Fretting Hand Health

Hey all, I am in my mid-40s and started guitar for the first time ever on June 15 roughly doing twice the daily practice time recommended by Justin till late October.

But I am nearing 100 hours over the last 5 weeks. So forget fingertip pain, that’s not what I am writing about.

At night, I would feel all fingers hurt like I would feel muscles after a workout. Over the last week the pain became more frequent as well as more pronounced and it concerns all fingers but especially the little one which is being used more than ever before–and less so the thumb which I use for muting the 6th string. This gives me hope that it is just muscles. Today, it is actually lasting beyond the first hour after wake up so I am only practicing strumming.

Last night, I was learning an etude from Ben Eller that involves lots of quick finger movements in succession. So I guess that what I am talking about is related to individual notes being played at some speed over and over again. I do try to keep the practice in 30 min blocks but do 60 min on occasion as well.

I wonder if this is common Not asking for medical opinion or the like :slight_smile:

I don’t have any wrist pain and I do understand that wrist position matters and awkward positions can cause issues.

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I have the same thing. Two years in almost, but not quite 20 yrs older. Lately it is a lot of barre cords and spider exercises.

The important thing is that it isn’t really pain. It is tight and fatigued like it just got a work out, which it did. I have no wrist or tendon pain, nothing sharp. It goes away quickly.

It is your reminder to stretch more.


When you pump weights or go running a lot, your start to ache. That’s your body’s way of telling you to rest, to take a break. That’s why most people take rest days between workouts, to let the muscles recover. Not doing so can lead to injury.

Playing guitar is no different since it’s a workout for the fingers. Intensive playing will make you ache, so you need to take it easy to give your body time to recover. You can still practice every day, but just tone it down a bit occasionally. Alternate intensive practice days and something more sedate.

Ignore you body at your own peril. I’ve done so on various occasions, and paid the price. That includes an ongoing finger issue due to pushing too hard on guitar… six months and counting.


Same here. I found that doing finger and hand stretches along with rubbing out wrist and hand muscles before I start practice helps alot. I somtimes ice my hand and wrist just before bed on occasion helps as well… Hope this might help you. Good luck

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Thanks for the swift replies. Yeah, I have not been overlooking it, hence this thread :slight_smile:
I did find some useful finger stretching exercises.
Today and tomorrow will be almost exclusively strumming as well as slow-change 12-bar blues :slight_smile:

20 hours a week on avg. :scream: I’m not surpeised that small hand muscles are complaining about all those micro movements.

Sorry for this but a ticking off is needed.
Do you really NEED to play that much above recommended learning times.

just a friendly FYI here…
A few years ago just before covid I had need of physical therapy for an RSI (repetitive strain Injury)
I was a full time cleaner, the job that caused the RSI was mopping floors…
When you clean big floors you find ways to minimise body movements ok…So the RSI was in my right elbow caused by the constant side (push pull).

My injury was so severe I couldn’t lift a cup . !!!

Out of curiosity I googled professional musician practice times…the no.1 listing said 4-8 hrs a week (including performances) thats what you are doing now. !!! as a new guitarist

I really have to say, Give yourseld a rest, this is really over the top. !



PS. Another FYI…
In the last 5 weeks my practice time is 16h , that puts you over 6x higher than mine


I’m sorry, but there really isn’t any need to exaggerate the issue with scare stories. The comparison to professional musicians really isn’t relevant since they are more focused on learning songs rather than developing technique. An average is also exactly that, an average… meaning there are professionals that practice much more, and also that practice much less.

Justin himself mentions practising 6-8 hours per day when he was studying, something I’m sure most music students do all the time without any ill effect. My practice during Covid lockdown was about 4-6 hours per day without issue. My current practice is around 2 hours per day, all in one go, again without issue. Sometimes I do a lot more than that. The only injury I’ve ever had from guitar is the one mentioned above, when I stupidly ignored a twinge in my little finger and continued pushing. Even then it was a result of what I was doing, not how long I was doing it for.

The long and short of it is that we’re all different, including how our bodies respond to exercise and strain. Listen to your body and take it easy whenever you feel any slight ache or fatigue, and you’ll be fine… whether you’re practising 2 hours per week or 20.


I agree with @Goffik’s rearks about pro musicians. Also, pro musicians start to learn playing an instrument at a very young age and spend a lot of time on learning proper technique, precisely because that will help them avoid injuries or any other harm. A lot of symphonic orchestras have members well into their 50s and 60s who can keep up with the younger players (well, they have to, anyway).

While I think that Justin’s attention to minute details and the amount of advice he sprinkles in his lessons can make students a bit less independent, there is a reason he gives us those pieces of advice, like not to practice more than half an hour when you’re a complete beginner. There’s absolutely no need to be in a hurry.

Not meant as a scare story more of a point !
I have to disagree, if the complaint is ongoing pain, the only thing Justin says is STOP !

In this instance I would would certainly cut back A LOT, theres absolutely no reason a person who’s only been playing an istrument for 5 month to be playing for 100 hours in 5 weeks, none at all.


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Well, of course there is always a reason: like enjoying it + things being less hectic than usual at work :slight_smile: The improvement is massive, too, which motivates more work.

