Guitar Tendonitis, or It Hurts When I Play Guitar.

by Joel
(Santa Cruz county)

Hi, Joshua, I think I've developed tendonitis from repetitive picking of the guitar in my right hand.

I spent last summer playing 4 to 6 hours a day of pure up and down picking trying to get faster.

I felt pain in my thumb on the inside part of my wrist and up the arm. and it hurt to grip a pick.

I've rested and have not played for very long now months and months.

So according to your advice I should ice like crazy. I also plan on practicing on different guitars and in different positions and often as possible so i stay ahead of the "ergonomics" thing.

How long should I ice before I start playing again?

And: if the tendon has microscopic rips does the ice thing help your tendons heal faster? Unlike the usual wait months and months that they tell you?

Thanks, any help would be great appreciated.

P.S. I've also been taking Glucosamine.


Joshua answers:

Hi Joel. Thanks for asking your questions.

We all have hobbies that we love, and sometimes they can cause us some problems.

Answers to your questions in no particular order:

1. "They" say to rest for months and months.

Unfortunately, Rest just doesn't work.

It's predictable that -anyone-, and certainly any guitar player with your symptoms and story could take months off, get back to playing, and start hurting again, pretty much right where they left off.

Rest does not reverse the Pain Causing Dynamic.

2. Glucosamine: Great. It can't hurt and can only help. Results vary.

3. If you do have true Tendonitis, with little micro rips and tears, then yes, Ice Dipping will essentially help you heal faster.

4. How long should you ice before you start playing again?

It really depends on how 'crazy' you go with the Ice Dipping.

I say 10x for 10 seconds over a two hour period. That provides a lot of bang for the buck. If you want to get out of pain faster, double or triple the number of dips.

If you go crazy, then you can start playing guitar a little on the 4th day.

You will need to continue Ice Dipping as you help your hand into an Upward Spiral.

Playing guitar and your current physiology will try

to make it a Downward Spiral.

Ice Dipping will combat all the negative variables.

So, the more you play/want to play, the more you will need to Ice Dip.

Does that make sense?

5. Switching up guitars and playing styles/positions is A GREAT IDEA!

You got it!

6. You may have some Tendonitis.

You certainly have a Tendonitis dynamic of tightness and pain all the downsides of that.

The muscles there in the thumb pad, and the forearm muscle that helps curl the wrist, are definitely WAY TOO TIGHT, stuck in a way too tight mode.

Ice Dipping will help that, and start reversing the Pain Causing Dynamic your hand is stuck in.

You can also help it by regularly, throughout the day, reaching to that thumb pad area and just massage it for 10-30 seconds.

Squeeze the dry crunchy sponge of the muscle, and help it become a wet, squishy sponge.

In other words, little bits of repeated squeezing will help you out more than you can imagine.

7. In the near and far future, after you get your hand healthy again, you can play guitar as much as you want.

You will want to keep in mind that the more you play, the more your hand and forearm want to go into a Downward Spiral.

Learn how to play guitar as much as you want without pain by learning how to counter the downsides of lots of play with Ice Dipping.

Feel free to ask any other questions, and keep me updated.

Let's get you out of pain and back to doing what you love.

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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Dec 19, 2017
by: Cindy

Help! I am 60. I play the guitar minimally and have developed trigger thumb. I had a cortisone shot a week ago and so far it's no better. I may also have some carpal tunnel developing.

I have stopped playing to give it a rest but it makes me sad because I don't know if I will be able to play again. The mornings are the worst with the clicking in my thumb. Any thoughts??


Joshua Comments:

Hi Cindy.

I have plenty of thoughts.

1. Rest doesn't help anything.

2. Corticosteroid Injections -might- help reduce symptoms temporarily but can't fix anything.

3. Have you read the Trigger Finger page?

Mar 17, 2016
Hand and Wrist problem on Picking hand from playing the guitar
by: Tom

Hi Joshua,
My name is Tom and I have been suffering from a wrist injury for just over 4 years now and am desperate to find a solution.

