Pain 1 year 4 months. Guitar RSI? Help. I feel frustrated.

by Sam Walker
(Grand Rapids, MI)

I did this to myself. I'll admit it.

Music became my favorite hobby when I was 15. I loved playing the guitar. (I say loved, because I don't play it anymore) After graduating high school / going to college, I continued to play it in my spare time. I even took lessons for about 4 months. Then, at the end of my freshmen year my wrists started hurting. (May, 2011)

I rested / iced, but proceed to take summer classes (thinking that 5-6 days rest would be enough). The problem got worse after classes ended (a quick 2 month semester). So I spent the rest of my summer seeing a doctor about my problem. He first said that I had synovitis, then tenosynovitis, then neuritis in my wrists.

He gave me a cortisone shot but it didn't ease the pain at ALL. I went to see another doctor, who eventually said (6 months ago) that I have flexor carpi radialis tendinitis because there are little bumps on my wrist right under my thumb muscle. Overall I've had x-rays, an MRI, and PT (2 months summer 2011).

I didn't rest enough when the problem first happened, but I did AFTER my summer classes ended and iced like a slave DURING them. I've also been wearing wrist splints ever since the problem started.

I had to write two long term papers last semester, and I've had to type here and there since the problem started because of my "residential humanities" major (poetry class: 2011 summer semester, international relations: 2011 fall semester, etc).

I used to like blogging my freshmen year of college too, but was that dedicated to that hobby. Now, I use this weird pen to study when I'm not typing.

This problem is affecting my ability to do schoolwork, so I'm angry at myself. I shouldn't have typed so much, played guitar w/out sufficient stretching, and overworked my wrists so much. But I have 2 more months of this summer (I took January off, and studied abroad February through mid-June) so I'd appreciate any advice...

I could type this, but sometimes my wrists feel tight. And if I type too much now they hurt (pain = 3-4, throbbing, or jabbing it just depends). I squeeze one wrist with the other when that happens. Sometimes, I feel a slight jabbing pain in some of my fingers too.

Also, it's been WAY too long. But I think my wrists looked different two years ago. When I squeeze them it looks like my wrist muscle is bulging out.

So what can I do? What do I really have (I'm afraid it might be tendonosis)? How can I fix this? Did I screw up the most important part of my body?


Joshua Answers:

Hi Sam.

First off, it's important
to understand that Rest doesn't fix tendonitis, whether it be wrist tendonitis, tenosynovitis, etc.

And your experience with Corticosteroid Injections is a common one, unfortunately.

Wrist splints and braces are fine to get you through the day. Same with Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen.

Good news/bad news, you've gotten the 'standard of care' from the hospital world. This means, you get the one set of tools they have in their tool box, whether that tool set works or not.

You've probably been icing as they've instructed you to, 20 minutes on 3x/day. But you said 'iced like a slave', so maybe not. How exactly did you ice?

The fact is, you're stuck in a Pain Causing Dynamic. That's 'what you have'.

That's just how Tendonitis works.

See: What Is Tendonitis


You, specifically, are also suffering from significant nutritional insufficiency/deficiency.

That's also just how Tendonitis works, especially in the scenario you describe, as is part of why you're now stuck in a pain dynamic.

Maybe you have some Tenosynovitis. Maybe you have some Tendonosis.

I wouldn't worry about Tendonosis, everybody has some, and it's not your prime concern, and it will get taken care of as you reverse the -source- of the pain and problem. Tendonosis is a symptom, not a cause.

Tenosynovitis is it's own unique animal with it's own flavor and behavior, but it still stems from the same basics that cause Symptoms of Tendonitis.

Repetitive Strain Injury means that you have actual damage, specifically wear and tear rip and tear (microscopic but significant enough).

You definitely have some kind of pain dynamic that involves Repetitive Motion.

But the repetitive motion isn't the problem. The problem is that you're body can't handle the repetitive motion, nor recover from the negative factors it causes.

Just to save a step, I'm going to suggest that you get my Reversing Wrist Tendonitis ebook program.


