playing the guitar.
However, if you have been playing the guitar for a while and still feel like your hands hurt after playing it. Then most probably you are playing the instrument in an incorrect manner; in a position that is straining your hand and causing this pain.
When playing guitar, or any instrument, to be honest, hands are very important. If you lack stamina in your arms or have weak hands – then it would be pretty difficult to play the guitar. If you are a beginner then it is okay for your hands to hurt after playing, however, you need to train your hands no matter what your playing level is. The simple truth is, that if you damage your hands, then you won’t be able to play your beloved guitar.
When I got my first guitar, I spent hours playing it. Even when my hands started hurting, I did not stop. I thought it was pretty normal for a beginner guitarist’s hand to hurt while playing the guitar, but that was not the case. The day finally came when the pain didn’t stop. It continued for the whole night. Being naive, I thought I would just pick a smaller guitar; a guitar that is easier to hold. However, the next day, the pain recurred when I played my guitar. But this time, it did not stop after a day. My hand kept hurting for a whole week. It was sore, and tight, and I had a stiff feeling around my wrist. And I could feel a sharp pain gushing through my veins.
Due to this gripping pain, I had to visit the doctor. My regular doctor referred me to an orthopedic. I didn’t even know at that time that ‘hand specialists’ even existed. He gave me several exercises to ‘fix’ my hand. They were stretches, and hand strengthening exercises to be performed after playing the guitar – these were exercises that helped to relax my muscles. I had to stop playing seriously for quite a while because of this.
Injuries that happen to a guitarist, or any artist, are due to the excessive use of hands and wrist. This can be due to bad posture, which can also lead to shoulder and neck strain.
Anyone who has played any instrument can relate to this. But now, the real question is: how do you prevent this from happening to you?
Warming up is essential before playing the guitar. This warm-up does not only relate to hands or fingers. You can pace around the room a few times before playing the guitar. The perfect warm-up is when you start slow; have slow movements, then slowly progress to a faster pace. This would increase the blood flow in your body and wakes you up.
After this, you should start your guitar-specific warm-up. A hand exerciser can be perfect for this part. You can get one from Amazon here. If you do not have this device, then you can simply open and close your fists a few times. This should be sufficient as well.
This whole process would not take you more than 10-15mins.
Take a break every 30 minutes
It is important for you to take breaks during your guitar sessions. You should not play the guitar for hours without a break, or even an hour. You should take a break after every 30mins. The break can be around 5mins, and that period is enough for your muscles to relax again. During this break, you should go hydrate yourself, do some walk around, or simply rest.
Stretch after you play
You should only stretch after you played.
Stretching before can lead to injuries. You should stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and shoulders. Each body part should be stretched for at least 30 secs. Take intervals between your stretches. Stretching allows your muscles to relax, and come out of their ‘guitar position. Playing the guitar causes your muscles to fix at a specific point, so it is always best to relieve them by stretching out.
Play the guitar while standing straight
It is important to focus on good posture while playing the guitar. You should be standing straight while playing the guitar. Because if you are hunched, tilted, or in a position in which you are uncomfortable while playing the guitar – then you will damage your muscles. Your muscles shouldn’t be strained while playing the guitar.
If you do not usually stand straight, then you need to practice to do. Be conscious of how you stand. Whenever you are going to the grocers, going to the class – consciously check how you are standing, and then upright yourself.
Strengthen your muscles
As a guitarist, you need to build up your muscles – especially you need to focus on strengthening your shoulders and arms. For this, you need to exercise daily.
Remember, people do not build muscles at the same pace. It might take a while for a person to gain these muscles, but some may take a while longer – this is natural. Joining the gym would be the ideal solution for this. However, you can also get this done at home. Get some dumbbells from Amazon and start. You do not need the ‘perfect’ routine to build up muscles – you just need to start.
Lower your string height
Lowering the string height can also help a lot. Sometimes, it’s not about you, but the guitar itself. If the strings are miles above the fretboard then obviously it would be harder for your fingers to reach, hence the pain.
Use nylon strings
If you are a beginner, then simply start off with nylon strings. Nylon strings are way easier on the fingers than steel strings. They do not cause much stress or strain on your fingers when you play them. Build your threshold with these, and once you have trained yourself with these strings, you can start using steel ones.
Protective measurements for fingers
When I play the guitar, I like to feel what and how I am playing. However, some people have tender fingertips. Then I would recommend playing with a pick or getting a finger cap. You can get a cheap finger cap from here on Amazon. These are great to protect your fingers, and you should not feel pain while playing the guitar with them. I can even recommend this for beginners. It is a great item for you to focus on building up your stamina without fearing pain from the strings.
If you are a parent and thinking about buying a guitar for your kid, then you might also want to invest in this.
Seek help from a professional
There is no shame in seeking help from a professional when you feel pain due to your guitar practice. In fact, it is advised that if you feel sharp pain, and it gets worse over time, then you need to visit a doctor. Also, seek help if you feel a weird sensation in your fingers. It is always best to visit the doctor as soon as you feel something is not right.
Other reasons why your hand hurts after playing the guitar
There are other reasons why your hand might hurt while playing the guitar.
The biggest reason for this can be your technique, or more simply, how you play the guitar. For example, if you try to imitate the 90s rock stars by playing the guitar on your low hip, then your wrist would be in a bent position. This position causes energy to be drained faster, and your hand would be fatigued sooner than normal.
Another reason is also your choice of instrument. It is easier to play a nylon string guitar than an acoustic steel string guitar, and it is easier to play an electric guitar than a nylon string guitar. The neck of the guitar is also a very big factor. If it is difficult to hold the guitar, then you are going to drain a lot of energy which would tire you out.
Ultimately, this pain is due to a lack of strength. If you do not work out, warm up, or exercise your hands, then you will not be physically ready to play the guitar. You need to build yourself up for this. Playing instruments require energy, and you need to be strong to play any instrument effectively.
In the end, it is you who have to take care of yourself. I have seen many people who quit playing the guitar simply because of finger pain. Apart from protecting your hands, you should also protect your ears as well. We have an article on the best earplugs for musicians, you might want to check that out as well.
Everyone experiences pain when they are starting out. They make mistakes when they are learning the guitar. There is natural and there is nothing to be ashamed of or worry about. It is not that you feel pain, it is what you do about it. If you feel pain, then you need to take a look at yourself. Are you playing without a warmup, do you exercise your fingers and thumbs, do you have a posture problem? To fix any problem, you have to identify the root of it first, and hopefully, with the help of this article, you could do so.