The injury happened because I was trying to improve my alternate picking (using my right hand) on the right handed electric guitar and was trying to copy another guitarist’s way of picking which looked awkward but seemed to work for that player. My hand was open as I repetitively played the same stuff over and over again.

I got stressed about it at the time and was trying to play far too fast and within a couple of months, I had never felt such dreadful pain.

I also suffer OCD which didn't help at the time.

I rested up for a week and then went to see if I could play again but could not. Each time I tried to pick, my thumb and index finger would pop out away from the plectrum as if it were afraid to hold it. As the months went on, I was able to hold the pick again when I played through the string but my wrist would cease and tighten and my thumb and index finger would automatically grip the plectrum very hard and tight.

I have tried Physio and stretching exercises but this hasn't helped.

After reading a lot from your site, I have changed my diet and have been on the paleo diet for nearly a month now. I am currently seeing a Chiropractor for Active Release Therapy who has advised me to take multivitamins which I have been taking for the past few weeks.

I haven't noticed any change as I can still feel it's there and haven't been able to write because my wrist keeps ceasing. I sometimes feel tightness through my fingers and at the time of my injury, I had some pain behind my right shoulder which may have come from bad posture.

This comes back every so often especially when trying to play the guitar.

Also, I have been learning to play the left handed guitar for the past 2 years and have already improved my situation as I am using opposite hands for both actions but I cannot do vibrato (continuous movements using my right hand) because my wrist keeps ceasing and my thumb feels like it's about to shoot off (feels really tight).

I have not played the guitar for nearly a month because I just need to get away from it all and create a fresh start and plan how I am going to solve my problem once and for all. I don't want to worsen my problem anymore.

Will your reversing guitar tendonitis book help and do I need to be taking certain supplements? Are they safe to take at the same time and on top of my daily intake of food? Is it possible for me to play like I could before and have no tightness? What are the actions I need to take?

I realise I have typed a lot of information but I want to be as detailed as possible in order to achieve positive results.

I really hope you can help and I would be most grateful for your response.

Many thanks,


Joshua Comments:

Hi Tom.

You didn't leave your email or check the notifications box, so I hope you find this.

Yes, it's possible to play like you did before, you just need to reverse the dynamic that has brought you to where you're at.

Multi-vitamins don't have enough anything in particular to fill up a nutritional lack (they're fine as a very baseline minimal touch of a variety of different nutrients), and in the case of magnesium and b12, have the worst (cheapest) options available.

Yes, Reversing Guitar Tendonitis sounds like the right program for you, and it contains all the actions you need to take to turn things around, by which I mean, reverse the specific mechanisms that are causing you pain and problem.

May 23, 2015
Can anyone have success getting rid of Tendonitis?
by: Tyler Novo

Hi Josh,

I was working at an animation studio when I started getting discomfort in my wrist. I kept working to see what would happen and it later turned into my extensors feeling like they were on fire. It got to the point where if I wiggled my fingers it would irritate my extensors.

I had to quit.

The inflammation disappeared after a month of rest but since then I haven't been able to use a computer or draw without irritating the tendons at my elbow. The pain isn't debilitating like it was when I was working. It's about a 3 and if I push it a 5 or 6. I don't feel comfortable going back to work only to irritate it to the point where I have to quit again. It's been 9 months since I quit and I'm going broke looking for cures. I've tried exercises from physiotherapists, massage therapy, Graston, ART, Flexbar and electronic devices that are supposed to stimulate circulation.

Throughout the 9 months I seemed to have developed it in my left lateral epicondyle as well as minor aches in both medial epicondyles.

Recently I've noticed the tendon at the base of my thumb is becoming irritated. It seems completely logical that re evaluating nutrition is a the best course of action. Before I commit to another attempt at trying to fix my arms i waned to ask:

Out of all the people you have seen commit to doing what you advise them to do, how many have succeeded in getting rid of their tendonitis and keeping it gone?