1. How did you ice?

2. Symptoms where, exactly? Details.

3. What other self care did you do? Specifically?

4. What makes it better? What makes it worse?

5. Any thing else possibly relevant or interesting?

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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Comments for Pain 1 year 4 months. Guitar RSI? Help. I feel frustrated.

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Jan 30, 2015
Guitar Player Extremely frustrated
by: Extremely Frustrated

Hi, im 27 year old male. About a year ago, I was doing a hip flexor strecth, which involved pulling on a rope connected to my ankle...I had a muscle imbalance and I found this stretch online.

I vigorously did this multiple times, and have since had tendon problems which have reduced my guitar playing from 10/ about 5 out of 10.

I dont have the range of motion I used to, the fluidity of my playing is much much worse...and at times, my hands just look very swollen...and there is a scratchy, hot feeling on the top of my hands and around random fingers.

Also my forearm tendons, as they pass into the wrist...this area seem completely tight and restricting my normal playing style. The flexor tendons in my palm are stiff. But....i dont have any real pain. This is not a pain issue. Its a mobility...and stiffness and irritation issue.

I've had Physical therapy...and while it helps somewhat...I have not been able to eliminate this always comes back with time. And I'm losing faith that I'll ever play guitar at the level I used to.

Feb 10, 2015
Do I have guitar tendonitis? How do I eliminate tension in my forearms?
by: Paul

Hi there. I've been reading your site with great interest. I've been playing guitar for 11 years, only as a hobby but it is my passion.

I've always been aware of excessive tension in my arms but never known how to manage it, and I don't usually play terribly technically demanding stuff so felt content to simply be able to play.

The other week I was playing something repetetively on guitar when I felt a twang, tightness or knot in the underside of my left wrist. Being paranoid of doing any damage I decided to stop playing guitar and rest it, though I still had to go to work at a supermarket which involves using my hands a lot.

I went to a physio who massaged my arm, gave me some stretches and told me to leave guitar for 5 days. I didn't notice much of a problem, except that my forearm would feel inflamed afer working a lot and I was vaguely aware of this tightness still in my wrist. Sometimes my arm would feel normal if I didn't think about it.

I decided to have a light go at guitar after the alotted period and stretching, but almost immediately the discomfort started growing in my wrist even playing undemanding chords.

So I left it again. I've signed off work temporarily and am not playing any guitar, but resting my arm only seems make it feel stranger and the tightness is there now even though I've done nothing all day.

I try and do the light stretches the physio showed me, but they don't quite feel right and I'm worried I'll overstretch the tendon. Also I feel I should be massaging the arm but am not sure when or how much.

I am not in pain and not immobolised, but I cannot play guitar which is my only real passion, and feel a bit nonplussed as to how to proceed. Should I use my arm at all?

I understand there's little point trying to return to guitar until I can eliminate much of the tension from my arms, how should I best go about doing that?

Also, I don't know if I'm mangesium deficient but I'm going to look into taking a supplement or gel.

Thanks, Paul


Joshua Comments:

Hello Paul.

Unfortunately, Rest doesn't help heal/fix/reverse a tendonitis dynamic.

Resting does stop new irritation to an already irritated dynamic, and that's not a bad thing, but it no way does it actually make anything 'better'.

So. How do you get rid of tension in the forearms so you can play guitar again?

Great question. And that's wise of you to know that you have to reduce the tension or pain is just going to return when you get back to playing guitar.

Muscles get tight. Muscles stay tight. Connective tissue shrink wraps. Then you're stuck. It's a progressive thing.

So you have to deal with muscle tightness, and connective tissue tightness.

One thing you can do is to get enough magnesium into your body. Muscles eat magnesium to relax. If you don't have enough, your muscles can't. Or can't very well.

See: Magnesium For Tendonitis

Did you start supplementing with Magnesium?

How are things feeling now?

See Related: Thumb Tendonitis and/or Guitar Tendonitis Debilitating Is The Word

See Related: Possible Trigger Finger And Guitar Tendonitis Symptoms From Starting To Play Guitar Again

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