Wrist tendonitis (guitar player, fretting hand)

by Guillaume

Hi, Thanks for all this useful information, the best I could find anywhere on the net!!

-- Joshua Comments: You're welcome! --

I have a wrist tendonitis on my left hand (guitar fretting hand) that keeps coming back, sometimes it takes 3 months but sometimes it comes back after 2 weeks and it can take a lot of time to go away sometimes.

-- Joshua Comments: Yep. That's exactly how the Tendonitis works. --

I had tendinitis in my other wrist in the first and second years I've been playing guitar but now it doesn't come back at all. I think this is because I make a lot less effort in my wrist than before so my muscles dont get too tight even tho I play a lot faster and use it a lot (I mostly play metal so a lot of constant fast picking).

That gives me hope that my other hand will one day stop bothering me with tendonitis.

-- Joshua Comments: It's certainly possible. --

My first question is about ice dipping:

"3. Repeatedly over a two hour period, dip your entire hand and forearms into an Ice Dip in your sink for 5-10 seconds. 5-10 seconds ONLY.

Repeat this a minimum of 10 times, while you're making dinner, when a commercial comes on, between chores, etc. You want the CUMULATIVE effect of Ice Dipping over and over."

where you say "repeat a minimum of 10 times" do you mean dipping 10 times for a period of 2h or dipping 10 times every tv commercials (like 10x every 15 minutes)?? I guess you meant the first but I want it to be clear so I do it correctly.

-- Joshua Comments: A minimum of 10 dips within a 2 hour period. --

also can I do it for a longer period to get better results ??

-- Joshua Comments: Up to 20-30 seconds, but anything more is diminishing returns. You just want the 'shock' that cold causes. --

Also would you recommend to do some "stretching" when actually having pain ? for example, right now I start to feel pain when I bend my wrist at a 30degree angle, would you recommend to make some very light stretch of like 20-25degrees ?

-- Joshua Comments: Absolutely. Anything lengthening is good. --

I heard that keeping it straight all the time is bad for recovery. I also noticed that after doing this my wrist can move a bit further without causing pain.

-- Joshua Comments: Immobility is BAD! Connective tissue shrinkwraps and leaves things tighter, literally, than they were before. --

I also find something strange with my pain : I feel pain on the back of my wrist (on the side where the finger tendons are) but I feel this pain when moving my wrist upward (like if my palm is resting on a table and I try to move my wrist up). The tendons are not stretching they are more like "compressing", how can it hurt a lot more when compressing than stretching ?

-- Joshua Comments: The tendons are responding to muscle contraction, which adds tension. So they aren't stretching long,
they're stretching short. Gotta think about that one for a minute. --

When playing guitar I always focus on being relaxed and using only the strength necessary so until recently I thought my technique was correct and that the inflammation came only because of overuse.

I found out just recently that my guitar was always at a 30-45 angle (so that I can easily see what fret I am pressing with my left hand) and that was causing my wrist to be bent a lot when playing (60-80 degree). I try hard to re-learn my posture so that my wrist is as straight as possible when fretting.

I found out that even now (while having a tendinitis) I can play without feeling pain this way (I'll still wait for it to go away completely before playing for real tho..) while I cant even push a string with my old posture without being hurt...

my question about this is : do you think having the wrist as straight as possible will lower the "overuse" ?

--Joshua Comments: Yes and no. Go with 'yes' for now.--

prevention : when not having any pain, can doing some ice-dipping after playing keep it from developing tendonitis ? or do you have another tricks for this ? My main problem is that the pain keeps coming back...

-- Joshua Comments: Absolutely! Even if you don't feel pain, that doesn't mean there isn't a lot going on under the surface of your skin. We're always in a Downward Spiral, or an Upward Spiral, due to the Pain Causing Dynamic --.

and a last one : I realized that my fingers are not very flexible when moving up (I cannot move them so they are straight in line with my hand without effort) could having better flexiblity in my fingers help prevent damages to my wrist tendons ??

-- Joshua Comments: ABSOLUTELY!!!! --

btw , thx for helping ppl like this, I like how your site has a lot on information not just on how to heal but also on why it hurts (other sites just say "it is an inflammation of the wrist") I also like how your site gives me hope that my problems can be solved :P

-- Joshua Comments: You're very welcome. Thanks for showing up and being motivated. --


Joshua Answers:

I usually answer in a section below the original submission, but this time I'm answering in bold, up above.

