I chose to write about this topic this month because I am actually recovering from a pretty bad hand injury that I sustained over a month ago. The actual injury was a result of a combination of things but it has given me a very good reason to remember the importance of warming up before playing and practicing because, due to my injury, I have not been able to play my guitar for over a month! Not cool to say the least.
I’ll first give you a quick recap on what happened and then I talk about some exercises and warm up routines that you can do to prevent injury. I recently started working on writing a new song that was very technical and fast. Although I play a lot of this kind of music, I have not been keeping up on it lately because I have been busy working on other things. I also got into indoor rock climbing over the summer. On one particular day about a month ago, I was working on writing for about a four hour stretch, then I went in to teach for about another four hours. To top the day off, I then went climbing that evening for the third time in a one week span. I knew that I was pushing it but I wasn’t really feeling any serious pain so I moved through the day without much caution. The next couple days however I started feeling some serious sharp pain in my left hand and wrist. I knew that it was a combination of too much technical playing and rock climbing in a very short time span. Rock climbing, by the way, is extremely hard on your hands and fingers, not the best activity to be involved in if your a guitar player. The pain continued and only got worse when I taught and played guitar. After a couple weeks of this constant pain, I paid a visit to my doctor. He basically told me that there shouldn’t be any long term damage and that I probably just inflamed some tendons in my hand and wrist. He told me to ice it when it gets sore, to take Aleve to reduce the inflammation, and to stay off of it as much as possible. Fat chance of that happening! It’s been a little over a month now and it is feeling much better. I’m still not 100% but I can play and practice pretty regularly without much discomfort.
Now lets talk about Good Pain and Bad Pain
I have certainly experienced many days of muscle fatigue and strain from being a guitar player. There are however two types of pain to keep in mind. The good kind, or at least the kind that is not causing any long term damage and the bad kind. The good kind of pain doesn’t really feel painful, just sore and tired like you feel when you just got done lifting weights or going for a long run. Your muscles are telling you that they have had enough for now and need some time to rest and repair themselves. I believe this to be good because it usually means that you are strengthening your muscles and enabling them to endure harder, longer, and faster playing. The bad kind of pain happens when you feel sharp and intense pain that immediately causes you to stop what your doing. The cause of this can be a number of things, but the two biggest factors that I have experienced that lead to this are #1 Bad technique and posture and #2 excessive over use, especially when not properly warmed up. I always tell my students that if you feel any kind of sharp and sudden pain, then stop playing for the day and let your hands relax. If the pain persists, then by all means see your doctor or a specialist and get it checked out. If your just feeling a little tense, then it’s most likely from a good old workout that will make you stronger in the long run.
Hand and Finger exercises for guitar playing
I am a big fan of efficiency and the biggest reason why I always use these guitar exercises is because they are great for warming up both the left and right hand fingers and wrists in the shortest amount of time possible. I will usually spend about 5 minutes running through all these exercises at which point I will be ready to play just about anything without doing any damage to my muscles and tendons. I learned most of these exercises from John Petrucci’s “Rock Discipline” video. This is an incredible source for more advanced players and I learned a LOT from watching this video.