Common Occupational Hazards of Guitarists

Carpal tunnel syndrome and how to avoid it.

Ultimate Guitar
Common Occupational Hazards of Guitarists

I guess many of you heard about the carpal tunnel syndrome. It is an inflammation of the median nerve which spoils the life of guitarists, drummers, gamers and many others. Even the metal guitar star Andy James suffers from it.

The trauma is caused by prolonged tense and repetitive flexion-extension movement of the wrist. Often carpal tunnel syndrome is identified as a “repetitive strain injury”.

How to identify that you are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome? The obvious sign is soreness in the wrist. If your hand is too tense and starts to hurt you should not play through the pain. If you feel numbness, tingling and weakness in your wrist, you should go get it checked. If a doctor diagnoses you with CTS usually there is only one way to deal with it – to get surgery.

Here are three basic exercises that may prevent CTS. They are very simple, don’t require any equipment and can be done at any time during the day.

Start with your hands together in prayer position.

Spread fingers apart as far you can, then “steeple” the fingers by separating palms of hands, but keeping fingers together.

Shake your hands for a minute or two every hour to keep flexor muscles of your hands and its median nerve from getting cramped and tight during the day.

This last exercise is the deepest stretch of the set:

1. Place one arm straight out in front of you, elbow straight, with your wrist extended and fingers facing the floor.

2. Spread your fingers slightly and use your other hand to apply gentle pressure to the downward-facing hand, stretching your wrist and fingers as far as you’re able.

3. When you reach your maximum point of flexibility, hold this position for about 20 seconds.

4. Switch hands and repeat.

Do this two to three times on each side, and try to do this stretch every hour. After a few weeks of doing this multiple times a day, you’ll notice significant improvement in your wrist’s flexibility.

There is also a less widespread occupational injury among guitarists called a wrist hygroma. It is a benign tumor, a thick elastic formation of round shape with clear contours. It is formed from the surface of the membranes of the joint. It is a capsule filled with serous liquid with the admixture of fibres of the protein fibrin and mucus. Delicious. It is formed under the skin on the up side of the wrist. It is particularly noticeable when flexing.

One of the causes of this injury is also a repetitive flexion-extension movement of the wrist. In other cases it is a genetic predisposition. The ganglion cyst doesn't hurt, and it can even stay unnoticed at an early stage. But if you have a bump on your wrist, do not hesitate to go to the doctor. Do not try to press it, otherwise the liquid inside the capsule can spill in the tissue and cause inflammation.

Stay healthy and take good care of your hands!

Please leave a comment and share your ways of treating these injuries.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    So basically you just fling your elbows and wrists around like a crossdressing fairy. I already do that, thank you.
    what about what they call "tennis Elbow", tendonitis?  it sucks I tell ya, that little thing you can pick up at the local pharmacy, really does work.  little strap like inch and 1/2 wide.
    My fretting hand goes completely numb from the wrist down every time I play, regardless of how much I warm up or stretch. It also continues after I play and occurs constantly throughout the day whenever I bend my elbow for a few minutes. Does anyone else suffer this? What do they do when they perform surgery? And what is the average recovery time?
    I think that's the early stages of carpal tunnel.  Do you eat a lot of eggs? If so, try cutting them out for week and see what happens. 
    What does eating eggs have to do with it?
    I guess they cause symptoms for carpal tunnels.  My mom read about it and told me.  I stopped eating eggs everyday and my symptoms disappeared. 
    In college, when I played bass for the pep band, we would play an arrangement of I Can't Turn You Lose and it was a pain on my wrist because it's the same pattern for the fretting hand. My teacher always played it through twice in a row and told me to get over myself when my hand and wrist started hurting. I should probably see a doctor about that.
    Avoid eating eggs if you have carpal tunnel.  My mom read it in some hippy health book. I tried it. Stopped eating egg sandwiches everyday.  It worked!