How to Prevent Wrist, Finger, and Forearm Strain When Playing Guitar


Gym people stretching

It is often easy to forget how physically demanding playing the guitar can be. It is not uncommon to see guitar players who are suffering from a variety of problems, including tendonitis (an inflammation of the tendons) and carpel tunnel syndrome (when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to pain, paresthesias, and muscle weakness in the hand).These can be debilitating problems, but they are preventable. There are some important things you can do to protect yourself from having these problems now or later down the road.

First and foremost it is important to stretch before you play or practice, which not only helps to prevent injury, but will also allow you to play more effectively.
The best way to do this is to start off by stretching the fingers one by one.
Start by placing your left hand thumb against your right hand palm and pushing back slightly, not so far that it hurts but far enough so you can feel a stretch. Hold for about 30 seconds. Do this with the rest of your fingers on your left hand, and then repeat the same stretch for all the fingers on the right hand.

This next stretch is great for both your wrists and your forearms. Start by putting your palms together in front of your chest. Slowly push out your elbows and bend your wrists, holding once you feel a good stretch. Next, rotate your wrists forward so your fingers are pointing away from you. Stop and hold when you feel a stretch. After stretching it’s always a good idea to warm up by practicing a few scales, riffs, or chords.

There are some things to keep in mind when you are playing that can help to prevent any problems. First of all, try to keep your wrists as straight as possible when you are playing. When your wrists are bent it will cause unnecessary strain, and also makes it harder to move your fingers. While there are some chords or passages that require you to bend your wrists slightly, it will be better in the long run if you can keep them straight for as long as possible. Just do your best. Also, try not to press on the strings any harder than is absolutely necessary, as doing so will cause a great deal of strain.

Another important tip is to take a break. 15 mins for every hour of playing should do, but take a longer break if you have to. And if you feel any pain or discomfort whatsoever while playing it is important to stop. Trying to play through the pain will only make things worse, so do yourself a favour and stop as soon as you feel any discomfort.

Take care of your hands and wrists and you will be able to experience the joy of playing the guitar for many years to come.


Michelle is a guitarist from Québec, Canada. She is currently completing the master certificate program in guitar at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

If you liked this article and would like to read more, then head on over to Michelle’s blog, The Guitar Player’s Guide.


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How to Teach Children Gratitude


It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment… Naomi Williams

How was your child’s day?

Worrywart Wallace noticed that by 5:30 pm, it was already dark. He was sure his parents would make him go to bed early.

Picked-on Pamela noticed that Mrs. Clark gave her the “mean look” three times today. Mrs. Clark made her miserable every day.

Gloomy Greg noticed it was another boring day. It was snowing so badly that he couldn’t even go sledding.

But Grateful Giselle had a great day! Mother made her favorite chocolate chip cookies. It was Music Day at school, and she got to sing Thanksgiving songs. And the snow was so beautiful-a snowflake had landed on her finger, and she noticed it had six sparkly spikes.

What gets your child’s attention?

There are so many things going on, how does one’s brain decide which one to pay attention to? Psychologists would say that “attention bias”-or attention “habits” makes choosing what to focus on something we don’t even have to think about. Our habits of attention make us “specialists” in noticing whatever we are inclined to notice-whether it is the threats, the disappointments, or the fun and interesting that we encounter every day. It is not what happens that determines how our day goes, but what we notice and think about that makes or breaks a day. Life is experienced subjectively, from what happens inside, rather than what happens outside.

What kind of world do you want your child to inherit?

If you want your child to inherit a great world, teach them to pay attention to great things. Call their attention to how they enjoyed playing with their friends today, the appetizing smell of fresh cookies, or the snuggly feeling of their favorite blanket. Train them to have a sharp awareness of all the things around them that bring comfort and delight. And how even challenging times can provide pleasure through invigorating work and mental mastery. In short, teach them to pay attention to things for which they can be grateful.

How can I teach gratitude?

Karen Reivich (National Association of School Psychologists 2009) offers these ideas about how to teach your children gratitude.

1. Make a Grateful Sayings poster. Get a piece of poster board and write on top “For This I am Grateful”. Have family members (and friends and neighbors if desired) write or draw something on the poster for which they are grateful. Ask each person to initial their contribution. Hang it in a conspicuous place, and continue to add to it throughout the month. At the end of the month, take turns reading aloud what was written.

2. Keep a “Good Stuff” journal. Get a notebook or journal for your child. Every night, set aside a few minutes with your child to write down three positive events from the day. Write about what went well, what it meant to the child (and yourself); how the child and you can create circumstances enabling more good things to occur.



Katrina Holgate Miller, PhD, MFT is a free-lance medical journalist specializing in mental health.

Her professional experience has encompassed many facets of mental health care, including mental health assessment and treatment, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse (victims and perpetrators), couples counseling, and adolescent group counseling. For the past five years, Katrina has worked with patients across the country to help them resolve their barriers to adequate and effective mental healthcare and chemical dependency/addiction treatment.

Her writing tells the stories of the patients who used their moxie to overcome their distress.


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