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 Wrist tendonitis (guitar player, fretting hand)

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Mar 22, 2011
after a vist to a physiotherapist for wrist bone out from fretting
by: Guillaume

I've visited a physiotherapist last week and he noticed a hard thing in my wrist which he said was a misplaced wrist bone, I thought that this hard thing was caused by inflammation but he said it was too hard.

he said that bone usually gets to this position when the wrist is in the "guitar fretting" position and that it seems stuck there and now it blocks the wrist because it is between the bones of my arm and my hand. I remember I noticed this strang hard thing a year back when I had tendinitis but it left when the pain was gone. I guess it causes alot of stress on my wrist to have a "chronic stuck bone" like that and could be the reason I suffer so much from chronic tendinitis. he gave me some exercises but I dont see any results, ive not touched my guitar for a month now.

The exercices he told me to do is to press on the stuck bone while trying to stretch in the direction it usually blocks and he told me to do some weights to help my muscles keep the bone where it should be in the future. The problem is that the bone doesn't seem to want to get back.. and it is very painful if I try to lift anything or push it where it should go, and gets more painful the next day.. so now I stopped doing these exercises (for me more pain = no gain) and gone back to ice dipping which seems to ease the pain a bit. Ill go see a doctor to have a radiography of my wrist to see whats going on this week-end but id like to know if you have ever see this kind of thing / have so tips to make it go away.

I'm very broke financially (been with no job for 2 months because of wrist problems) so going back to the physiotherapist every week is impossible and I'm skeptical about the treatments he gave me anyway...


Joshua Comments:

There's a lot of stress on your wrist, that's why you have a 'chronic stuck bone' in your wrist.

Bones don't just come out of place for no reason. Something is pulling/pushing it out.

You probably would get benefit from finding a good chiropractor that does a lot of hand work (ask around, most don't). Also, you want a chiropractor that can tell you how to 'keep' the adjustment, other than 3 visits a week for a month etc.

Worst case scenario, I can tell you that once you get it popped back in. (Ice dip a lot first, that'll make it less traumatic.)

So...you said it goes away when you rest? So muscles are relaxing and the bone is allowed to return to a normal position. Pay attention to that, and play around with it. Find what's pulling/pushing it, and ice massage that structure, and the surrounding.

Make sense?

More questions, more answers.

Feb 22, 2013
by: Chris

So I was basically ready to give up the guitar and felt like a failure because it has become such a vital part of my life, not to mention the money I have spent on it. But I must say that out of all of the things I have encountered on my guitar journey is meeting this website. This website is most likely the cure for tendonitis in the dictionary somewhere. I have bounced back within 4 days of buying the "reversing guitar tendonitis" book. It was a great investment and although I am STILL having pain it was not near as bad as it use to just sitting around it would hurt. I started to rest and found out after 2 weeks rest means nothing and neither does pain killers. I still play regularly about 2-3 hours a day but I am also still continuing with the protocol. I may not be able to devote 2 hours in full but I will for sure get 10 dips and thorough massage's in daily as preventive measures.

I think as a guitarist you should start this program and NEVER quit doing it, it is only an amount of time before you go into pain again. Either with tendonitis or carpal tunnel (really same thing to me...and Josh.) This is not simple technique issues like guitarists all say. It really has a lot to do with self care just like if you workout for two hours in a gym and NEVER stretch, you will REMAIN a locked up tense muscle. This program will help you avoid that if you can't follow it 100% even 80% will get you GREAT results. My rule is, if it ain't broke then I don't need a doctor or their standardized troubleshooting.....


Joshua Comments:

Hey Chris.

Thanks for the good words. I used most of that as a testimonial on the sales page.

Thanks even more for actually doing the work and getting the results.

And you'll find that you'll get really efficient at the self care, so it will take very little to keep pain/problem gone or at minimal levels, depending on your motivation levels.

It IS smart to do self care as part of your normal guitar playing routine. No different than tuning up a car or doing regular maintenance on it...gotta take care of your body if you want to to work optimally.

And if you don't, now you have the tools to get yourself out of pain if and when you want to use them.

Sep 11, 2013
Guitarist with discomfort and "burning pain" In back of fretting hand
by: Tim

Hello, Im a guitarist who has been playing on and off for about 10 years. About 2 years ago I decided to get more serious about it and stared practicing much more often.

