Wrist Pain: How To Get Rid Of It

This is a small lesson on how to get rid of your fretting's hand wrist pain if you have any, hope it works for you.

Ultimate Guitar

Hello fellows UGers,

This is a small lesson based on a personal experience, I am not in anyway related to the medical field, not an instructor, a mere player like most of you so if your case is severe please do get medical care.

Most of us have experienced wrist pain at some point of our guitar journey, mostly when we first tried to play standing up, since we had to make our still "stiff" wrists to curve and extend more then we used to in our lives, but after few playing standing up sessions, we get used to it and our wrists adapts being more flexible.

In my case the pain returned, and that is after 3 years of playing, which is not the case of getting adapted anymore, so why did that happen? Answering this question is simple, I changed my practice routine where it involved longer training hours and more challenging exercises that makes me abuse my wrist.

To make it simple, long training hours containing some kind of repetitive force or pressure on your wrist will lead to constant stress that in turn will make you suffer wrist pain, and that is usually a sign of a weak wrist, so we should work on strengthening our wrists.

What should you do in a similar case?

1) Rest, rest and rest: you need to stop playing for some time, I only had to stop for one day but that is not a general rule, it depends on the severity of your case. Resting is important since you're giving your wrist the time to heal.

2) When in pain, apply ice for 20 min, then rest for 20 min, and if you're still in pain reapply ice for another 20 min.

3)now that you have stopped playing and gave your wrist the appropriate rest time, you need to work on strengthening your wrist: get a very light dumbbell, I repeat a very Light dumbbell, this is not a Macho man contest so be assured that this will not make your balls any smaller, however if you use heavy Dumbbell you'll probably end up with a severe injury. If you don't have a light Dumbbell improvise; use a book or a small rock, I don't care, just keep the mass low, 1Kg or less.

hold that dumbbell with your fretting hand while your palm is facing the roof, you can rest your elbow on your thighs for more convenience, and start tilting your wrist so you would be lifting the weight up, then back to the middle position, than tilt more backward so that the Dumbbell is going lower this time. Do these in sets of 15, 3 sets in the morning and 3 sets in the night, and rest for a minute between one set and the other. Tilting angles should be reasonable, if you start feeling pain at some point don't tilt any further.

Do not over do it, just so it wont get uncomfortable the second day being a new muscle in training. This exercise will make your wrist stronger and able to withstand more pressure without failing you. Repeat this exercise on a daily basis for many days to come, maybe everyday for the rest of your life if you want to. You can get back at practicing guitar whenever you feel like the pain is gone, and when you first get back to plaining be easy on your writ, test drive it with caution.

I hope reading this was not a waste of your time, and If this lesson helped just one of you I would be happy.

Keep Rocking!

23 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Another suggestion, hang your arms at your sides and shake your hands for about 5 seconds, this will get the blood flowing to your arms/wrists/hands. Most carpal tunnel/tendonitis problems could be prevented if we kept good blood flow happening through our arms/wrists/hands. Do the shake exercise before playing, during breaks, and after playing. Also, as the article said, ice ice ice! Do not use things like Icy Hot,BenGay/whatever as these only mask the pain allowing you to further injure yourself.
    I would highly suggest stretching excercises, I had tendonitus for a while, and every since then I've been stretching and it helps a lot
    maybe you can right a small article on streching exercises? that would be great
    Very good article. Just remember; the best way to get rid of wrist pain is to prevent it! Always stretch and use proper posture.
    Thanks for the feedback everybody! I'm reading some pretty interisting ideas from your comments too
    Danjo's Guitar
    I think the best way to prevent wrist pain is to stop trying to be Yngwie Malmsteen. It worked for me at least.
    Funny you mention Yngwie, I remember a Guitar Player issue from the early 90's with his interview. He was saying his tendonitis was so bad he could barely play and attributed it to not warming up before going 100 mph.
    Im studying Sports Medicine to essentially do this same thing for athletes because Im an athlete whose dealt with some pretty incapacitating injuries. You nailed everything dude. Good article.
    Had this issue set in after picking up the guitar again after a 1 year break (had been playing for 4 years without issues before). What helped me most is a combination of: - getting the wrist joint warm (soak in warm water for a bit, rotate wrists, stretch) - warm up before playing fast - look up carpal tunnel stretches and do those every day (it's not a big commitment)
    EDIT: also consider taking some joint supplements if it's really serious like MSM, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin.
    To Gallant69--this is a terrible idea. It will cut off the circulation, and could cause all kinds of damage. Please don't do that. Using a brace or compression is one thing--a string is terrible advice.
    I had pain in my wrist that had a cause elsewhere in the body. My shoulders were always incredibly tense when I played (a bad habit that's very difficult to get out of) and that tension pulled on tendons connected to my wrist, making them feel stiff and painful. It was a long while before I discovered this as the cause of my problem. Discomfort and pain from playing guitar can be a difficult thing to rectify in some situations. My advice: relax whilst playing, adjust positioning of arms, legs, head etc for comfort and to aid relaxation, rest regularly, warm up before and after playing, and massage your muscles to relax them further. It's worth it!
    You need to move your elbow out when down in first position and bring it up as you ascend up the neck. Use the weight of your arm as an anchor so you do not strain your fingers and wrist. When you're younger it feels as if you need to put a lot of pressure to make the strings sound properly, over time you realize it only takes minimal effort and using your arm as a counter balance to straining your fingers and wrist will do wonders for your technique.
    I pretty much just have wrist pain within about 2 minutes of playing. I've been playing for a few years and find that more often than not I utilize barre chords. I often sit while i play and push my wrist forward in attempts to maintain a clean sound. (i cant push hard enough if i dont have my index flat across the neck).... i also use my hands a lot in my profession. most days my wrists take a pretty heavy pounding. it sucks real bad, because i love to play, but worry about these pains more than i want to.. im going to try ice. and the shaking thing.. gah.
    I used to get them two years ago, but I would just play through them or just switch to basic chords. I like your dumbbell idea though, gonna have to try it.
    Hey I have tried using yoga and stretching exercises I found on BraceAbility's blog. I have also tried using a combination of supplements that have really helped to deal with them pain. Wearing a light compression brace might also help as well! Best of luck!
    Tie a piece of string tightly around the sore wrist and leave it there as long as necessary. I always have a cotton bracelet that has a moving knot making it easy to tighten when you have pain.