Also I noticed you said something about having tendonitis in the About You tab. Have you been able to get rid of it completely?

Is anyone to far gone? is 100% recovery possible for everyone?




Joshua Comments:

Hi Tyler.

Nutrition is one aspect that needs to be dealt with, yes. If it's not, then that helps explain (partly) why the manual treatments you've tried haven't helped.

1. I'm as lazy as the next guy, but yes, if I have a tendonitis-type issue and put my mind to it I can/do get rid of it.

Tendonitis is a dynamic. It's just a matter of doing what needs to be done to reverse that dynamic and get the body working more optimal again.

Will you need to do some self care over time to nip it in the bud if it returns? Probably. Depends on how you go about it.

2. "Is anyone to far gone? is 100% recovery possible for everyone?"

As a general statement, it doesn't matter how far 'gone' one is, It's just a matter of doing the right things to get the body working better again.

Granted the worse it is, that -may- mean it will take more time/effort/dilligence.

But essentially, if you address the actual causes of the problem, the problem will go away.

And the good news is, you can do it yourself and not have to be reliant on expensive professionals.

Dec 23, 2014
Started to have mild aches from playing guitar
by: Zachary

So, I've played guitar for about 4 years, 2 if you only count the years I've taken it seriously. I generally try to practice three hours a day. I've begun to experience mild aches in my wrist through out the day.

I was afraid it was tendonitis so I stopped for about a week. After awhile I didn't have the aches so I began playing again at the same regiment that I previously was.

I also tried playing a very thick neck which was the best neck I've ever played, but I was borrowing it and had to give it back.

Now the aches are back and they happen more frequently.

I have been iceing my wrist recently which has made the pains and aches less frequent, but I'm still worried I have to do more.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Zachary.

1. Read this entire thread.

2. No matter where in your body you feel Tendonitis, it's all a predictable mechanism.

And you described it perfectly: I aches a little, goes away, comes back a little worse, goes away, comes back again sooner ands stays longer...

It's all part of the Pain Causing Dynamic.

Chances are high that you do need to 'do more'. Or at least, 'do smarter'. Depending on how exactly you are icing, that will be more or less effective diminishing the Process of Inflammation that is one of the factors causing this chronic/progressive ache.

So you need to know the answer to the question: What Is Tendonitis?

Well, you don't 'need' to, but you just might want to, as then you'll more understand why you have ache now, and if/when it turns to pain and problem, why that happened.

Sep 01, 2014
A Lifetime Nightmare and pain and electrical shock when I play guitar
by: Brian

I've been playing bass and guitar since 1987. And since 1988 I've dealt with chronic pain/numbness/fatigue that has led me to many intervals of not being able to play at all.

I've been diagnosed with tendonitis, neuritis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic inflammation, neurological disorders, you name it. EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK! I've taken many pills over the years, including steroids, opiates, nerve blocks, neuronitin, anti seizure meds, NSAIDS, Aspirin, anti depressants, etc. Nothing has ever helped.

There was one period in my life where there were less issues. But honestly there's no rhyme or reason for it.

The past few years have been horrible. To the point now where EVERY time I play ANY guitar I have issues for days. Either electrical shock pains in my left shoulder. Or my forearms get VERY tender and hurt. My fingers on both hands feel clumsy. And there is a lot of pain in my fretting hand. There are days I feel like I have to strain to push strings down. And my picking hand gets tired after like 10 minutes). No pain med helps. Not even 8-12 advil a day.

I run a studio and am used to being a house band player (or band in a box). My playing is so limited that I've thought of not offering to play anymore. Though its so much a part of me I can't bear that thought yet.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Brian.

It makes me mad when I hear stories like yours.

You went to doctors for help, and they not only failed to help you, they made it worse.

Obviously I've only read what you've said and haven't seen you in my office or seen any of your labwork etc, but I'm pretty confident in correlating that you're nutritionally deficient.

Doctors gave you drugs (that strip you of nutrition, ironically) but didn't deal with the very source of the issue, which is that, the body can not perform optimally without enough of the basic building blocks.