I cannot sustain 20 hr/week anyway though, so no worries there. I am very far from retirement :slight_smile:

As others said, professional musicians would have practiced a lot more when building technique BUT they would have been teens and I am not. So I am well aware of that :slight_smile:

I did 90 min yesterday BUT of that like 60 was strumming hand work and the remaining 30 were 12 bar blues. I am better today. I will only do 30 min today, split between strumming and 12 bar blues patterns.

Then depending on how the hand feels tomorrow, I will warm up well and do scales and do a couple times the few songs I have learned but again focus on strumming chiefly till next weekend.

I won’t do new stuff, which is when the repetitions go crazy, until the hand feels completely normal. And then I will pay more attention to warming up properly.


You may also want to think about how hard you are fretting. Some people, myself included, press harder than necessary to get a clean sound.

The further your finger is from the fret the more pressure is required to get a clean tone.

Lightening up on the grip is especially beneficial for long sessions.


Thank you for the suggestion, I suppose you are right. I have noticed applying more force than necessary and I will have to be more focused on increasing efficiency and reducing strain.

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Another thing to check would be how high the action is on your guitar. (distance between strings and fret board) An action that is too high requires much more effort to play. I had a guitar with the action too high, and it was a real workout! I took it to my local guitar shop and had the action lowered. It was much easier to play and required far less effort.

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Thanks and welcome to the forum!

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I’m practicing about 15 hours a week at about two years in. Occasionally I have finger pain. I press too hard on the frets so am working at that. Also when I get finger pain I spend a few days working on strumming hand stuff or Barre chords (most of my pain was in the fretting index finger). Lastly, take a few days off and work on music theory. Oh, also, do a lot of hand and finger stretches. I also like finger squeezes where one hand tightly squeezes two fingers other hand for 5-10 seconds at a time, moving through the fingers of both hands.


Thanks, good to know. That’s what I have been mostly doing this week: strumming and things that do not stress the fingers much especially the little one.

Still practicing some songs but selectively and paying attention to any pain. Dropped for now those that feel like they stress the hand.

I finished the 4th module of the Theory course and, wait for it, started from writing a riff and ended up with a song LOL, intro, outro, verses, fills, bridge, chorus, no solo, of course :slight_smile:

Never thought I would write a song. Let alone a metal song, being a hard rock guy more than a metal guy. But I came across a tone I really enjoyed (while fooling around with the Boss Pocket GT, it is my tweaks off Eddie Van Halen 5150) and it was suited to metal so…

The hand is okay, not great but okay. I have been stretching a lot. Only played scales yesterday and I did feel it at night so today I spent time recording the song, which involves a lot of breaks instead of constant playing. I was recording one component at a time.

My time will be more constrained by work come Monday as I am starting a project that I want to finish by summer. This is why I was not willing to drastically reduce practice this week: I will have to do so soon anyway.

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Here is an update for future reference. My symptoms are those of carpal tunnel syndrome and using braces over the last two nights has helped a great deal. I also do exercises and massage in addition to the warm up (so a few times a day). I am now only practicing intervals and such super lights things (finding triads on neck for example) and doing ear training while letting my hands recover. I do a lit bit of song work but nothing new and with great attention to any pressure and to wrist position.

The little finger on the left hand is a mystery as I an not as sure if it is the nerve or the finger itself. I am especially careful with it only using it for a few power cords. I have stopped scales for the moment even at low BPM.

In short, two weeks later I am starting to make some progress towards healing. Practice has not been altogether eliminated but it has been reduced to minimum-effort stuff and a short duration. I hope to do 1 hr/day next week, keeping with this very light regimen.

I will reassess next Friday and see if I can gently restart scales at low BPM (100) and such.

I had no plans for new material for December and I have no problem extending the consolidation stage for months if needed. There is plenty to learn on the theory and ear training fronts.

Thanks again for all the replies.

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Hi Steve, good to hear that your hand is healing. Sometimes, it’s necessary to step back with the practice a bit. But as you’ve discovered, there is much guitar related stuff to learn without using the fretting hand.
And writing a whole song is really remarkable :+1::smiley:.

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Here is an update 5 months later!

It has been a lot worse than feared. But I have not stopped practicing, I have learned A TON about guitar-related health issues, yeah, first hand, and finally my nasty neck/nerve issue seems to be improving rather than worsening, for the first time since November.

I posted the update here:

Cheers and thanks for the replies. Bottom line is that you can cause a massive nerve issue very easily. I knew that could happen with minor problems like trigger finger but had no idea that wrong neck/upper body posture can result in a major nerve issue quickly.

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Sorry to hear about the neck! I can relate, with a neck problem of my own. It didn’t hurt my guitar too much, but when my shoulder went too weak to shave my bald head, I ended up getting a nerve block (TFESI). Helped a ton and hasn’t returned yet.

What I find helpful is home traction. I recommend (to my patients) starting with a gentle technique using inexpensive inflatable devices found online. They work ok, don’t cost much and are not dangerous like over the door traction.
(PM me if you want a link)

Chiropractic adjustments are ok, IF they are not doing high amplitude neck adjustments. There is a host of literature on strokes caused by high amplitude adjustments of the neck (dissection of arteries) in neurology literature.

Good luck on the recovery!