Guitar player that misses playing

by James
(El Dorado Hills, CA)

Guitar playing wrist pain picture - Yellow: where the pain started. Red: where dull pains are felt now. Orange:dull pains after writing for long periods of time

Guitar playing wrist pain picture - Yellow: where the pain started. Red: where dull pains are felt now. Orange:dull pains after writing for long periods of time


I have just discovered this site after fighting what my doctor diagnosed as tendinitis for about 2 months now.

The originally started as a very sharp constant pain in my wrist directly behind my pinky that hurt every time I tried to pick up an object of moved in a way that was similar to picking. I was given a wrist splint and told to rest for a few weeks and see what happens.

Didn't get any better so I was then told to wear the splint 24/7 for 4 weeks, stop guitar and gym, and given anti-inflammatory medication. Still nothing, actually I think it's worse now than when it started.

I now get dull pains in the center of my wrist and occasional tingling in my pointer finger and thumb near the joints. I didn't get the tingling until I started icing and wearing the brace.

Can icing cause damage (if done for too long)?

I'm also worried about not being able to go to the gym because I've dropped about 6 pounds since I stopped going.

If I continue playing guitar will it make the damage worse?

I ended up playing guitar for about 45 minutes or so last night and because I was under the influence of alcohol at the time I did not notice any pain but now my whole hand feels a bit numb at times (though I did spend a lot of time icing it after I played guitar).

I also write a lot for college and I work a job that requires me to be on a computer for a few hours a day. Will these things make my problem worse? Should I stop if I want to heal faster?

I'm worried about this being carpal tunnel because it just won't go away. I want to be able to play guitar and work out like I could back in August.

I'm only 20 years old and having something this debilitating is depressing. I've honestly lost all motivation to get stuff done because doing school work cause me pain and when I'm done with work I can't enjoy my hobbies because of the pain.


PS: how come ice works for inflammation but anti-inflammatory drugs don't?


Joshua Answers:

Hello James.

Thanks for all the details, that saved some back and forth and gives me a clear picture of what's going on.

Gotta love Doctors and Tendonitis. "Two weeks of splinting and rest didn't help at all? Well then obviously the next step is to do that more for another 4 weeks."

Doctors work under a 'standard of care' which basically means they only treat how they treat. Whether it works of not.

So you think you have Tendonitis. Possibly CarpalTunnel Syndrome.

See: What Is Tendonitis?

Good news/bad news, I'd say you do.

But, you may or may not have any actual -damage-.

The main problem, and the major cause of your symptoms, is the that muscles and deep structures of your forearm and wrist are SO INCREDIBLY TIGHT.

And they've been tight for a long time.

Imagine a kitchen sponge. Soft and squishy. Now squeeze it as much as you can and tightly wrap it in saran wrap. That's your situation now.

Plus that tissue is packed with pain enhancing chemical from your chronic Process of Inflammation.

Plus you're probably deficient in Magnesium, and possibly B6 and/or B12.

The places you have circled are pretty specific for guitar players, especially the red circle.

1. If you continue to play guitar -without doing anything to reverse this process-, then yes, your symptoms will get worse. Again, damage may or may not be an issue, but tightness -IS- an issue.

2. You can hurt yourself if you ice to -long-. You can't hurt yourself with Ice Dipping for 10-20 seconds a pop as long as you leave some time between dips. Ice packs generally don't stay cold long enough to cause frost bite. A block of ice would.

Don't give yourself frostbite.

3. I know why icing reduces inflammation, but I don't know exactly why Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen don't. They work to some degree, but they are not truly effective at stopping the inflammation process.

I imagine it has something to do with that anti-inflammatories -may- temporarily deal with stopping the body from feeling the effects of inflammation's pain enhancing chemical, but they don't create circulation, get irritant like waste product and p.e.c.'s out, they don't relax too tight muscle, heal damage, etc.

Inflammation has several factors to it. If you don't deal with them all, pain will come right back.



1. Check out that magnesium link, and go to the Magnesium Dosage page that is linked at the bottom.

2. Go to the How To Reduce Inflammation page.

3. Ice Dip INTENSELY for 3 days. 40+ dips a day. The more you dip, the faster you will get results.

4. After that 3 days keep ice dipping, but start to Ice Massage in and around those circled areas.

Also, dig into the palm-side forearm muscles. And anywhere that hurts, really.

Again, the more the merrier. Push the edge of good pain/bad pain, but don't hurt yourself by massaging too much/deeply. Find the balance.

Also, increase your protein intake. By a lot more than you think you should. It will help heal any damage faster, and it is part of the reason that you are losing your hard-earned muscle mass.

More questions, more answers.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Oct 19, 2009
PART 2 - More questions - Guitar player that misses playing
by: James

So do you think I have Carpal Tunnel or Tendinitis?

Isn't Carpal Tunnel permanent?

And what do you mean by "damage"?

How would I know if there is damage and how could I get that healed?

The majority of the pain/tightness is from the yellow area, red was a recent and temporary thing.



Joshua Comments:

Hey James.

1. There Are Two Types Of Tendonitis, one with damage, one without.

'Damage' means that you have actual wear and tear injury to the tendons and connective tissue.

You can have all the pain and symptoms you describe without having any actual (or at least, without significant) damage.

But because there is a dynamic of too much and increasing tightness, increasing inflammation, decreasing circulation, etc, you have chronic and easily irritable pain and problem.

