Here's the information you will need to hopefully avoid getting hurt, as well as healing yourself if despite your efforts you still get injured.
We'll start with the fingers and then progress to the rest of the body.
Prehab (What to Do to Avoid Injury)Lube up your joints! Joints are lubricated by synovial fluid. Unlike blood, it doesn't constantly flow through your body, so you need to move your joints to keep them in good health.
A good guideline is to take your joint through its full range of motion a number of times equal to your age each day (as you get older you need to do it more and more). So you should do:
- Open and close your hands, wiggle them etc
- Wrist circles
- Elbow circles
- Shoulder circles
- Neck circles
FingersIn order to play guitar well, you need strong fingers. While proper technique requires minimal effort, strength helps protect your body from injury. For example, you'll probably have to carry relatively heavy bits of gear, in which case having strong hands is useful. The best way to develop finger strength is by hanging. You should hang from something at least a few minutes every day. More info here.
If you want to get more into it, check out the Facebook group "Grip Strength." You'll find info on further strengthening your fingers (and wrists + forearms).
A problem with guitar playing is that it requires your hand to close itself (to fret strings, bend them, pick them, or hold a pick), while never requiring you to open the fingers. This can cause muscle imbalances which might lead to pain or injury.
To prevent this, you should exercise the muscles that open the hand. An easy way to do this is put rubber bands around your fingers and slowly open them a few times. If you don't have rubber bands you can use your other hand to create resistance.
The other useful exercise is fingertip planks/pushups. Plenty of vids on YouTube, make sure you start with easy variations and build up to harder ones very slowly as it's easy to hurt your fingers.
WristsPicking and bending as well as other things can lead to injuries in the wrist. (Carpal tunnel syndrome for example).
You can strengthen your wrists by:
- Doing plank/pushup variations. Then when you are strong enough, handstands (against a wall if balance is an issue).
- Doing back of the wrist plank/pushup variations. Start easy (against a wall or on your knees) as it's easy to hurt yourself in this position.
- Using weights. If you don't have any, a backpack filled with books/bottle of water is an easy way to practice as the exercises require a low weight. Check out the following link for the exercises
Elbows/shouldersBecause playing guitar is an asymmetrical activity (the two sides of your body do different motions), your body will become asymmetrical as well. It's important to work to counteract it, as muscle imbalances can lead to injury.
- again: hanging, planks, pushups, handstands
- scapular pullups and pushups:
BackSitting down to play and hunching over the guitar or having the guitar weigh on one of your shoulders for a few hours can be bad for your back.
- Bridges. Here's a progression you can use, don't try to do the hardest one first. Instead start at the beginning and work up to one that is challenging but not overly difficult.
- Deadlifts. You'll be picking up stuff a lot and this movement pattern will teach you how to do it correctly.
- Squat. Another movement pattern that is useful for picking up things. It will also allow you to move more easily close to the ground, which is always useful when patching your pedalboard/looking for a pick etc.
Wake up, then:
- Neck, wrist, elbow and shoulder circles x your age
- Active hang 30 seconds
- Plank for 30 seconds
- 5 scapular pullups
- 5 scapular pushups
- Back of the wrist plank 10 seconds
- Fingertip plank 10 seconds
- Hang throughout the day
- Squat throughout the day
- open fingers in rubber bands x 15
- massage forearms
Rehab (how to recover from your injuries)First of all, remember that only a trained professional can tell you what you have for certain. However, a lot of times you can make a good guess after googling your symptoms. (I'm only writing about small aches and pains that are directly linked to playing guitar. Nothing more serious!)
A lot of times, guitar related injuries are related to inflammation in your body. To reduce this, first thing to do is make sure you're eating well. No fast food, sodas, sweets etc.
So (google them) avoid inflammatory foods and eat anti inflammatory foods.
A great anti inflammatory drink is a spoonful of turmeric (you can get it at a food store, it's a commonly used spice) + spoonful of ginger (another spice) + pinch of black pepper (to ake the turmeric more efficient). This may sound like hippie bullshit or bro science, but it isn't. It's cheaper than aspirin/ibuprofen and as effective.
Next thing is to stimulate blood flow/make the synovial fluid lubricate your joints. So move the painful area throughout its full range of motion slowly and gently a lot. You can do this anywhere. Current research is showing that immobilizing inured areas makes recovery slower.
Check out this video for motivation:
You also need to stimulate the blood flow to that area. In order to do this, prepare of bucket of warm water and one of icy water. Put the painful area in one for a few minutes, then the other and repeat for as long as you can be bothered. 20 minutes is a good time to shoot for, you can do this in front of the television.
If you have tendinitis in your elbow:
- Voodoo floss
- Eccentric wrist curls
- Massage the forearm