$50 in nutritional supplements and some dietary changes will most likely make a HUGE difference for you.


What is fibromyalgia? Nutritional deficiency and inflammatory processes.

What is arthritis? Long term result of A. too tight muscle and connective tissue causing joints to compress and grind and/or B. the result of inflammatory foods and Leaky Gut
(will open a new page from Kerri's site)

Neurological disorders? The result of nutritional deficiency and chronic inflammation.

Anyway, these are general themes that apply to everyone.

Doctors will and have tell you that you have serious issues, but they only focus and comprehend symptoms, not causes.

I don't know your entire scenario, but I do know that the place for you to start is with nutrition and the elimination of inflammatory foods from your dietary intake.

No gluten. No bread. No pasta. Switch from beer to cider for the next six months. Drop the sugar. Eliminate as much processed foods as you're willing to do (eat crap and feel like crap, or eat good and have the possibility of feeling better).

Get my Reversing Guitar Tendonitis ebook. It covers some primary/necessary nutrition for you, and will be a good resource for getting back to playing guitar without pain.

Then once you get working with that for a couple weeks, contact me and we'll find tune what you're doing.

Related: See: Almost Two Years Of Chronic Severe Tendonitis Pain From Playing Guitar

Sep 11, 2013
Is Tendonitis Causing Me To Lose My Guitar Picking Ability?
by: Bob

I am almost 60 years old. I have been playing electric guitar since I was 13. Like every guitarist, I have felt loss of control temporarily due to not practicing enough, heavy physical labor, cold practice rooms, etc. but I am now realizing that there has been a steady loss of physical coordination, particularly in my picking (right) hand over many years.

I suspect it has to do with using the computer mouse with that same hand. I have changed my setup around, but have not found a position that does not hurt my right wrist. I have also thought I was going crazy and may have neurological damage due to early onset Alzheimer's (my mom had it) or some other motor neural ailment like Parkinson's.

I definitely got tendonitis (tennis elbow) while waiting tables (for 6 years) from carrying heavy plates around and I knew this affected my guitar playing while I was doing it.

Since I stopped doing that in 2010, the tennis elbow in my left hand has gone away, but now my right wrist is acting up, causing me to miss notes and play inaccurately more and more. It doesn't matter how much I practice, I don't get any better and I can feel the wrist pain.

The only conclusion I can come to is that, because I have been spending much more time at the computer, the mousing, and maybe keyboarding as well, is causing stress to my picking hand. There is a little bit of loss of left-hand coordination but not nearly as bad as the right.


Joshua Comments:

Hello Bob.

1. Get your Vitamin D level checked. Some amount of Parkinsons symptoms are really just symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. And some of the possible symptoms of Vit D deficiency are muscle pain, muscle weakness, pain that mimics tendonitis, etc.

2. Yes, the Pain Causing Dynamic over time causes muscle weakness, loss of dexterity, etc. That will describe/explain why no matter what you do you can't get back to the skill/dexterity you used to have. It's because you are literally stuck.

See the explanation for causes of various wrist tendonitis symptoms.

Related: Wrist Tendonitis Guitar Player Fretting Hand

May 24, 2013
Resting Your Guitar Tendonitis
by: Brent

Ok, I'm going to therapy now for some slight pain/tension feeling in both wrists that appears to be Tendonitis after I played I concert where I was very nervous and tense. It was the first time after 20-30 years that I ever had pain from playing guitar.

Anyways, I'm always told I should rest my hands for a couple of weeks to allow my hands to heal. Of course I'm supposed to play some places so there's a little conflict.

I read on your website that resting the hands doesn't always work or may not be necessary.

Could you explain why resting doesn't necessarily help?

I've had pain now in both hands almost a month and worried that it could become chronic.

Thanks much. Brent


Joshua Comments:

Hi Brent.

Follow the 'Rest' link up above for the long answer.

