I have found that arthritis (or general hand problems/pains) is very common and a big problem among guitar players. I am currently suffering from osteoarthritis, more seriously in my left hand and I am looking into solving this problem.

If there are any players who suffer from pain when playing, most specifically arthritis, could you please tell me the exact limitations and problems you encounter? For example, fingers can't reach fret or too painful to hold down strings on acoustic?

3 Answers 3


Not necessarily about arthritis, but any hand problems. I suffered a slight stroke a few years ago, and my left hand was missing chords by a couple of frets. After playing and earning a living from my passion, I thought it was over. But after I finished feeling sorry for my self and realizing it could have been a lot worse, I started over. My right hand and brain were still working, so I started on open tunings just to make some noise. This was the best thing that could happen. Not knowing the familiar chords or scale patterns, it was a new start... I know the pain and frustration that you may feel. But if you have music in you, you will find away to get it out. Even a 12-bar and a slide sounds great to the average listener. A guitar is a box of tricks waiting for a magician to come along. Good luck. Regards.

  • Thanks alot for your help. Im looking into solutions on how to bring back the ability for guitarists with hand problems and your feedback is invaluable, thanks again!
    – Conor H
    Oct 29, 2014 at 11:56
  • @TrevorPaulBernhardt Hats off to you and your brilliant attitude :-) Apr 20, 2015 at 11:13

I don't have arthritis, but this may be applicable:

I have had for many years suffered recurrent RSI (repetitive strain injury) in my left wrist when it is bent over. When it is bad, it makes playing more than a couple barre chords in succession impossible, and even on a good day it limits what I am capable of barring.

My solutions were:

  • Primarily - play fingerstyle pretty much exclusively. This means I can often simply only fret the strings I am currently playing, and not worry about all six; the wrist strength required to barre is far more of a problem for me than finger gymnastics.

  • Secondarily - just change the arrangement. Intersperse non-barred chords between the barre chords to stretch my wrist back in the other direction frequently.

I am an amateur with no requirement to learn songs "authentically", so both of these solutions work for me.

And one more thing is to accept my limits: on a bad day, put the guitar down instead of getting frustrated and down; on a good day, play as much as possible.

  • I would instead recommend a revisiting of your technique. I mean no offense, but playing any instrument should not generally produce RSI when played with proper technique, especially not multiple times.
    – Ambluj
    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:53
  • I'm a programmer with a family history of arthritis. Playing the guitar is the least of my wrist related problems :) Apr 3, 2018 at 12:42

My guitar teacher had arthritis. He said he cannot actually play professionally anymore. However he was a really very good teacher to teach from the beginner level, and was able to demonstrate how to play simple pieces a fresh guitar learner usually starts from. Time to time he used piano instead of guitar to demonstrate how the piece should sound.

This teacher had a number of students, who all, myself including, remember him with great respect.


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