The recent passing of rock guitar legend Eddie Van Halen has inspired tributes from around the world, not only from fans but musicians who point to Van Halen as a major influence. Over the years, many professional and amateur musicians have taken up the electric guitar hoping to emulate Van Halen’s enthusiastic style, and a resurgence of sales in Van Halen’s music is likely to encourage a new generation.
Aside from selecting the right instrument and arranging for lessons, one should also consider the potential for joint pain when pursuing this musical interest. Even if you don’t engage in energetic rock concert-level performances and simply stand in one place as you play, the possibility of injury remains.
The most common joint issues associated with playing guitar include:
Shoulder pain: It’s not uncommon for shoulders to rise and tense up as you focus on your guitar. Your shoulders may also bear the weight of your instrument, and if you wear a strap it can increase discomfort in the neck and shoulder areas.
Wrist pain: Your “fretting wrist,” the one that supports the hand playing the frets while the other strums, is susceptible to pain if due to excessive bending. Improper arm posture can lead to chronic aches further along if not corrected.
Finger pain: Those new to guitar may find their fingers feel tender after strumming and pressing down on hard strings. With practice and patience, one can develop fingertip calluses to help. If you don’t allow your fingers to rest properly after playing, however, there is an increased risk of numbness and nerve damage in addition to joint pain due to excessive pressure.
This doesn’t mean playing the guitar causes joint pain, however. Guitar, piano, and playing other musical instruments may be helpful in maintaining good dexterity and flexibility, as with any type of exercise. Knowing your body’s limits, when to rest, and proper posture and positioning help improve performance while reducing discomfort. Ergonomic guitar picks and shoulder straps may also relieve tension in the fingers and shoulders, and allow for improved play.
If shoulder, elbow, and wrist pains increase to the point it becomes difficult to perform, it may be time to seek treatment. At Bon Secours Virginia Orthopaedic and Spine Specialists, we offer treatments designed to improve pain management and quality of life. Whether you need a total joint replacement or physical therapy, we are here to help.
Contact us today to learn more about our services.