I have been experiencing pain/tightness in my picking hand for the past 3 months. I started learning guitar a year back. The wrist tends to tighten up and it causes soreness in the hand. I went to the doctor who diagnosed it as tendonitis. I took time off and it got better but now as I am trying to ramp up my practice time again, its flairing up. I grip the pick losely, I can feel it moving around as I strum or pick so I doubt it is due to tightness or technique. I grip the pick the usual way with it coming from the side of the thumb and resting on my index finger knuckle.

Before I got the injury, I bought a new guitar (Yamaha FG700s) which comes with 12 gauge strings. Previously, I owned some random guitar with 10 gauge strings on it but the action was super high and the guitar bridge was beginning to come off. The tech told me its no good anymore when I asked him to lower the action. So I ended up buying a new one and playing/enjoying more since the action was more manageable. And I ended up with this wrist injury in the picking hand. Now, I wonder if the string gauge upgrade has a part to play in my picking hand injury. I recently went from a medium thickness pick to a dunlop tortex 0.46mm pick and my picking hand does thank me for the forgiveness the thin pick offers. I got the dunlop variety pack and I tend to like the thinnest pick the most.

I am a computer person, so I do spend time typing at work but I am pretty sure my injury is due to the guitar since stopping playing is the only thing that makes it better.

Can anyone relate to whether lighter gauge strings are going to make life easier for picking hand ? Is there a big downside to lighter gauge strings or thin picks like the 0.46mm tortex ? I mainly practice blue grass strum patterns and some fingerstyle.
you may have a general issue/problem with your wrist/hand anyway? but if it's due to guitar playing, is your wrist posture relaxed, it shouldn't be rigid or at an somewhat awkward angle.

also, the tension of the strings and gauge are important to the style of music and tuning you are playing in.

i'd recommend 11s for drop C tuning, 10s or 9s for standard/drop d tuning.

if you have 12s in a standard tuning there's your problem...
How are you holding your hand when playing? If you're holding your hand so that the wrist is bent you're going to end up with more than just tendonitis, wrists need to be straight. Are you playing too aggressively?

I'm not entirely certain (because I don't anything about it) that changing string gauge on an acoustic from mediums to lights is going to do much other than make your fretting hand a bit less stressed but if you want to try it go for it.

@Embracity - this is an acoustic guitar, 12s are mediums and I'm highly doubting that a bluegrass rhythm player is going to tune anywhere other than standard tuning.

To what I know so far, how you are resting or pivoting your picking hand is important. There are probably many different ways to this, but you have to find just one way first where it feels natural to you. When it feels natural to you, your body, from shoulders to fore arm to wrist will not tense up.

I struggled with this issue for awhile because the norm is that put the base of the palm just above the bridge for picking. I found this way weird, well at least to me. I felt the most relax when I put pinky, ring finger and middle finger on the pick guard.

Next is I used to focus on one part of practice only. For example, fretting hand...and every moment of practice times just goes to fretting till my fingers hurt. Now I breakdown my practice time to several parts depending how my body feels. If my fingers or fretting wrist gets tender or sore, I move to practices my strumming hand....if that gets tender and sore I move to chord shapes. If every part hurts, I move to theory. This way, each part of my body gets some time off.

Most important, warming up your fingers palm and wrist before each practice, and it may be good to take 5 minutes of break inbetween practice.

I am taking an assumption that you have bought a guitar that you are comfortable with. I was ignorant enough to be a newbie who made my first purchasing mistake based on price, sound and brand and not how the guitar fits my body size. My first guitar, a Yamaha FG720SL is a dreadnought. It was alittle big for me and my strumming and or picking hand shoulders was hinging way up in the air.
Last edited by stkhoo at Jun 25, 2015,
Thanks guys for the awesome tips. Really helpful...

@PastaFarian96, I think I do keep my wrist largely straight, it may bend a tad bit if i go for a large swing. I also tried to keep it straight while practicing yesterday but started getting weird sensations in the wrist after a bit and stopped.

I also dusted off my previous guitar (also a dreadnought) which still has the 10's and tried playing a bit - I do feel that the pick glides through easier through the 10 gauge strings and I feel it most during the upstrum, perhaps because the higher strings have more tension and you are going against gravity. On the 12's, soreness pents up sooner than on the 10's. Also, when i tried playing some fast picking of individual nodes, I feel a slight resistance/soreness on contact when picking the high E on the 12's which I dont feel at all on the 10's. The 10's also eventually lead to pain since I think my tendonitis is not fully healed but they feel better. I am going to swap out the strings on the guitars. I started strumming on a nylon, so I guess that its too soon for me to graduate to the 12's.

@stkhoo, thanks for the tip around body size. The dreadnought is a little bit on the bigger side for me but i think its not too bad, I think I will get used to it. I am also going to be more particular around body position since i sometimes play with it on my left leg and its hard to put my elbow on the body.

Thanks again for the tips, folks. Wrist tendonitis sucks.
Hi Varunsharma87

If you know that the guitar is a little big for yourself, and taking your current condition, I don't think its a very good idea to have the notion of 'I think I will get used to it'.

That is what I thought with the Yamaha FG720SL. I thought 'I will get used to it'. I never did in fact there was a time where my whole shoulder went numb for about a week. my take is that if your picking or strumming shoulder is parallel or tilted upwards to the floor is a bad idea. The natural shoulder position should be somewhat pointing towards the floor.

That is why I bit the bullet and bought the Taylor 114CE. While its a 'Grand Auditorium' aka Folk size I think, The Taylor has one more trick up its comfort sleeves, the bottom curve (where you rest your guitar on your lap and I don't really know its technical name), Taylor pinched it inner so that the guitar sits lower down.

You have to consider carefully.