Tips to address elbow pain in strumming arm?

Hi everyone! I’m new to learning guitar and recently developed pain in my strumming arm, the inner elbow. A musician friend of mine had me press on the area of pain in my inner elbow while moving each finger, and it felt connected to the movement of the two middle fingers. She recommended laying off of guitar til the pain subsides and then getting a D’addario hand exerciser to use in the meantime.

I’ve also read on another thread to check out the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.

Are there any other tips or resources for correct posture, strumming arm, etc? I am petite, 5’3’', and have a dreadnaught full size Guild, all wood guitar, it’s always felt huge to hold it, but when I bought the guitar, the clerks didn’t seem to be fazed by that. I read somewhere one person’s pain went away when they simply played on a smaller guitar. Is that an option I need to consider?

I am sad to be missing my playing days, I have been progressing rapidly through the course. But I know I have to take a break until this pain goes away, and really take my next steps slowly and seriously to be in this for a lifetime of the joy I have when playing music.

Any tips much appreciated!!

Well, they wouldn’t as long as they were making the sale. :grin:

I would certainly look at trying out a smaller guitar. My wife is about 5’3" and I can’t imagine her playing a dreadnought.

When I had tennis elbow, my GP told me to get a “tennis elbow strap” off amazon or ebay. I did, and wore it strapped around my forearm as close to the elbow joint as possible, with the pad putting pressure on the sore spot. It worked as instant pain relief and longer term as a complete cure (had to wear it every day for a few months)

BTW, welcome to the forum!

I can tell you this much. If the guitar doesn’t feel right and is to large for your framework. Get a guitar that isn’t. A child would not want to start in a full size. How you going to get right posture when the guitar won’t allow you? Simple in my mind. Having a guitar that is hard to work with when you have all kinds of other technical things to worry about?? Yeah, the heck with that. Get one that suits you!

Rock on!

@oztelemann Yeah… :frowning: :weary:, for some reason I thought I was somehow supposed to adjust my body around the guitar. I used to play violin and there is the baby size and the adult size. It didn’t really occur to me I had another choice if I wanted to play guitar like an adult! I think I might have to do that…

@Dman74 Thank you for the encouragement and affirmation! I love the sound of this guild and I spent $750 on a new guitar, which is a lot for me … But it always felt too large. I think I felt pressured to make it work.

So this is common, huh? That adults of diff sizes can actually have guitars of diff sizes too?

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@theoldman66 thank you!! Out of curiosity, where did you feel pain in your tennis elbow?

It was that many years ago that I don’t actually remember whether it was to the inside or the outside of my elbow, but the best way I can think of to describe it is, if you put the sore arm horizontally across your body, then lay the other arm on top of it and grab the meaty bit of the sore forearm with the other hand, as close in to the elbow joint as possible, then either your thumb or your fingertips would be on the site of the pain.

The photos in the amazon listing aren’t showing the models wearing it correctly, it’s got to be hard up against the elbow joint.

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Absolutely. Especially if it’s in the Acoustic guitar range. Alot of different body shapes and sizes. Basically, it should feel comfortable in your hands and your arm should be resting naturally in the lil crook of your elbow, or somewhere close to that so when you strum your arm moves vertically with the guitar. There is actually alot more to strumming than that. But that’s the basics.

Electric, the bodies tend to be alot narrower. So your options would probably open up alot. Still some are bulky and not for all.

Om both Acoustic and electric guitars. Depending on the model, the necks will have different widths too.

So when you go shopping(don’t look at the price right away) some cheaper ones are just as good as the expensive ones! But it the end you need it to feel comfortable. Does the neck fit well in your hands, does the fret board seem to be too wide or too narrow…Does your arm rest nicely and you feel totally at ease? These are the questions that should be going through your mind. The way it sounds would be another thing to look at. I do.


One guitar does not fit all!!


That was probably me.

I’m not a doctor, but have had great success self treating with TPT.

It’s counter intuitive, but I suspect that your too big guitar has forced you to overuse your pectoral muscles. Trigger points often refer pain to other parts of the body…in this case, your inner elbow.

In the following diagrams, cross hatching indicates where pain is experienced, and dots indicate where to look for trigger points. See Figure 7.2, which is highlighted.

Trigger points are sometimes called “knots”, and will be painful when pressed.

You can self treat with massage with a tennis ball. Place it over the trigger point, and lean into a wall. Roll the ball over the trigger point 5 - 10 times, several times a day. Most important is to do the massage both before and after you play.

If you have found the right trigger point, pain reduction is usually immediate (though it may come back quickly at first). Keep doing the massage for several days, or even weeks, until the trigger point no longer hurts when you press it.

Many people are not comfortable with self treatment - in that case, a massage therapist or chiropractor can probably help. (Unfortunately, most family doctors are unfamiliar with TPT).

Taking a break from playing will probably give temporary relief. But if you resume the activity that’s causing the repetitive stress, the pain will come right back.

Many years ago, I gave myself tennis elbow from overpracticing barre chords with bad technique. I took a two week break, and the pain went away. When I resumed practice, the pain came right back…literally on the same day.

The book says you can keep practicing if the treatment is working, and that has been my experience.

But I strongly suspect that your guitar is much too big for you, and you’ll be much happier in the long run with a smaller guitar. There are several threads here about smaller guitars…a quick search should turn them up.

Hope you feel better soon!

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I’m 5’10" and tried a few dreadnoughts at the store and said, no way! The size I seem to like is what I think they refer to as Concert size. I’ll get one someday when I find the right one. For now, I love my electric PRS.

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I agree with previous comments. A dread is way too big for you.

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this is super helpful! I’m disappointed I didn’t know this before I bought this guitar, but at least now I know…

And thank you @theoldman66!!

You’re right! In reading your post, I now notice some soreness in my pectoral muscle on the right.
Thank you!!

@LunaRocket thanks for the heads up on concert size…
And @jacksprat thank you!!

Hi @anu100, I’m also a 5’3” petite female, and I understand your frustration! I’ve never owned a dread, but even my concert was too big for me. Even a one inch difference in the diameter of the lower bout can make a big difference in comfort. I recently went on the search for a guitar that fits my body better. I learned that I absolutely need to play the guitar before buying. Unfortunately for me that removed a lot of options, but at least it helps avoid disappointment. And - when you find an instrument you like, play it for a long time at the store; compare it directly to other instruments you’ve considered; and if possible, consider returning to the store to play it on more than one day. Darrin’s advice is good:

I’d add - make sure your shoulders can relax while playing. Also, I would suggest that it is good to identify the high end of your budget and communicate it to whoever is helping you. It can be difficult to fall in love with an instrument that is unrealistic to buy.

If you do decide to seek out a new guitar and want to commiserate, feel free to PM me!

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Hi there Anupama and welcome :grin:
I will just echo what others are saying… as good as that Guild Dread sounds and looks… that guitar is probably way too big for you. I play a Dread myself, and i can not see how someone youre size can find it comfy :grin: i am a lot bigger than you and find the dread size to be a chunky sized guitar :grin:
Maybe you should consider a smaller sized guitar? It is tons and tons of models to choose from…
just be careful so you dont get more pains and end up with something permanent…

Good luck :grin:

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Thank you! and also thank you to @judi I am hoping the pain will subside soon and I can look into the smaller guitars…

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