In this modern world we are all on phones and typing on computers, add that to guitar playing and you have a recipe for physical injuries. Besides laying off the screens, we will share some tips on how to prevent muscle and tendon disorders that guitar players can face.
There will come a day when you may not be able to play anymore (even if you're never too old to learn guitar), so enjoy it while you can!
A Proper Instrument
The most important part right out of the gate is to have an instrument that is properly setup. No cheap guitars with horrible action! Make sure your guitar is intonated properly and the action as it should be. That will immediately make it easier to prevent muscle and tendon problems. A guitar with bad action can cause you a lot of pain!
A proper instrument also means something suitable for your situation. If you are already experiencing hand issues then you may want to make an adjustment to your guitar playing.
Perhaps nylon strings on a classic guitar or the much lower action of the electric. It will depend on the guitar you play, but instrument and string adjustments can help you avoid disorders.
The Right Environment
This has multiple aspects, one being the obvious of a well-lit and quiet room. One where you have space to sit properly and not bump your guitar. Distractions like TV's or phones need to be turned off, unless of course you are listening to or watching a tutorial. These sound like beginner tips, and they are, but they still apply here too.
A quiet room away from everyone else is good advice for any guitar practice.
But if you need to focus on your posture and the correct holding and playing, the right environment is important. To keep those hands positioned correctly it takes focus.
Correct Posture and Holding of the Guitar
This is another prevention technique that's good for life all around!
The way you sit, and stand is important for your health even if you don't play the guitar.
Correct posture is essential, and you must be sure you elbow, and arms are bent in the proper manner.
If you learned to play on your own with poor technique, it may cause you problems later.
It is never too late to start sitting up correctly and using the most accepted techniques to help prevent pain. Take yourself back to a beginner stage and practice playing but focus all on your body movement. Of course, if certain aspects of playing cause pain then don't push too hard less you cause more muscle and tendon issues.
Initial Warm-up Exercises
Just like in sports we have to warm-up before we play. And in this case it's not just scales or rhythm exercises. Use actual physical techniques that athletes use for their own hands. Stretch and bend those fingers so they are prepared to play guitar!
You can find quite a lot of physical therapists who play guitar on YouTube, and some have some good stretching exercises.
But it is also important to stick to those musical warm up exercises too, find chords and songs that will work great to get your hands going. If you are already dealing with tendon disorders you will notice it simply when warming up.
Allow for Rest and Recovery
You definitely need the correct amount of rest when practicing, taking a pause is not the end of the world. If you are the type of guitarist that wants to play fast and shred, make sure you don't over practice. If you do not give your muscles time to heal, there will be no building of any muscle memory to begin with. The progress is constantly destroyed!
How long you rest for will depend on your level and potential pain, if you have any.
In the beginning you may want to wait a couple days. As you progress it is ok to start skipping days and then maybe just a few a week. It's really based on your comfort level. Realistically in life we all have boundaries and pushing past them will lead to muscle and tendon disorders.
And remember that you can even practice without a guitar in your hands.
Learn New Techniques
If you're already having trouble with hand issues or tendon problems, it is time to try some new ways to learn to play the guitar. The slide can be much easier on your fretting hand, and it is not hard to play in open tunings. In fact, open tunings can help you if you need to simplify your playing.
Yes it may limit what you can play in certain keys, but at least you can still play guitar!
Or try using three finger picks instead of a traditional pick hold, anything that works different muscles. This is even a good idea to prevent muscle and tendon disorders, don't play one way all the time.
Like the world of sports and chemicals, too much repetitive activity can lead to problems. Switch your techniques and don't feel bad for making things easier to play, music doesn't have to be complicated.
Besides these pointers the best advice is to keep the smartphone, video games, and computers to what they must be. These are known carpal tunnel culprits! Yes they might be necessary for some, but they do more damage than amateur guitar playing.
Keep in mind what other physical activities may be bad for your hands and you will have a better chance of preventing muscle and tendon disorders.
It is definitely a serious issue; it can start as young as 30 to 40 and playing guitar can become a real hassle or pain.
If you wish to play guitar as long as possible, then keep your hands and body healthy.
With luck you can avoid any tendon or muscle pain in your hand and continue playing guitar for many years.