The short answer is, rest doesn't help fix anything because Tendonitis and muslce pain consist of a progressive dynamic of muscle and connective tissue tightening, nutritional insufficiency, and the inflammation process.

Rest just eliminates new irritation to an already irritated ecology.

Take a month off, or three months off, or a year off, etc doesn't reverse the progressive dynamic that had been in place, it doesn't replace nutrition, it doesn't (as a general rule) loosen too tight muscles, and it doesn't eliminate all the factors of the inflammation process.

So it's a common experience for guitar players (and everyone else) to take a month off or a year off, pick up a guitar, and within minutes or days being right back where they started from, pain-wise and limitation-wise.

Gotta reverse the dynamic to have the dynamic go away.

Also See: The Difference Between Rest and Relaxation

Also See: Animation Tendonitis Rest Hasn't Helped Can't Work

And basically for the same thing reworded a bit:

Apr 20, 2010
Thumb/wrist pain
by: John

Hi, I have been playing tennis for about 3-4 years now and I have been playing guitar for about the same time.

Recenty my left thumb(on the bottom, almost at my wrist) hurts when I grip the raquet and a guitar neck and now just moving my hand at all.

It hurts alot when I push down on the little bone under my thumb that sticks out under your palm(the one right above my wrist). It has been keeping me from guitar and tennis and has been really bothering me.

Any ideas what it is?



Joshua Comments:

Sounds like Thumb Tendonitis.

IF you feel around in your thumb pad I get you'll feel tight, bandy, crunchy, painful muscle.

Following the structures, the tendon to the thumb may hurt, and the tendon at the base of the thumb/wrist where it all connects may hurt too. Along with the body of the muscles themselves.

Apr 26, 2009
Part 2 - More questions more questions more questions - Guitar Tendonitis
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Answers:

Hi Anonymous. Sorry it took a while, I've been traveling.

Of course you can get the surgery if you really want to. Far be it from me to say no :)

However, let me address a couple of the above statements.

1. I didn't say tendons will never heal 100%. I said the body doesn't -naturally- heal them to 100%.

You can help your body heal better.

2. I don't think that it would add to your results to get surgery. I think it would take you weeks and weeks and/or months to heal from the injury the surgery caused.

I think that the structural integrity of your structure would be weakened. I know that when the body heals from surgery it uses scar tissue, which is what the surgery is supposed to get rid of.

3. You said surgery for carpal tunnel. That surgery opens up the ligament that covers the carpal tunnel that holds the median nerve (assuming the nerve doesn't accidentally get nicked, cut, or severed, and assuming that that new space will last for any length of time).

Nothing to do with tendons there. If you have tendonitis, I wouldn't get carpal tunnel surgery.

4. For a wrist tendonitis or tennis elbow surgery, surgeons theoretically go in and shave down the tendon and scar tissue on the tendon.

Great, except again, the body doesn't like getting cut on, and it heals by laying down more scar tissue. Which is only partly to blame for the benefit of surgery being less than 100%, and 'benefit' wearing off with time and activity.

5. Yes, theoretically the tendon could be fixed up (except for the new scar tissue formation), but that doesn't do anything about the variables that led to getting tendonitis in the first place, and predictably will again.

6. Thus, I like a method that reverses the physical dynamic that got you to where you're at.

I don't know what people in other countries think, but in the U.S. we tend to think that surgery is a clean, easy, painless fix for many a problem. We quickly learn otherwise when we actually get one. That's just my observation.

I like your questions. More!

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

Apr 21, 2009
More questions more questions more!
by: Anonymous

Hi Josh!! Thanks for the reply! Since you requested more questions.. I have more questions :)

Since we've established that tendon's will never heal 100% and assuming that I will keep playing the guitar, then wouldn't it be helpful, along with ice dipping, to get the surgery that allows the tendons in the area to move more freely by severing the tunnel that holds and compresses them? which is what the surgery for carpal tunnel does.
Also, if there is scar tissue buildup, the doctor could remove this as well and sort of fix up the tendons?
I am not scared of the surgery if it will help me keep doing what I love the most!!!!!