Everything was fine till about 7 months ago when I started feeling some discomfort/light Burning feeling in my fretting hand (in the side of the hand in the fleshy part between the pinkie and the wrist)

After a couple days it was still there, so I decided to take a break for about a month to let it recover. After a month all seemed fine again and i resumed playing. But after a few days the problem returned (as it has after other breaks too)

I have seen a few doctors regarding the problem, but not too many conclusions were reached. The most popular theory was a pinched nerve in the back, but I haven't had any numbness or tingling and my hand is still a problem and may be worsening.

The pain i am experiencing is not bad, it is more of a discomfort. An indication that something is not right.

Though as of lately, it does seem to be getting worse and slowly creeping up to the wrist.

Ive also noticed lately that if I bend my hand to a 90 degree angle and then rotate my arm/wrist. There is a load crack/thud coming from the lower arm near the wrist. (The other hand does not do this)

I am really keen to have this issued resolved and not get any worse as it is really holding me back as a player. I dream of the day when the problem is just a thing in the past and I can just play my guitar!

So I am curious what your thoughts on the matter is. After reading through a few questions from other people you seem to be quite knowledgeable on the subject and the many success stories give me some hope that this can be all solved.

Thank you in advance

Tim B


Joshua Comments:

Hello Tim.

Unfortunately, Rest in no way helps, fixes, or reverses a Pain Causing Dynamic.

Equally unfortunately, doctors are pretty inneffective at dealing with Tendontis.

It's certainly possible to have a pinched nerve in the neck or back (depending on where it is) and have burning in the arm/hand but no numbness/tingling. Guitar playing and computer postures lend towards that.

Of course, that burning could also be from a nutritional insufficiency.

The crack/thud is a function of muscles being too tight and not allowing the joint to articulate freely, so the bone has to 'jump' through/over an area it's not supposed to. Tight muscles/connective tissue compress joints, which inhibits free movement.

How are things now, as it's been a while since you submitted this?

Related: Swelling At Base Of Fingers Of My Fretting Hand

Related: Fret Hand Numbness From Playing Bass Guitar Very Fast

Jun 04, 2014
weakness in left hand when doing vibrato technique
by: Ori


I am 45 years old and playing guitar for more than 20 years.

The weakness which I will describe here started 5 years ago.

It just happened without any prior signs. One day while I was practicing I felt a weakness in my left hand and I couldn't do the vibrato motion on the string, other than that my playing wasn't affected, but needless to say that this technic is crucial for every guitar player.

I went through a series of checks such as:
EEG, physiotherapy and more... after these checks which didn't reveal any unusual issues, the doctor decided that might be a certain nurve in the forearm which has some pressure on it.

The doctor advised me to have a surgery to release the pressure from the nurve which he belived will fix the problem. 4 years ago I had a surgery and today I am feeling the same way.

The only thing that changed is now I can do the vibrato motion but only for a couple of minutes then I experience the same weakness and can hardly vibrate the string.

This is very frustrating and any help will be much appreciated.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Ori.

What hand did you previously have surgery on? If it's the same hand, then these symptoms didn't just show up out of the blue.

Granted, even if it was the other side, it didn't just come out of the blue.

There's a lot happening under the surface of your skin before you every feel pain or weakenss.

See: Pain Causing Dynamic

And See: What Is Tendonitis?

See this page to explain the specific causes/workings of weakenss and other symptoms. Wrist Tendonitis Symptoms

Here are great questions to ask any doctor that wants you to have surgery: Quiz Your Doctor

Mostly, they don't know WHY you have pain. So they want to cut 'tight tissue'. But have no explanation for WHY that tissue is tight nor have any clue about how to reverse that tightness aside from cutting it with a sharp object.

I appreciate that the loss of your hand agility etc is frustrating. And, I assert that that frustration is a only due to you not knowing how to 'fix' the problem.

When you know how to reduce pain and other symptoms, it's really no big deal.

Tell me more about your past surgery and the time between then and now, symptoms-wise.

Also, See Related: Guitar Player That Misses Playing

Sep 05, 2015
Outside wrist "popping"
by: Jacob

My wrist "Pops" on the outside wrist (pinky side) any time I bend it in a curl motion, making a fist, or playing guitar (especially the latter).

I was wondering if it is something to have doctor check out for surgery or if it was just something I need to stretch.

If it's the latter what stretches and or exercises do you recommend?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Jacob.

What would surgery do to stop it?

What's causing it?

