Wrist Pain – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly when playing guitar by Jennifer Barlow

There are a lot of guitarists who come to me with wrist pain. Some of my own students will also get wrist pain as well. But what is good wrist pain, what’s bad, and how ugly can it get?

Let’s look at some of the common reasons that you may be experiencing wrist pain, and the possible solutions you can try to reduce your wrist pain.

So the good thing is that some level of wrist pain is to be expected when you are first starting to learn the guitar, and this is normal. So that’s good! This is your body just growing the muscles needed to support your tendons, as it grows stronger.

If you are starting to play the guitar are experiencing shooting pain in your wrist. That’s bad pain. So don’t play through that.

The good news is that if you have a great guitar teacher, they can watch your technique and make sure you are playing correctly, so you can play for hours at a time. If you are on your own however, limit your playing to 20-30 minutes to make sure you aren’t pushing your wrist too much. They will make sure that you warm up properly when playing as well.

Things get ugly if you push your wrist and your tendons too much that they get inflamed. This is called tendonitis. If this gets serious then you will have to take long breaks from playing guitar to rest up. Which is what we don’t want! So let’s see what we can do to prevent this from happening.

One of the biggest things that will help ensure that your wrist is tension free, or as tension free as possible, is to have good posture and positioning of the hand and wrist.

Not sitting properly on the guitar can be a big source of tension build up. To ensure that you can have a relaxed sitting position, watch this video that I’ve done previously to help you address this.


One of the things that lots of guitarists struggle with is playing barre chords, and one of the many complaints I hear from students coming to me that have that frustration say it’s because their wrists hurt. The trick to barre chords is to make sure you have the correct technique, and then on top of that. Practise for short bursts for around 10 minutes at a time and stop when it gets too painful.

The best way to make sure your wrist doesn’t being injured long term is prevention. So make sure if your wrist hurts too much that you are stretches it out periodically and take lots of breaks and rest.

Another reason why barre chords often cause a lot of pain for guitar players is because they squeeze too hard onto the strings. This causes extra tension that is unnecessary on the wrist.

An exercise to see how much pressure you actually need to put on a string to make a great sound. Try to start your barre chord muted, and gradually press down harder until a clear chord rings out. This will help you to know how much pressure you need to put in so do your barre chords well. So you can reduce that tension and therefore pain in your wrist.

If your wrist is still hurting, especially when you are attempting to play fast, then there is something else going on. Go to a professional to make sure that you are using the correct technique that isn’t going to cause any long term damage.

If you are based in East London in the UK, and you are wanting to get rid your wrist pain, or if you are struggling to progress on the guitar, whether you feel like you are stuck in a box, or you’ve hit a glass ceiling. Contact us at acoustic guitar lessons to find out how we can help you more.

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