Chronic neck pain when playing consistently

Hello again! It’s been a bit since I’ve been around.

A main part of the reason is, any time I keep up with practicing regularly, I develop strong pinched nerve pain in my neck (probably from a pre-existing issue). 100% due to the way I’m sitting, hunched over in my office chair staring at a computer screen without paying any attention to myself, etc… But it’s really getting in my way as far as making actual progress on learning to play well. It’s been… since I last posted here that I’ve really been able to stay committed for long periods.

Curious if anyone has any tips, tricks, suggestions of minimizing this. I’ve primarily thought about getting a playing stool and a sheet music stand to help enforce better posture and playing position, and try to mainly keep to my Epiphone SG, since it’s the lightest, thinnest guitar I have.

Hi patch which side of the neck hurts you?

Left side, base of the skull, from a pinched nerve.

I get similar to that - combination of bad posture with the guitar and bad posture at the computer with the day job.

Fixes that work for me include STOP LOOKING AT YOUR HANDS ROSS!! Playing standing up, and trying to relax more when playing (not as easy to do when the new thing is hard). Not wearing my glasses when playing does help because I can’t see the strings clearly enough to play accurately just by looking, I need to rely on feeling where the strings are, so I tend not to contort myself to look at the fretboard as much.


Are you looking a lot on your strumming hand while playing (assuming you are right handed)? If so it might be because you are looking at it too much. I had one song I learnt where picking pattern was tricky and my neck was killing me, only when I started to focus my sight on a fretting hand is where pain went away. I suspect this can be the same issue here although your previous injury might have something to do with it too. Can’t think of any other suggestion I’m afraid

I’m usually fairly good about not looking at my hands, thanks to a good ability to visualize mentally where my hands are.

BUT just sitting here playing, I definitely default to a posture that crowds/hugs the guitar. Back hunched over, head lowered, but looking up. Definitely not a conducive position. Definitely should stop playing guitar in my office chair :smiley:

Consider a guitar lift or strap and playing closer to a classical position. It creates a posture that reduces bending your head forward. You still may rotate it left to see the fretting hand, but not craning your neck forward and down.

You need to stop hunching and sit up straight young man!

Also, do consider what your glasses, if you wear them, do. Especially at work, but also with guitar. Having a good pair of computer range glasses helps. Don’t forget you need readers starting at 45 yo and then come bifocals! Fun!

I have cured my patients occipital neuralgia and top of neck headaches by getting them to get the right glasses.


I did get a music stand and it has helped a lot. Also I have a foot stool so that my leg isn’t tilted downward in such a way so that the guitar slides downward making me have to crane over even further.


I had a frozen shoulder. Changed my chair and computer height. I’m in L. A. Can’t recommend this chair enough.(comes in a less expensive version too). Didn’t use the headrest but wanted padded arms. Which SWING UP AND OUT OF THE WAY when you’re playing. Now I work in a kind of three sides desk configuration and often as I am recording I’m writing or drawing. This might not help you. But I find stools uncomfortable. I’d rather a simple chair. I also did acupuncture. Highly recommend. Ergonomic Office Chair, KERDOM Breathable Mesh Desk Chair, Lumbar Support Computer Chair with Headrest and Flip-up Arms, Swivel Task Chair, Adjustable Height Gaming Chair

I’ve been exploring for months and months about posture, I had a classical guitar and the classical posture felt more natural for me, but then I applied it to the acoustic guitar too: that way the body of the guitar is low and my right shoulder is nicely relaxed down. I suffer a lot from neckache nevertheless, since I had an accident with my scooter many years ago and I find it useful to have frequent short breaks for a little walk or for some light exercise on the neck.

Hi @patch,

I had a neck injury about 40 years ago. I have had to pay very close attention to ALL my daily activity to keep on top of my neck not getting worse.

Fix your daily activity posture!! Maybe I should shout that in all caps. :slight_smile: It will go the furthest to helping you hold your guitar and play without discomfort. You have already identified this as your primary source of the problem.

If you are getting quite a lot of pain, I have just laid on the floor, guitar on my belly/chest, head properly supported, and played like that. a bit tricky for some things because the fretting hand elbow is not able to extend back, but I could do a little.