If you do see a surgeon or a doctor, be sure to ask the questions on the Quiz Your Doctor page (see link down the thread).

I don't suggest stretching, because when you stretch, everything that is limber lengthens, and everything that isn't limber, doesn't.

Stretching is better than not stretching, of course.

First off, I suggest reading this entire thread, and following the links and reading those pages too.

Then come back with questions.

Apr 21, 2017
by: April

Hi Joshua,

When are you going to write "Reversing Violinist's and Fiddler's Tendonitis"?????

We have some of the same issues that Guitarists have, but some are not so similar.

Left hand finger pressure issues and the stretch of the left arm to get up and around the instrument is a big deal for violinists.

Most violinists don't use the finger pressure that guitarists use, but bringing the left elbow and hand under and forward is a big stretch that ordinary non- violinists cannot attempt without years of work.

Also, for me personally, leaving the thumb behind when shifting to upper positions is another cause of physical problems (more like De Quervain's).

The other problem is the amount of stretch of the tendons on the back of the forearm.

And of course, violinists use more vibrato - which comes from either the shoulder and elbow or the wrist, or both.

Guitarists have to use more finger pressure for big chords, but the violinist typically clamps the head down to the left on the chin rest causing some back and neck issues. My head turns far more easily to the left than the right after years of stretching in one direction.

That slight burning sensation that shows something is not right when fingering with the left hand that begins at the back of the finger and goes down the back of the left forearm, along with the pain in the center of my back between the shoulder blades, and the neck cramp I get from looking to my right (opposite of violin stance), plus the problems I have when doing a lot of shifting to high positions (stretch in left hand between thumb and fingers....)

And yes my left wrist cracks mildly when I move my hand forward and back.

How do you suggest I reduce this and continue to perform and teach as I would like?

Which book would you suggest? I have had tendonitis symptoms for about four months now. I am currently working on relaxing my left hand and facing my head forward more while playing violin, and taking some supplements that I have read about on the internet...any suggestions?


Joshua Comments:

Hi April.

Darn, I wish I'd seen this earlier.

1. I haven't had plans for a Reversing Violinist's Tendonitis program (Reversing Violin Tendonitis?)

2. Do violinists have a name for the overall pain dynamic you describe?

Whatever the name, it is essentially the tendonitis -dynamic-....too tight muscles (in more than one area), mildish chronic inflammation, lack of nutrition, all working toghether to decrease the body's ability to function and recover.

I could actually turn it out pretty quickly, as I would combine and modify my 'guitar tendonitis' program and my 'whiplash' program (for the neck and shoulders).

Unfortunately, I'm on sabbatical travelling in Europe for the next couple months, and turns out I don't have access to the word documents (I did a very poor job of transferring folders completely to my travel laptop and google drive...it's kind of embarrassing.)

Having said that, I'd certainly be willing to create the product (in a couple months when return to the states). It wouldn't take long to do.

Would you be willing to let me interview you/ask questions so I can make sure I cover what a violin player would specifically be interested in?

Also I'd need to market the program some, so speaking with you would be very helpful/educational in allowing me to set that up with more success.

If so, use the Contact button on the left side of the website. And I'll send send you (as soon as you do that) a copy of Reversing Guitar Tendonitis to get you started feeling better.

Sep 08, 2017
How Do I Know Which it Is?
by: Nadine

So happy to find this site! I want to get your book to help the tendonitis in my left wrist, but I am not sure whether to get the Guitarist's book or the general Wrist tendonitis book?

I am a guitarist - but haven't played in awhile (several months) (due to other issues) -

So now I randomly can't lift a cup of coffee with my left hand - my wrist hurts like heck if I try.

Right hand/wrist is fine. I do get pain in my left forearm at times. Should I get the Guitarist's book (I play acoustic fingerstyle, no strumming, so both hands moving) or is it just my wrist that is the issue?

I just want to get the correct information.



Joshua Comments:

Hi Nadine.

I'd go with Reversing Guitar Tendonitis, if only because:

- there's very little difference between the RGT program and the RWT program

- the difference is there's some guitar player specific info

- but the overall cause(s) and path to recovery is the same.

It's the overall ecology in your forearm and hand (so not just 'hand' or 'fingers' or 'wrist'). It's all of the above, and symptoms are caused by multiple factors all working together to cause pain/problem.

Reverse the factors that cause the pain/problem, and pain/problem goes away.

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