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I have been playing fingerstyle guitar for a year now, and I play on average at least an hour daily.

I am also a full time software engineer, so I type a lot.

At the end of the day my fingers hurt sometimes. Any recommendations from experienced guitarists on how to deal with this? Am I in danger of injuring my hands?

As a programmer, my living depends on my hands, so I want to take the best measures, since I also love to play guitar.

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    See music.stackexchange.com/questions/116852/… and music.stackexchange.com/questions/43734/… . Yes, pain is serious, and yes, all your activities affect each other. Make sure your playing and your computing are as ergonomic as possible. And yes, ignoring pain can lead to permanent injury. Sep 2 at 17:27
  • Sounds like you are working with stress in your hands. Playing or typing should be done with relaxed hands. You may also want to consider if you are typing with proper economy of movement that may reduce the amount of movement your hands do
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 3 at 12:08
  • I have at times had my hands felt fatigued from extended programming sessions but they have never hurt. You may want to invest in a gaming mouse and keyboard and a gaming chair. They are designed to help people spend extended periods of time in front of a computer.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 3 at 12:12
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Disclaimer: This is not a medical diagnosis. You should see a doctor. That said,

Am I in danger of injuring my hands?

Yes. Look into "repetitive strain injury" and "carpal tunnel syndrome". If you google "carpal tunnel syndrome guitar", you'll find many relevant articles, such as this one.

This M.S. thesis states:

Musicians spend hours perfecting their trade, often leading to overuse injuries of the hand; of specific concern to musicians is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

On the other hand, there are articles such as this one that claim that "surprisingly" musicians are less likely to have it. (It could be a selection bias though: people prone to carpal tunnel tend to not end up as professional musicians, I imagine)

so I want to take the best measures

Use an ergonomic keyboard. Don't use Emacs (with its awkward native keybindings) (1)

(1) It looks like a lot of people central to Emacs development injured their hands. It could be a giant coincidence, but I say, better safe than sorry.

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  • Use a trackball mouse. Sep 2 at 19:21
  • @user1079505 Thanks, edited.
    – bobcat
    Sep 2 at 20:17
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You will not NECESSARILY injure your hands by lots of playing or typing. If your hands are more than normally tired after a long day of either, you should look at ways of reducing tension. And, of course, if it hurts - stop! This isn't about 'breaking though the pain barrier' in an Olympic sport.

As a pianist I concentrate on upright posture and free arm-wrist-hand movement. I consider reclining (even in a suitably expensive chair) or using a trackball with wrist support the direct antithesis of this, and a recipe for strain. But many computer users disagree.

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I share your pain (both literally and metaphorically). I'm also a software engineering and I also play the guitar. Only last month I injured my left hand and I had to take a break for 1 week, then play softly for 1-2 weeks until I regained my full strength.

To answer your question:

Can I injure my hands by typing or playing guitar too much?

Yes, you can. It is within the realm of the possible.

The way to minimize the chance of this happen is to improve your posture and technique. Perhaps the computing side of the answer falls outside of the remit of music.se; there's plenty of advice on the Internet: use an ergonomic chair, use ergonomic keyboard/mouse.

When it comes to guitar, try to work on your technique. Musical technique has developed over the centuries for a reason: it reduces the chance of you hurting yourself.

Things that have worked for me:

  • I start my practice with some warm-up exercises including scales and "the spider". They are boring and it feels like a drag, but I my fingers feel different after a few minutes of this

  • I occasionally do some finger stretches (like the ones described here)

  • When I play sitting down, I rest my guitar between my legs, and use a footrest on my left leg. This is the classical guitar position. Looks a bit strange for acoustic/electric, but nobody's watching when you practice, right? The reason for this is that if I rest the gutar on my right leg, my right elbow pushes the body of the guitar into my body, causing the fretboard to pivot away from it. This means that I have to stretch my left arm to reach the fretboard, causing more tension on my forearm and the tendons on the back of my hand.

  • I'm using lighter gauge strings (used to use .10's, now went down to .9's). I noticed pain when I was doing some bends and this makes it much easier to bend strings.

  • I'm improving the technique of my bends. In particular, Santana-style unison bends (bending the 2nd string with my ring finger 1 tone up while at the same time hitting the same note with my index) were hurting a lot. I practice them slowly and use them sparingly. Will use them more when I have improved the technique.

  • I'm changing the technique with which I play barre chords. Instead of keeping my thumb vertical, I'm moving it 45degrees along the back of the neck. This seems to cause less tension on the muscle between thumb and index finger.

In general my advise would be to play slowly and listen for any indication of tension in your fingers/hands/wrist/arms/back, and find a technique that reduces that.

Good luck and stay healthy!

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