Guitar Wrist Pain and 5 Other Common Guitarist Injuries

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Playing the guitar is definitely a great hobby to have for everyone. It certainly is fun and offers a lot of awesome benefits.

However, in this article, I would like to pay your attention to the disadvantages of playing the guitar.

Yes, there are such.

Many players (especially beginners) are either not aware of these problems or simply choose to ignore them.

Either way is not good and can potentially cause health issues in a long term.

Today we are taking a look at common problems many guitarists have and how you can prevent your body from serious injuries in a long run.

March 27 2020 Update: How To Properly Hold A Guitar by Michael Angelo Batio

Wrist pain from playing guitar

Wrist pain is a very common problem among guitar players. While it can affect both fretting and picking/strumming hands, most often it becomes a serious issue for the fretting hand.

This is especially common among beginner guitarists since at this stage they haven’t yet found comfortable positions for holding the guitar and positioning their body.

Here is how a typical beginner positions the fretting hand when playing barre chords:

incorrect fretting hand position

You can clearly see the angle between the wrist and the arm. This is a very unnatural position for human’s hand and obviously maintaining that fretting hand position angle will cause pain and discomfort even when playing guitar for a short period of time.

Besides obviously causing pain and cramps in your hand, this position offers very little strength for your grab, making it very hard to play barre or any other chords properly.

Unfortunately, even a lot of experienced guitar players may not pay attention to their body/hands/wrist positioning when playing guitar. In a long run it can cause:

  • wrist and hand injuries
  • finger joint pain
  • finger pain
  • thumb pain

Keep in mind that I am not an expert or a doctor and this article should be treated as a recommendation. I have been playing the guitar for over 9 years and I have never had a problem with wrist pain mainly because I was warned about this issue just when I started.

Just being aware of this problem made me pay attention to how I position my wrist when playing and this is what you should do as well. Here is my way of positioning the fretting hand:

correct fretting hand position

Pay attention to how my wrist extends my arm in a straight line instead of being bent to the right.

Not only my wrist feels totally comfortable this way, but also I have a stronger grip and can keep my hand in such a position for much longer without feeling tiredness. Besides, this hand position allows you to play guitar much faster.

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Guitar back pain and posture problems

There is surprisingly little information on how playing guitar impacts your posture. A great majority of guitarists are slouching while playing guitar and that doing that for prolonged periods of time impacts our posture.

We get used to the way guitarists look from the front. But when you look at someone playing guitar from a side or behind – you will clearly notice that often times he or she will be slouching and tilting forward.

a guy playing acoustic guitar

guitar player on a stage

The problem of maintaining proper posture when playing guitar is especially important for children and beginners (or both).

Recommended to check out:

Most of the times beginners need to see the fretboard when playing licks or riffs. This makes them tilt their head forwards, causing pain in middle/upper back, shoulders and neck.

Very often the habit of tilting forward when playing guitar remains even as the times goes by. Over time minor inconveniences may turn to neck pain, shoulder pain and injuries, back pain, a nerd neck, scoliosis or even a hump.

Buckethead posture and back problems

Sometimes even professional guitarists suffer from bad posture caused by spending too much time of their life holding a heavy electric guitar.

In one of his interviews Paul Gilbert admitted that his tilted posture is caused by a heavy electric guitar (I promise to link to the interview once I find it).

Another professional musician who suffered from bad posture is Buckethead. Just in case you don’t know about him – he is top 10 fastest guitarist of ALL (!) times, played for Guns N’ Roses in the period of 2000-2004, released over 300 solo albums and is admitted to be a master of guitar by such rock and metal icons as Slash, Dave Mustaine, Ozzy Ozbourne and many more. According to Dave Mustaine (Megadeath):

Buckethead is probably twice as good a guitar player as me and Slash combined, and can stand having fried chicken rubbed up against his face all night for a couple of hours.’