2. Do you have Carpal Tunnel or Tendonitis? I can't diagnose, but while you have some symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I don't believe that you do.

You definitely have a Tendonitis dynamic with an increasing Pain Causing Dynamic.

Again, you may or may not have actual damage. (I would wager on not much if any.)

3. Carpal Tunnel is permanent if you don't do anything effective to get rid of it.

In and of itself, it's not permanent, like getting a hand chopped off would be.

People think it's permanent because the usual treatments do a very poor job of getting rid of the problem, and assume that those treatments should be able fix it.

4. Whether you have damage or not, the treatment is essentially the same.

See my original answer that included magnesium how to reduce inflammation and such.

Also I suggest 'The Tennis Elbow Treatment That Works' as it contains the vast bulk of what you need to reverse your pain mechanism.

If nothing else, do the Ice Dipping hard core for 7 days and your pain levels will go down, absolutely. Do more than the ten dips. The more the merrier.

Less inflammation, more circulation, less pain, which will start movement up the Upward Spiral of less pain and less tightness.

You'll still need to do some self massage work i the areas of those circles and up the arm, but one thing at a time.

Ice like crazy.

Oct 24, 2009
PART 3 - Thanks - Guitar player that misses playing
by: James

I've been ice dipping (more of a "slush bucket" but I've found that to be colder) since I posted the original message and have noticed a big improvement.

I also got a second doctor's opinion and physical therapy going as well.

I still get small pains after periods of use but I plan on continuing the dipping/massages well into November just to be safe.


Jan 15, 2010
Guess what's back?
by: James

I started getting pains in that area of my wrist again at the end of December, it went away, and now it's back.

I can do some lifting (only causes a weird "sensation" but no pain) but working behind a computer or picking on a guitar causes minor pain (which I know is bad) in yellow area on the original picture. Everything else is fine.

I'm wondering where to go from here; I'm still taking magnesium and have started ice dipping again but I have been unable to get myself back to my previous levels of playing because any extended practice time causes discomfort (so I stop).



Joshua Comments:

Hi James.

Ok, so let's make sure we're on the same page here.

1. Describe how 'good' it got (so we can compate that to where we started from). Pain free? Totally? Or only when you weren't playing, or when you were, say, under 20 minutes of playing.

2. And now, the -only- issue is that circled spot, and that -only- shows up when you play for how long? And how long does it last, if it does, once you stop playing?

Jan 19, 2010
PART 5 - Answers - Guitar player that misses playing
by: James

1. Totally gone, no pain while playing. I was not playing as intensely as I used to be but there was no pain from playing for extended periods of time.

2. The only problem area would be the yellow circled area (more specifically the tendon running down that edge of the forearm that connects to the pinky side of the wrist).

The pain shows up sometimes while playing, sometimes while writing, or sometimes when I'm using a mouse, but not always. It usually lasts for about an hour or so on its own or less if I am able to ice immediately after it appears.

It also seemed to have come back about a week into starting classes again so I think it has something to with me writing a lot.



Joshua Comments:

Hi James.

You're making progress, that's how it goes.

Overall pain gone, then left with a more specific spot.

Now, keep doing some ice dipping, but it's more ice massage in that area time.

Massage and ice massage, focus on that spot and surrounding area.

Also, as writing seems to irritate it a lot, you might want to try experiementing with some variation there...relax the hand more, relax the wrist, etc.

The upside is, your structure is WAY better. The downside is, there's still some work to do.

And looking to the future, expect to get all this pain gone and increase your playing times without pain, and sooner or later, the pain will start to creep back in. At which point you can either let it get worse, or nip it in the bud.

You'll get very efficient at this, and it will take almost no time/attention.

Jul 17, 2010
I have the same problem - Guitar player that misses playing
by: MaryKay James

I am having the same type problems as James, and I really want to know how he is- James what is going on now? It is now July- 5 mos later....

I hope you are not on here because it is better, but I NEED TO KNOW so I can know what to expect (fellow guitar player).

Jul 25, 2010
Reply to above commet
by: James

I'm doing great right now; back to working out and playing. My picking is not as fast or consistent as it was before the injury but that's mostly because I don't practice as much as I used too. I will still occasionally get pains in the yellow area on my picture but ice dipping makes it go away.

I'd like to add that I ice dip almost daily even if there is no pain. I've just found that after working out, playing guitar, typing for longs periods of time it really makes my hands feel more relaxed. It's probably not necessary but if you can keep a thing of water/ice around why not do it?

You just have to be very careful. About 2 months after my initial injury (August) I started finger picking without any discomfort in my wrist. I started using a pick again in December. During that time I either didn't play or I worked on left hand technique. You don't have to give up playing, just change how you do it.

Good luck.

Apr 11, 2015
Guitar player with tendonitis on my fretting hand behind my thumb
by: craig lemster

Josh I currently got the tendonitis on my fretting hand behind my thumb extended they call it the flexor tendon , I've just found your Ice treatment dipping ,any other techniques I should be working with as to the tendonitis, you are very positive in what you do thank you for that.

God bless,
craig Lemster


Josua Comments:

Hi Craig.

Ice dipping is very effective at reducing pain levels, essentially by creating circulation (old bad stuff out, new good stuff in).

There's a TON of other stuff you could do, but most of it just isn't as effective as you'd like it to be.

Definitely also see: Magnesium For Tendonitis

And read this entire thread and follow the links.

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