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One perennial problem I've had for as long as I can remember is that any time I play a song that uses the first fret a lot (e.g. the verses for Metallica's "Jump in the Fire" come to mind) I end up hurting my wrist real bad.

12 years of playing tells me that it's not something that's simply going to go away with time. It seems the issue is mostly with having to stretch my index finger across the neck, and the pain is primarily in my wrist right at the base of the round part of the palm.

Does anyone have any advice on what I can adjust to alleviate this issue, aside from playing songs that are predominantly in F?

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3 Answers 3

I'd say it depends almost entirely on your wrist position. If you're bending your wrist a lot, consider rotating your left arm down so your wrist isn't bending. I'm sure you've tried this, but... No pain should be the norm.

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The question that immediately came to my mind is, how low do you have your guitar on your strap?

If you're doing anything resembling a gun-slinger, you might want to raise it, because it directly affects the angle of your left wrist.

It will feel weird at first, but you will adjust to it quickly. Give it a try for a day or two and see how your wrist feels.

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+1 - yes, either raise the guitar, or rotate it so the head is higher. – Dr Mayhem Mar 6 '11 at 0:43
Following @theTinMan's advice, will straighten your wrist, this will in turn straighten your metacarpal tunnel. This in turn will lead to healthier tendons in your finger muscles which are located (mostly) in your forearm, not your hand. – amalgamate Feb 12 at 17:45
Since this will fix a physiological issue, do not expect immediate results. Stick with this fix for a while and probably and eventually the problem will clear up. – amalgamate Feb 12 at 17:51

The TinMan's suggestion is great, this answer is a complement or in addition to his. You probably use your thumb to squeeze or lock your hand down to the strings. Try getting some strength in pressing the strings down, by instead pulling the strings down from your biceps. This will also have the added benefit of straightening your wrist a little as well. This will also involve your right hand as you support the guitar there as well. More muscles that you use to alleviate the burden on your wrist. It is possible, thou not advisable, to completely eliminate the need for your thumb. You just want to reduce your thumbs role.

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