Dansm's Guide to Hand Care

Preventing Hand Injuries
Musicians are very prone to hand injuries: especially the wrist and fingers. This page will discuss ways of preventing certain injuries and will point you in directions that should be helpful for preventing other injuries and treating all types of injuries. Following some of these hints will help you a lot as far as injuries go, so read and learn!

Warming Up: The First Step
Preventing many hand injuries revolves around one very important thing: warming up. Before you play, stretch out your hands and fingers. Then play some exercises to warm up. Check out my page of warm-up exercises for some ideas. You don't necessarily need to spend more than a minute or two on these exercises, but please do warm up at least that long. I generally do all the modes to either the G or D major scale, and if I am feeling ambitious I do both. Once you have done this, your hand and wrist muscles are sufficiently warm to prevent any major injuries.

Strengthening Your Hand and Arm
Another good idea is maintaining strength in your hand and arm. Many injuries to hands are caused by weak or improperly-trained muscles. Strengthening your hand is easy. Check out my page on hand strengthening for more information.

Preventing Wrist Injuries
Wrist injury constitutes a large percentage of guitar-related injuries. Wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury (RSI) are caused by constriction of the nerves in the hand or by the constant and repetitious rubbing of bones or cartilage due to playing your instrument. The first and best way to prevent these injuries is to have proper posture. Improper posture forces your hands and wrists out of a comfortable and proper alignment and leads to constriction or rubbing of bones. Therefore, if you think you may be suffering from one of these injuries: sit up straight! Another problem that some people have is that their job adds to their risk of wrist injury. Typists, tailors and stichers, mail sorters, and assembly line workers all have a higher risk of wrist injuries.

If you are still worried about one of these injuries, you can try a couple things. The first is to check out my page regarding strengthening your hand. The second is to use special gloves which help hold your wrist in a proper position and provide support to prevent injury. I use a pair of gloves from Alpha-Med Technologies called the "Alpha Glove." These gloves are no longer available, though if you search the net you will find others like them. They start at $10 and go from there depending on how sophisticated you want your gloves to be. The pair that I have look like these below:

The benefits of these gloves are severalfold. First, the wristband (indicated by arrows in the photo above) provides extra support to the wrist, preventing wrist injuries and helping those who already have them. Second, they keep your hands warm. As you know, having cold hands as a guitarist is like being a blind race car driver: you just can't do it. The gloves improve circulation to your fingers, keeping your fingers warm and ensuring that they can move. An added benefit that I have noticed is that they slide nicely against the neck of the guitar, so that my palms no longer stick to the neck. They do not obstruct motion at all. If you feel that you require additional protection from injury, if you have an injury already, or if you just want nice warm hands, you may want to try these gloves out. They are available from several manufacturers.

That's about all I have to say about wrist and hand injuries. However, there is a wealth of information on the web regarding these injuries. Check out the following sites if you want to learn more: Repetitive Stress Injury Primer
a great outline of the causes and treatment of RSI

Musicians and Injuries
a subset of the RSI primer which explains problems faced by musicians and discusses prevention

Medical Problems Facing Musicians
Tom Loredo from the AG set up this collection of links regarding musician-related injuries

The Yahoo Index of Repetitive Strain Disorders
a host of links regarding RSI and carpal tunnel, among others

FAQ for Repetitive Strain Injuries
a great resource answering questions on RSI, carpal tunnel, and tendonitis

The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Resource Page
a large collection of links from a long-time sufferer of carpal tunnel and RSI

Home Remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
an explanation of carpal tunnel, and a suggestion for preventing it

I hope this page has been helpful. Use the ideas discussed above, and read the pages that I have linked, and I'm sure you will find a livable treatment for your problem. Good luck, have fun, and (hopefully with my help) keep playin!
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1997 Daniel E. Smith. Last updated 6-17-99