I have played the guitar since 2006 and I had no trouble all that time. Recently I noticed that my fingers ache after practice. What can I do with that?
Have you made any changes to your guitar, the strap, how you stand or sit?
Posture can make a big difference in your hands because of the angle of your hand on the neck. Playing with the guitar too low causes an acute angle at your wrist and fingers, and depending on how your hands are shaped, just might not be a good idea for you.
Changes to the guitar's action, either to a heavier string gauge or higher height, can cause your hands to ache.
Over practice can also cause problems because of RSI, "repetitive stress injury". The tendons become inflamed, leading to pain. Pressing too hard or playing too much can cause the problem.
The solutions can be to raise the guitar, use lighter strings, get the action adjusted lower, only press as hard as is necessary to fret the note and no harder, and, very importantly, take some time to let your hands rest.
You can use some ice to help remove inflammation and reduce the pain, but if the problem lasts or keeps getting worse go see a doctor. You'll probably be told to lay off for a while, or at least reduce your practicing.
Also, age, and our bodies, have a lot to do with how we react to the stress of playing. Again, an ice pack can help but don't ignore the problem if it doesn't improve.
If your fingers hurt before and after playing, ie. when your hands aren't warmed up, you probably have tendonitis. It is common for guitarists to spend many hours playing, which for the fretting hand, causes an over development of the inner forearm muscles. This can lead to tendonitis of the fingers or the back of the hand.
Try massaging the inside of your fretting forearm, up near your elbow. If your muscles are all chronically flexed and basically feeling like a bunch of cables under there then this may very well be the source of the stress that is causing your pain. Buy a massage tool and perform deep massage on those muscles to force out the lactic acid causing them to remain flexed and they will lengthen and your fingers will start to feel better very quickly.
This approach worked for me when I was studying in college, playing anywhere from 8-12 hours a day and suffering from incredible tendonitis in the back of my hand. I'm sure it can help you also.
Kinda depends on the ache.
If they ache at the tips, maybe you should consider different (lighter) strings but surely you should consider not squeezing so hard. Try fretting a note and pulling a little off until the note is dead, the squeezing just the slightest bit harder. That is how hard you need to squeeze, no more. Any harder and you're wasting your energy just to hinder your speed and hurt your fingertips.
If the whole finger aches, I don't know. Muscle ache comes from a buildup of lactic acid, I know, so the kind of thing you do for other exercise, except less so. Keep hydrated, warm-up and stretch, I guess.
Aching of any sort - if all things are equal (ie. you are healthy, stress-free, haven't changed your setup) is a cause of fatigue.
If it is localised and acute pain as opposed to ache then you could be developing a form of injury such as tendinitis or worse, Repetitive-Strain-Injury (RSI) which I also had when I was younger.
There's nothing that will cure your youthful exuberance. But the old adage goes that there are no old/bold pilots - that applies to guitar. If you are playing and practising too much that it hurts - then you are playing and practising too much. STOP! REST!
Now having said the above, my own take on this would be twofold:
- Understand why the pain is occurring
- Alleviate the pain from occurring
- Prevent the pain from occurring
Understanding the pain is crucial. If you are practising too much, then problem solved. But if you are not, you will need to be able to self-diagnose if you are going to ask for help. Try and identify the MOVEMENT and your exact hand position.
Alleviating the pain can take many forms - I prefer to be drug free if I can help it. Obviously you need to STOP PLAYING! lol. Massage is perfect for the instant relief as well as gentle stretching. The general aim is to relax.
When I had RSI years ago, the only preventive way (apart from initial drugs) was to do warm up exercises. Essentially, you need a non-guitar-playing method of strengthening your hands or warming them up for the task. On a personal level, this has alot to do with your state of mind (which can also be influenced by the type of music you are playing). The ultimate goal is to REMAIN RELAXED - hard to do, but if you start on the basis that your hand is warmed up and you don't over stretch or over do that arpeggio trying to nail every 32nd note, then you will be fine!
As Joe Satriani says,
"No pain..... No pain!"