I've been playing for decades. Every now and then I do something that causes a fingertip on my fretting hand to be extremely sensitive — to the point where the slightest pressure causes pain. I think I've finally figured out what's going on.

Every time I've had this pain, there's been a slight separation between the finger and the nail - not the entire nail, just that line where the nail separates from the finger moves back a tiny bit. I've resisted this conclusion, because that's not where the pain comes from - it comes from the fingertip! But every time I've had this problem, there has been a little fingernail separation.

So my question is, should I play through this, or wait until the pain goes away?

  • Can you describe the pain a bit more? I occasionally get pain in my fingertips where it feels like I've damaged or "dislocated" the fleshy bit and the string is now pushing into my tendons or ligaments or something. I wonder if that could be what you're referring to, though I haven't noticed anything going on with my nails. – Matthew Read Jul 4 '12 at 22:55
  • I've had that problem too! It feels to me (since it's so sudden and so excruciating) that it's some sort of nerve hypersensitivity. Just like you say, the slightest pressure.. even typing at a keyboard, causes pain. Mine is so severe when it happens, there's no way I'd be able to play guitar… but it usually only lasts… I don't know… half an hour? At the most an hour, I'd say. – Josh Fields Jul 5 '12 at 3:11
  • I just did that last night! Jabbed myself with the cat brush. ~24hrs later, pain is gone. Unless it's severe enough to cause you worry (psychosomatic amplification), you can tough it out. In fact, I think playing may help reduce pain faster by the creation of 'pleasant' sensations. FWIW, Apply with caution. :) – luser droog Jul 6 '12 at 0:31
  • Related quesyion: music.stackexchange.com/questions/3567/… – Ulf Åkerstedt Jul 7 '12 at 11:11

Bear with me.

Fingernail and toenail seperation is extremely painful. But, there is no mandatory function from having them. What I mean is, if you did not have your fingernails, you would still be able to function 100% except maybe scratching your noggin.

In fact, I have had my two big toenails removed for pain reasons. The pain is gone and the toes are fine.

Now, where I'm going with this is, the pain you are experiencing is not doing any real, life-altering damage. If you can play through the pain, there is no reason not to. On the other hand (pun noted), there are things you can do like seeing a doctor about the root cause of the pain.

For me, I use medical-grade moisturizer on my picking hand for a different, but possibly related problem. As long as I don't use it on days I'm playing out, it's a non-issue.

I wish you well!


I've been playing for a while now and had the same problem and I noticed that every once in a while the calluses fell off. Next time you have this problem, happens see if that's what is happening. Let me now if that works.

  • Welcome to Music SE! I've removed your email address per this section of the FAQ. You can place whatever you like on your user page, however. Thanks for the input! – American Luke Aug 2 '12 at 20:20

Don't cut your fingernails too short. Only cut down the white part of your nail. In fact, leave a little bit of the white nail. This will stop this recurring problem for good!


Not a direct answer to your question but a suggestion for the next time this happens.

I get this too. I've even had to cancel gigs due to this problem (don't worry. There were no riots). But I recently discovered something just a few days ago that will allow me to play through it. Just take some contact anesthetic like orajel or similar and press some up under the nail about a half hour before playing. I just used orajel because I saw some in the medicine cabinet the last time I had this problem. It worked quite well. Now I'm going to see if there's anything stronger but the orajel got me though it.


I have a tip for when this kind of pain happens. I have exactly the same problem, generally on fingers 2 and 3, and it is very painful! It prevents me from playing, especially pull-offs and bends.

MY SOLUTION : While it does not completely remove the pain, I scotch-tape my nail and my finger together, using a normal scotch tape cut in half to make it slimmer. I go around the finger for 2-3 laps, using maybe 2 inch tapes. It makes me able to play by keeping the nailbed and the nail firmly together. On these days, I won't bend and I will play carefully, but I'm able to give my lessons all day. I change the tape often.

Usually, the problems lasts less than a week, but it comes up often!

I really have to be careful not to cut my nail too short, I keep them unconfortably long but it makes the problem come up less often. It really sucks though, I'm thinking about removing the nails completely via surgery.

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