Guitar tendonitis is a special case of a rather common problem. What makes it special is the fact that it’s caused by playing the guitar. Technically (and medically) it’s a kind of RSI. What? Why the puzzled face? It stands for Repetitive Strain Injury. So, let’s just put the pieces together. You play a lot of guitar, and it screws up your tendons. In either your fretting or your picking hands. Usually it means the finger joints. It can also be your palms or elbows. Sometimes shoulders as well. Hi, bass guitar players! It comes with a painful swelling and inflammation. It also seriously impairs your ability to play your guitar.
Not only a guitar thing
Before we get into the very simple but very effective remedy, let me state something. I have never had guitar tendonitis. Okay, now you started cursing. Something like “why the heck does he try to lecture me about this crap if he’s never experienced it himself?”. So let me just say, I had this thing happen to my hand from using the computer’s mouse. Settled? The truth is, this cure works for both. But since we are a music related blog, let’s just discuss the guitar related version.
So the treatment happens the following way:
1. Stop playing the instrument. Wait until the pain and most of the swelling goes away. Yep. You’ve read that right. I hope that through the cursing you realize that it can only get better if you allow your system to heal itself.
2. Re-learn how to play the guitar. Okay that did it, hey? I can see you throwing tantrums from here. The truth is not THAT harsh. What you really have to re-learn are the following things.
- Your touch: practice pressing down just one string at one fret. Pick the note. Gradually increase pressure until the note just sounds clearly. Do it several times daily. Use each fretting fingers and teach them one by one. After a couple of days, the brain will have a clear mental image of the ideal fretting pressure.
- Your picking: approach the strings slowly. Use exaggeratedly large, circular motions. Whether you’re a pick, fingers or fingerpick player. For volume, instead of using more muscle power, focus on starting your picking device from a farther distance. Use the natural momentum of your arm and fingers. Imagine that they are lifeless bullets coming from a far distance and hitting the strings. Try not to anchor any of your fingers to anywhere. It’s one of the major causes of guitar related tendonitis. Instead, use your arm and body position to judge player-guitar distance.
- Your posture: while practicing the above, try to make the rest of your body as relaxed as possible. Whether you’re mainly a stand-up player or someone who sits mostly. Your arms, your shoulders, your back and legs all need to be in a calm state. One that allows flexibility and stability.
Learn the right way
3. Combine the above with the movements you already learned previously. Licks and riffs, songs you know. Focus on executing them the above described way. Never allow your muscles to use excessive force.