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I kept having to lay off guitar due to shoulder pain. In the end I fixed it by sitting on a hard backed table chair, no problems last two years.

I don’t know if this will help at all but I’ll share how I set up.
I have sit/stand desk and a height adjustable stool that has no back or sides to get in the way. It also sways so requires some core strength too. For playing guitar I have the stool on it’s lowest setting which means I can comfortably have my feet on the ground (for tapping of a foot) but I have my desk at a standing height with my iPad running Justin’s app. This means when I’m looking at the app to follow along it’s at eye-level with me in a good upright position. I suppose you could largely achieve this at a regular desk just by having your monitor on a tall pile of books.

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Nobody has mentioned post-practice exercises. I have had a frozen shoulder (FS) cured by neck, back and shoulder exercises. Ironically, 40% back, 30% shoulder, 30%neck.

FS was caused by poor accountant’s posture in front of a PC, and by holding the phone between shoulder and ear during long telephone calls.

When I restarted playing guitar a year ago, poor posture resurrected back and neck discomfort. Solution? Back to mobility exercises, which call for discipline after a practice session. Note: you can do these AT ANY TIME.

Stand on one leg. Put other knee on couch or bed or coffee table (shoes off, of course). Raise arms to shoulder level, straight out in front of you, and swivel 25 times left and right, looking back over each shoulder in turn, pushing your back and neck to stretch as far as you can.

After 25 swivels to each side, change to other knee up, and repeat.

For several days, you will only feel stiffness in your neck and lower back, as you work to extend your range and increase flexibility. You will also work up a nice sweat :sweat:.

At the end of a week, you will feel extra flexibility in your neck and back, and with luck, your guitar pain will be gone, or at least significantly alleviated. And you will be able to look over your shoulder with ease, when driving.

Do this at least after each session, and additionally when waiting for your kettle to boil, or waiting for the kids to get ready, etc, etc. You won’t regret it.

Repeat often and with regularity. It cost me (my company’s benefit plan) 500 quid / 650 USD in physio. Worth every penny.


If you practice a lot and you work from you desk then you are prone to back and neck issues. I also do have a desk job and after sitting long hours at work I’m practicing for 2,5-3h 6 days a week. The back pain is real and so is the struggle to sit straight.

Proper guitar chair with back support helps to some degree as the sheet stand does but to solve the issue you need to make frequent breaks and start exercising (at certain age). Posture is something that needs to be consistently reminded, the longer you go the more you tilt (at least I do).

I think that the general take away is to make frequent breaks, keep the posture as long as possible and get proper equipment.

I hope this helps.

Again, think of the classical posture. Many classical guitarists position so they sit up straight. Where they run into trouble is with the asymmetric lift and twist imposed by foot stools, so many of them use lifts so they can sit with excellent posture, feet flat in the floor and knees/hips at 90 degree angles. Simple and effective ergonomics.

Many players using holding the guitar in a standard cowboy way in the leg hunch and slouch, and even some classical players adopt odd postures that are likely stressful. For some this seems fine, but if it is causing discomfort, it is not fine for you.

Standing probably would be ideal. The forces on the discs in our lower back are greatest in the seated position, least laying flat (not an easy guitar position) and moderate standing. Humans probably are meant to be dynamic, walking, squatting, moving in some way, not sitting or standing still.

Regardless, I struggle because I am no where near being able to play anything without frequently looking at my fretting or picking hand. At least with a neck raise led classical position the neck is just to my left and I don’t have to crane my neck forward and look down as much, except the occasional times I need to figure out the picking.

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With all the references to classical guitar, I’ve recently (past couple days) done a bit of “proof of concept”, where I use my strap to hold the guitar weight/position, but otherwise adopt similar posture/neck position.

So far, I’m definitely noticing an improvement in post-practice pain/flare ups. Coupling that with some stretches/breaks/exercises/etc… I think I’ll be on my way to minimizing this pain in the rear (neck). Thanks Y’all!


That is great! Glad you are finding our ramblings helpful.

I do find it very interesting how various guitar players hold their instruments. Some look painful to me just seeing them, but they seem to work for them.

Good to hear things are improving Patch. My seated posture has been terrible and whilst still not great the trick of shortening the strap has worked wonders for me too so continue to work with that, you’ll get there :+1: