I have been playing for over 8 years, and I have never had any medical problems associated with guitar playing until 3 months ago. After playing for 3 hours straight I developed a sharp pain in my left elbow. Tendonitis had raised its ugly head.
Tendonitis, a repetitive strain injury informally known as tennis elbow, and similar to carpel tunnel syndrom, is a problem for many professional and amatuer musiscians. Once you get it, it may never fully go away. It burns your elbow whenever you play fast or for any considerable length of time. It can also cause pain in your wrists. Whether you are young or old, a new guitarist or a veteran, tendonitis is something to look out for.
There are many ways to avoid getting tendonitis from playing. First, always warm up by stretching your arms and wrists. Use a door frame to stretch your arm pit, which surpirisingly is a source for problems assoctiated with guitar playing. Begin you playing with slow music. Don't blast right into sweep arppegios or fast runs right off the bat. Practice your scales slowly, then gradually, over five mins or so, get up tp your fast speed if shredding is your thing. It seems like common sense to some, but it is often overlooked by many. Positioning your guitar properly is also another important way from avioding tendonitis. Notice James Hetfield and how he has his guitar slung really low. Same with Head and Munky, and most nu metal guitarists. It looks pretty cool. However, having you guitar slung too low causes your wrist to bend more, which itself can be the main reason why musicians get tendonitis. Having a wrist that is unbent us much as possible is key. Would you rather sacrifice a cool look or your ability to continue guitar.
Once you get tendonitis, everything isn't lost. It most likly will go away, but it may take some time and plenty of rest (in the three months that I've had it it has actually gotten worse, and I have been playing less). Half a year or even a full year is an average time for the condition to go away. Don't play as often if you can help it. Take breaks in your playing, and keep stretching. Wearing a tensor or a brace around your elbow helps keep the strain from overloading the tendons in your forearm. Ibuprofen cream also helps the swelling. You need a perscrition for most topical effective anti-inflamatories. Acupuncture, physiotherapy or chiropractic work can help cure the condition aswell. Today, I saw a doctor again regarding the fact that even with rest, my elbow was getting worse. He offered me a shot of cortisone, which I took. Cortisone is a heavy-duty anit-imflamatory that has many dangerous side effects if taken to often. These shots should always be a last resort.
If you feel pain from playing too much or two fast - stop. See a doctor. If your stubborn like me, and you think that "No pain no gain", think about your musical future. Tendonitis can get very bad. I know a few musicans who had to give up guitar because their arms hurt too much.
- Frazer Elliott