According to Slash (Guns N’ Roses):

“That said, I also want to give credit where credit’s due – the guitar players that played on Chinese Democracy, Buckethead being one of the main ones – are fucking amazing guitar players.

While being one of the fastest and the most inspiring guitar players EVER, Buckethead doesn’t have a single social media account. His website looks like it’s from 1998 (

However, in 2017 he actually gave a real interview, which was a talk with his therapist, where he admitted that he suffered from bad posture and back problems for a long time. He had to ask for professional help. He had to do workout exercises until he finally felt better. Exercises helped his back problems and (according to the interview) now he feels much better and doesn’t hunch forward as much as he would in the past.

Here is the interview. (let me know if you are also a fan of Buckethead and wish him well)

So how do you prevent guitar posture problems?

Again, I am not an expert of any kind, I can only recommend what works for me and what I learn from professional guitarists that I know personally or through the internet. My tip for you is to hold a guitar the way classical guitar players do.

electric guitar holding position

Yes, it may look nerdy and not cool.


It is actually very helpful for various parts of your body that usually are in pain when you play the guitar. Here is a quick recap of what parts of your body are in pain when you are holding the guitar “the cool way” just like the cool kids do.

  • wrist
  • fingers
  • elbows
  • arms
  • neck
  • shoulders
  • lower/middle/upper back

Make sure you check out this short video lesson by German Brad Pitt, one of my favorite guitar teachers on Youtube.

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Over to you now!

Have you had any of the health problems mentioned in this article?

Is there any guitar health problem you would add to the list?

Let me know in the comments down below.

Alan Jackman

Meet Alan, the guitar-slinging, blog-running, lesson-giving machine. By day, he shreds on the six-string like a rockstar, and by night, he shares his knowledge with the masses on his online blog. With Alan, you'll learn how to play the guitar like a pro!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tom Thompson

    I find your picture of the Classical pose to be the most comfortable with electric guitars. Still using a strap, the back of the guitar rests on your right inner thigh.
    And Alan, the picture of your avatar, with your LP resting on your right leg… my left hand feels squished playing like that! Like banging into my chest almost.
    That said, the bridge on Strat style guitars is more rearward than a LP!

    Great story, just recently have been getting wrist pain but unsure why. Might be from going from 9-42 to 9-46 gauge strings. I do some wide vibratos, so it’s a lot of tugging on the wrist. I will pay attention to body form!

    1. Alan Jackman

      Hi Tom, I’m glad that my article if not helped – at least brought your attention to the topic of body form while playing the guitar.

      I for sure know what you mean when you talk about left hand and wrist pain.

      I think left hand just needs constant attention.

  2. David

    Cheers Alan. Probably best route to take.

    1. Alan Jackman

      Good luck. Let me know if you find a solution to your thumb pain. It would make sense to add it to the article.

  3. David

    Hi Alan. Yes I am. I changed to it many years ago so that I could comfortably reach the three notes per string type runs. What I do notice is that I tend to grip quite a bit with the thumb and my thumb does tend to move from side to side as I go up and down the strings -which is when the pain comes. Also get it from change back and forth from chords to scale runs and back again. It’s like it’s due to compressing my hand (bringing left fret hand thumb and pad in towards the centre of my hand and opening up again).

    1. Alan Jackman

      I think so too – the problem seems to be the times when you are shaping your fretting hand in a certain way – either moving up and down the scale or shifting chord/scale positions. I’m not going to pretend I know a solution to it because I haven’t had it myself and I’m not a lisenced doctor (I definitely don’t want to give you a bad advice). Instead I’d recommend you to see a physician or an experienced guitarist that you know and trust – who would be able to take a closer look and give you very specific recommendations on what you should and should not do to avoid pain.

  4. David

    Sharp nerve twinges/pain up the fret hand thumb during Dorian fingerings also through playing runs and rhythm around and on the low E and A strings.

    1. Alan Jackman

      Hi David, are you using “classical” position (guitar on the left leg if you are right-handed)?

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