Thanks again Josh!

Apr 20, 2009
PART 2 - Same Deal Here.
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua comments: You, sir, are a wise man.

The body, for whatever reasons, doesn't naturally heal tendons back to a 100% state.

Yes and no, and maybe. Ice Dipping can absolutely make ALL the pain go away, if you do it diligently (and it doesn't have to take a long time).

But it won't heal how the body laid down scar tissue.

-And- you're going to continue to play guitar and use the computer when you feel bettter. Which will push you towards a tendonitis dynamic again.
At which point you Ice Dip again to manage it, and really, to keep the body in a happy state instead of an unhappy state.

Yes, 'happy' and 'unhappy' are official medical terminology. :)

So while it might not 'cure' your tendinitis, it can make the pain go away, and help your body reverse and maintain an Upward Spiral instead of the default Downward Spiral.
Which as far as I'm concerned, is a 'fix'.

It's possible there's nothing 'wrong' with your tendons. It's really more of a Pain Causing Dynamic that gets worse, not so much the case of more damage to a tendon. Thus, surgery can't fix it.

Surgery may be a temporary pain reliever (after you heal from the pain and trauma of surgery) but it doesn't alter or reverse the Dynamic that is causing all the pain.

Ice Dipping may be all you need. I will eventually film and release 'The Wrist Tendonitis Treatment That Works', but for the moment 'The Tennis Elbow Treatment That Works' is what I recommend to guitar players.

More questions, more questions, more questions!

Apr 18, 2009
same deal here ,.
by: Anonymous

Hello Joshua!

I am going through the same exact situation as the anonymous poster here!!! I am a guitarist and started developing tendinitis of the picking hand after practicing alternate picking to get faster as well. I believe that being on the computer too much and the use of the mouse in particular, only makes the problem worse as I am in pain while on my computer as well. I developed pain on my left wrist because I started using the mouse with the left hand to alleviate the right. So I even if I did not play the guitar, i would still have tendinitis on both hands to a lesser degree of pain, but still there. Over the years, I have tried cortisone, splints, etc and even gave up on playing the guitar for a long time until the pain stopped. Every time I play for more than a couple of hours the pain returns and stays for a week. I have to stop playing. This makes me think that my tendons never really healed 100% and never will as it happens again and again. My question to you is, if I do the icing of the wrist diligently and for a long period of time, will that be enough to heal the tendons 100%? Or my tendons are never going to heal. Would surgery help with my condition? If that is the case,, I will do it in a heartbeat!! I just want to find the cure, if there is one.

I hope to hear from you soon!!

Anonymous if you come back to this thread, please email me so we can share how to cope with this condition as we try to keep our playing alive!!


Apr 02, 2009
PART 2 Guitar Tendonitis, or It Hurts When I Play Guitar.
by: Anonymous

Hi Joshua, sorry it took so long to reply.

I got to say the ice has been working wonders on me better than anything else i have done. My pain is gone like 95 percent of the time. Only does it start to creep back a little bit after playing for a long time and no ice.

I have been doing the ice dips and also icing the area down with an ice pack more often cause I just have to grab it out of the freezer.

I have been playing a lot too. Maybe 1 to 3 hours a day and so far so good.

Its awesome, you've saved my life.

Should i just keep icing when it starts to hurt or what?


Joshua Answers

So glad I could help. It's amazing what you can do with the RIGHT information....and actually acting on it.

Treating Tendonitis is so much better when you do it in a way that actually works!

Anyway, I'm glad you took action. Taking action gets results.

As far as you question about how to keep the pain from playing guitar away, you have two options:

You can either wait till it hurts, and ice till the pain goes away, or you can maintain a pain free state with regular (it takes less and less) icing to keep the pain dynamic form setting in.

Human are pretty lazy, we usually go for the first option. And, it eventually takes very little effort to make a habit of the latter option.

Keep me updated! Ask any other questions.

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

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