I also suffered from tennis elbow in my fretting hand that came on gradually and got progressively worse until it was really bad. I went to a physiotherapist who advised me to stop playing for a month and gave me exercises and stretches to work on. This helped but never solved the problem. The physiotherapist also told me that tennis elbow was fairly common for the guitarists and violinists that he saw.
I then noticed that I was getting some fret wear on my guitar and realised that I was using too much force when I fretted strings. From that time on I tried to reduce the pressure I applied to the strings so that I only used the minimum to get a clear note. I also tried to consciously reduce the tension in my hand and wrist.
As soon as I started to reduce the pressure when fretting strings my tennis elbow started to improve and within a relatively short time was completely gone. And this was after having tennis elbow for nearly a year.
I still do the wrist and finger stretches that the physiotherapist gave me but I have no tennis elbow problem now.
This might be another option for you to consider.
A good argument that overuse injuries are the result of improper body mechanics, rather than intrinsic to guitar playing.
First impressions of Trigger Point Therapy:
- Huge book, lots of detail for muscles all over the whole body
- Requires a little work to establish the muscles and points to massage
- Have found four trigger points to work on the elbow - have definitely isolated some tender/knotted areas
- Only takes a couple of minutes, repeat 3-6 times per day
- Too early to say whether there are any results, but can definitely feel an effect
So, three weeks in and how is it going? Well it is definitely making an improvement. I made steady progress for the first two weeks. Foolishly I then went and did some gardening. Only an hour but pulling ivy out - probably not the best idea. So had a bit of a relapse, gave it a rest and back on it again now. Even after a couple of days I can feel it working again.
I was wondering how you were doing. Glad you are getting some good results.
Did you keep massaging the trigger points even after the day to day pain went away? If not, this might be why you relapsed.
My (older) edition of the book says that you should keep massaging as long as the trigger points are tender when pressed. IIRC, this took an additional week or two for me.
I gave myself tendonitis in my left wrist by overdoing the 1 minute change exercise… I got physical therapy for it and that helped for a little bit. I also block my wrist at night, so it’s stable and cannot move and thus overburden the tendon.
After my guitar sessions I’m using the following InfraRed lamp:
This has helped me very much as it helps wit the bloodflow in my tendons. Maybe such IR led could also help with your elbow issue…
I’m almost pain-free and that is just awesome… just have to be carreful doing non guitar task, such as doing dishes
I have noticed this! I am very nervous around sharp knives, as well as heavy work type activities. Heck, even yard work, skiing or fishing can be dangerous apparently.
Now I have nails for classical playing and I am very nervous about breaking them. At least as a lefty playing righty they are on my non-dominant hand, so safer.
Bottom line: don’t do anything except play guitar.
I’ve been suffering from a tennis elbow, for about a 2 years on and off. I’m a mechanic and good not hold my tools anymore.
My doctor has put cortisone in it maybe 6 /7 times.Had the brace from the Drugstore , didn’t help much. Had physical therapy which did nothing much. I asked my doctor for surgery, so he send me to the Hospital. The surgeon said to me, he was not gone do anything about it. But he send me to the plaster room. And had them make a brace out of mold able plastic. This brace pulled my hand back a little to take the tension of the muscle causing the inflammation. Had to wear it for 4 weeks 24-7. 2 weeks at night. And haven’t had issues with it ever again.
This was 20years ago.
Good luck with your arm.
@Tbushell Point noted about massaging even after the tenderness has gone. I didn’t quite get to that stage before being unable to resist weeding the garden.
In terms of other non-guitar tasks I’m definitely stopping the ironing Annoyingly using the computer mouse and keyboard makes it worse too. Have tried a couple of different gel mats etc for support but not much I can do about that. Except maybe resign my job. Hmmm, now there’s a thought…
Are you already using a vertical mouse? An ergonomic keypad? This helped me at the computer. Additionally I trained that I could use the mouse with right and left hand, so I can switch if one side makes more problems.
LOL - @Jamolay has it right…
Don’t do anything except play guitar!
I had tennis elbow in both arms. The left arm was from guitar playing. But I’m pretty sure the right arm was from clicking a mouse for 8+ hours a day.
Or rather, holding my ring finger arched above the mouse with way too much tension…a habit that I was completely oblivious to.
Sometimes it’s the fingers that you aren’t using that will get you.
Another tip I just remembered from the book…
Do a treatment just before a problematic activity, and another treatment immediately after. That way you can keep,practicing.
Wow - I can mouse with the left hand! Who knew? Thanks @kaiben - amazing how you get stuck in an assumption set and don’t even think about changing it.
Over on Instagram, it appears Justin broke his left little finger. Jujitsu training I think.
Get well Justin!
But this just supports the idea of avoiding risky activity…