Avoiding Injuries When Playing Guitar
By Trevor Maurice
To avoid any sort of injuries when playing guitar a common sense approach is recommended. Just what do I mean by that?
Well, there are many simple and obvious precautions you can take that will prevent most injuries.
To start with you can adopt the proper technique, posture and hand position.
A good book like Scott Tenant’s Pumping Nylon or David Braid’s Play Classical Guitar can give you sound basic fundamentals in this area.
With technique keep your movements simple or, as my teacher used to say… “Employ an economy of movement.”
If you have less movement you will naturally have less friction and tension and therefore less chance of injury.
Teachers of guitar vary in their interpretation of posture and hand position but in classical guitar at least, there is generally widely accepted agreement on this subject.
You do need to be aware of your posture and hand position when a beginner or intermediate as you are learning habits that will last a lifetime.
I remember my teacher constantly pushing my shoulder down as I played. As I became tense my shoulder would “ride” upwards as my body would tense up.
He was giving me vital feedback on leaning to relax as I was learning basic technique.
It pays to have a good, alert teacher who can short circuit any problems as they appear!
Another point of note is when you begin to play guitar you can often overdo it.
Indeed, Anthony Glise writing in Classical Guitar Pedagogy states…
“Virtually all guitarists injuries are from over-use (simply practicing too much) or misuse (not warming up properly), playing pieces that are too difficult, improper hand positions, overstress, etc.”
These are all things that the beginner and intermediate player are prone to.
You must develop your capabilities in line with your common sense and resist the urge to go “too fast too soon.”
To quote the cliché…”You gotta crawl before you walk!”
While we’re on the subject of common sense, you need to take breaks in your practice routine.
You know how time flies when you’re engrossed in a new and exciting piece. We all have the tendency to play through the pain at times but you must learn to avoid this sort of practice if you want to avoid long term injury.
It might be wiser to break your practice sessions into smaller blocks and spread it out over the day rather than all in one hit.
I know we’re all “time-poor” these days but is it worth the risk?
Only you can answer that one.
Make sure you build strength and flexibility in your hands and indeed, your body.
You can do this via a healthy lifestyle that consists of diet, stretching (including yoga), meditation and just plain relaxing and taking a break.
If you do all of this and find your still in pain – STOP!
As they say on the advertisement for a prominent pain reliever… “Pain is nature’s warning.”
If you find you get long term pain, use your common sense again and seek proper medical advice. To play through pain is downright silly.
I hope this brief discussion can give you some direction in this area.
Trevor Maurice is an Australian, living in beautiful seaside Maroubra, in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. He’s been involved in playing guitar (mainly classical) for longer than he cares to remember and has also taught the instrument for many years. He is teacher trained, having a Diploma of Education (Majoring in music) Visit LearnClassicalGuitar.com for more information.