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Guitarists and Health

Repetitive Strain Injury Prevention Guidelines | Guitar Exercises

As important as it is to be in good physical condition to play guitar by stretching and preparing your muscles, you can't play well without being focused and relaxed either. The bottom line here is that playing guitar should be fun. You didn't pick up the instrument for it to add stress to your life, but remove it. And it won't be any fun if you are stressed out about the next note or chord, or worried about who might be hearing you.

NOTE: Check out the Music Main Index for a complete listing of all health related pages that target musicians.

Repetitive Strain Injury Prevention Guidelines*

The best way to prevent injury is through prevention.

  1. Drink plenty of spring water or filtered water. Attempt to drink one 8 oz. glass of water per hour. The tissues of your body are composed mostly of water. Dehydration inhibits the healing process.
  2. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. These will dehydrate you. The stimulating affect of caffeine will also tense your muscles.
  3. Before you begin your workday, stretch your muscles, and perform some light exercises to "wake them up." Avoid working with tight, unstretched arms and shoulders. This will lead to further injury.
  4. Perform stretching exercises at your workplace at least once per hour. (Provided by a health care provider)
  5. Take frequent breaks to rest muscles and to stretch. At least one 5 minute rest every 30 minutes is adequate to perform self-massage and stretching for the muscles.
  6. Begin a daily log of your activities and symptoms. In the log, state the symptom and its severity, along with activities that may have brought on the complaint. This enables you to begin understanding why you have this injury. Other items to log are: water intake, medications taken per day, dietary intake, and other factors that may play a part in your condition, such as emotional factors and stress level.
  7. Watch your posture while working. If you have questions regarding specific work-related postures, ask the doctor.
  8. Cold environments will worsen RSI conditions because of decreased blood flow to the tissues. If you find yourself in a cold environment, take steps to correct it. (i.e. wear gloves, buy a space heater, etc.)
  9. Check with your local hardware or stationary store for rubberized materials that allow easier grasping of objects, such as around a commonly used pen, or pliers, etc.
  10. Avoid hobbies that flare up the condition, such as sewing, and sports involving heavy shoulder and arm use (like racquetball).
  11. Do not perform weight lifting exercises to your arms, hands, or shoulders when the condition is in an inflamed state. This will simply further the irritation and swelling.
  12. Use ice, either via an ice pack or by using a Dixie cup ice massage to relieve swollen irritated tissues. When using an ice pack, always place a moist towel between your skin and the ice pack. Ask the doctor on the proper technique for ice massage. Ice should be used for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Take a half-hour break before applying again.
  13. If the muscles in your neck and back are sore and tense, moist heat may be affective in relieving the pain. As with ice, use heat for periods of 20 minutes at a time. Take the heat off for 20 to 30 minutes between sessions. If you feel worse after using heat, apply ice for 15 minutes. This will decrease the swelling present. Avoid heat if this is the case.

Warm Up Exercises* Use a metronome with all exercises, and use a clean tone. If at anytime your hands or forearms cramp up or hurt, STOP shake out your hands and arms, then try to relax and start again, if you continue playing with the pain, you will probably develop tendonitis or a similar problem...


Guitar Fitness 102* article on the Mining.Co. Guitar site: Physical problems can plague guitar players at all levels. But that is only half the story- what about emotions and stress levels? From beginners to advanced players, emotions and stress can affect any performance.

What does it mean when my hands start to hurt?*
Pain is your body's way of telling you you're doing something wrong. When your hands start to hurt, STOP PLAYING. I know, I tend to go overboard, myself. A couple of weeks ago a friend stopped by and we jammed for most of the day. The next day, my left wrist hurt so bad I could hardly bend it. Scared me enough that I didn't play for several days, and it got better. Your body wasn't designed to play for hours at a time, and you can permanently damage it by overdoing it. Before you play, stretch out your hands, fingers, and arms. Some people recommend washing your hands in warm water, first. Warm up slowly, take frequent breaks, and stop when it hurts. Also, pay attention to your playing position. Wearing your guitar too low is a big invitation to carpal tunnel syndrome. Try to keep your wrist as straight as possible when fretting.

Guitar Exercises

Note: By increasing finger strength, the guitarist is less prone to injury. Many of these exercises are just the typical "running through the scales," but if done religiously then the strength is developed that will prevent future injury. You do need to be aware of practicing too much...the most common side effect is "trigger finger."

Flamenco Guitar Exercises
Acoustic Guitar Magazine Exercises
Guitar Exercises--Strength and Speed
Guitar Speed Picking Exercises
Spanish Guitar Exercises
Francesco Fareri Guitar Exercises
Guitar Scale Exercises
Free Online Guitar Lessons
Guitar Dreams Exercises
Acoustic Guitar Technique
Guitar Notes
Ultimate Guitar Lessons
Folk of the Wood--Acoustic Lessons
The Ultimate Online Guitar Tutor
Jazz Guitar Lessons
Flamenco Guitar Lessons

Lesson #1, 4/21/98-Chromatic Exercises I Three Chromatic exercises, great warm-ups
Lesson #2, 7/6/98-Steve Morse Pt.1 Eight examples taken from Steve's Exercise
Lesson #3, 7/7/98-Steve Morse Pt.2 Steve's full length Personal Picking Exercise
Lesson #4, 7/19/98 Economy Picking A study in Economy Picking
Lesson #5, 7/20/98 Chromatic Octave Exercise A great right hand exercise.
Lesson #6, 7/21/98 Chromatic Exercises II Four warm-up/stamina building exercises
Finger-Build Riffs some good riffs to develop speed and strength

*Many mucho thanks to www.GuitarSite.com. Check them out for some extra goodies.


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