Playing guitar is all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Well... maybe not an eye - that must be incredibly rare. But guitarists do face the possibility of injury, even if it may appear to be a tame physical activity. Serious musicians often practice for hours each day out of dedication and love for what they do; any kind of repetitive action on that level is hard on the body over time, not to mention those sudden moments when your guitar attacks, as our first example:
1. Getting hit with a broken string
In this case, your eyes might actually be in real danger. Ok, getting hit in the eye is pretty rare, but getting hit with a snapped string anywhere is no joke. If you're lucky, a broken string will just whip bare skin and you might have a welt that stings for a while - an unpleasant prospect all the same. The name "string" may sound harmless, but getting hit by a metal one hurts.
The best way to avoid this is to use a microfiber cloth with special lemon oil to wipe down your strings after each playing session. This helps remove sweat and other elements that create greater wear and tear on the strings. As soon as you do start to see erosion on your strings, don’t wait! Restring your instrument, which you should do on a regular basis anyway. If you play a lot, especially at live gigs where you don't want to be injured mid-show, make it once a month. Also examine the whole neck of your guitar and its tuning posts for wear and tear that could affect the strings.
2. Tennis elbow (or in this case, guitar elbow)
Lots of practice can put stress on your muscles over time. Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) is common among, you guessed it, tennis players, and can result from overusing the muscles that attach your elbow to your wrist, causing pain whenever you do just about anything with your arm. Funnily enough, it's usually not strumming that causes tennis elbow in guitar players (though this can also happen), but gripping the fretboard too tightly for too long.
If you’re just starting to feel an annoyance or slight pain, a few simple exercises are usually enough to loosen the muscles in your arms and get you back on stage. Anything persistent, however, and you should see a doctor. An annoying but necessary amount of physiotherapy might be in order.
3. Carpal tunnel syndrome
It turns out that having wrists is both a blessing and a curse for guitarists. There would be no playing guitar without them, and yet they can also be the cause of severe discomfort - if not tennis elbow, then carpal tunnel syndrome. Many musicians get it, and in this case pain or numbness is experienced in the fingers and thumb, all from putting too much pressure on your wrist.
One of the common causes of this kind of pressure is the length or your guitar strap, or how high you have it positioned on your body. Most guitar players like to play low with a long strap for effect, but playing like this on a regular basis makes it difficult to reach the strings you need. Many make up for this by holding their wrist at extreme angles and putting even more pressure on it.
Time to add a few more strengthening exercises to your routine to keep your hands and arms healthy.
Ok wrists, now you're just refusing to cooperate. Tendonitis is one of the most common guitar-related injuries and is most commonly experienced by guitarists in the wrist. Inflamed tendons cause muscle constriction that gives what many describe as a dull ache and/or pain.
Beyond some basic exercises to relieve and strengthen your arm, examine your posture as you play. Poor positioning may be the entire reason behind your discomfort.
Musicians may not risk their bodies quite like athletes do, but like athletes, love and dedication for what they do often leads them to push their physical boundaries. That means that you need to match your dedication to your guitar with a dedication to taking care of yourself.