I'm 60 yo, played guitar my whole life - just not very well. Open chords. 4 years ago, I got serious - 2 hours a day practice - 4 hours on weekends. I play electric blues. I mainly play sitting on a stool.

Last Christmas, I opened a pickle jar and hurt both wrists. I can't find a way back healthy. Went to hand specialists at the Duke University medical complex in Durham, North Carolina in the USA. X-rays show some arthritis but nothing more that what would be expected. I'm working with an OT. Took steroid packs. I quit playing 2 weeks ago and they got better - quite a bit. Practice for 1/2 hour and I can feel the soreness. I'm very careful about warming up stretching, not pressing too hard, minimizing wrist bend… all the normal stuff. Bones says I've got worn tires and I shouldn't waste the remaining tread on exercises for strength. Although he doesn't know really what to do.

My question. Is there anyone out there that is older, had a similar problem and found a way out. I'm at the point of quitting. I can't tell you how much that would cost me - maybe more than I have in the bank or can borrow. Pretty serious here.

Thank you

  • 1
    I think that r lo has given some absolutely fantastic advice, especially about the action on your guitar. I don't have an answer exactly, and my experience with injury was in college, but I can say that recovering—especially as a performer—just takes so much longer than you ever expect. The recovery is so slow and non-linear that it mostly doesn't seem like recovery at all. But it is, and it will get better. Make sure to be honest with yourself about even incremental improvement, and don't focus too much about the inevitable backslides. You'll get there, I promise. May 23, 2015 at 11:10
  • Sounds like you just need to give it some time off to heal. But we're not doctors -- I'm not sure that this question is on-topic.
    – user28
    May 24, 2015 at 2:37
  • A quick google for "injury preventative guitar" yields some good results. However, now that some damage has been done, your best bet might be to allow time for healing in addition to a restructuring of your technique.
    – Richard
    May 25, 2015 at 1:13

3 Answers 3


I would say to make sure the action on your guitar is at the lowest it can be for ease of playing. Also, you may consider playing slide guitar if it hurts to press strings. Also look into open tunings, you may find songs that are easier to play as well.

Hope some of this advice helps and don't give up.


Try playing a classical guitar instead. With a thicker and wider neck, and with nylon strings, which require much less finger pressure than steel strings, you might find that a classical guitar is easier to play.

Go to a music store that sells classical guitars and try one for a few minutes.

It may seem like a paradox, but many older players believe that a thicker neck is easier to grip and less fatiguing to play than a thinner one, and classical guitars have thick necks. The wider spacing between each string might help your fingers find their position better as well.

Another very important point: whether you switch to classical guitar or keep the guitar that you have, you could certainly benefit from taking a few lessons with a good professional guitar teacher to learn how to hold your left hand and fingers in the proper position to play with the least amount of hand tension (not to mention checking up on your posture, and how you hold the guitar itself, to minimize tension in your body.) Over the years you may have developed some bad habits that need to be un-learned and replaced with better ones.

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I wonder if you have tendinitis. If so, don't despair. For tendinitis, it's helpful to stay away from the guitar for a few months. Many musicians with tendinitis have a good recovery by taking a break of 3-6 months. (This statement comes from knowing a lot of musicians.)

In the meantime, you can wear a soft brace from the drug store. It wraps around your hand. No metal parts. You can do some gentle hand stretches.

I second the idea of working with a private guitar teacher, after your break from playing, to make sure your set-up is as ergonomic as possible.

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