Carpal Tunnel Guitar

WristGrips – Compression Therapy for Guitarists

In Guitar Blog, Practice and Technique, Reviews and Gear by Craig Smith

How’s it going in the practice room today?

I had an action packed January full of gigs that concluded yesterday (Sunday) with the 5th of 5 straight gigs in a row. Now, if you’re a Rock Star doing a 90 minute concert or an original, regional band pulling a 45 minute set, chances are you may stop playing before the pain sets in.

If you’re like me pulling 3-4 hour cover gigs, 200+ days per year, plus practice, teaching and technique maintenance, well… it hurts! Here is a quick video I made yesterday at a gig in Sanford, Florida using my new WristGrips compression wraps for musicians:


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Guitarists

As I approach my 49th birthday next month, I find that the way I practice guitar and the way that my hands and arms feel during and after has changed dramatically over the years. I had my first encounter with Tennis Elbow about 10 years ago while practicing Classical Guitar for a wedding gig I was hired to do. I eventually developed it in both arms!

I’ve also had problems with carpel tunnel in my left fretting hand. Tennis Elbow hurts and is annoying, but Carpal Tunnel is downright debilitating for a guitarist.

“I am a guy that picked up the guitar with a case of carpal tunnel, after 30 plus years working with tools in my hands. So from the beginning I have dealt with a lot of pain. I log many hours a day playing and would play even more if it wasn’t for the pain.”
Chad H. – reader

I have the usual symptoms including numbness, some tingling and 3rd and 4th finger nerve pain. This happens often, particularly when I’m not warmed up and/or trying to do longer stretches in 3 note-per-string scale sequences… and of course when I’m on a 4 to 6 day stretch of 4 hour gigs like this past week.

I’ve had much relief by getting in better shape. I do some arm weights and also practice Yoga pretty regularly which has completely relieved my Tennis Elbow problems… but the carpal tunnel persists.

I also wrote a detailed Guitar Practice Guide for the aging Guitarist that shows how I (and other older guitar players) have dealt with these problems.

Compression Therapy for Guitarists

Having a high traffic and dare I say, pretty awesome and popular guitar website 🙂, people are always sending me stuff or trying to get me to endorse a product or link up to their website. So when Ryan Sollee, a Portland, Oregon based musician contacted me about his WristGrips, needless to say I was skeptical.

“A common problem among both acoustic and electric guitar players, as well as other stringed instrument players, is the development of forearm pain, tingling, and numbness, typically on the same side that you fret the instrument.”

Dr. Timothy Jameson
Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine
Castro Valley, CA

The first thing I noticed was the high quality of the WristGrips product. Very nice thick material with a nickel buckle and velcro fastening system. Very comfortable for playing and while I write this article, typing too. As my readers know, I write a lot and excessive keyboard use is yet another contributor to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Craig using his WristGrips

Craig using his WristGrips

“Loss of dexterity, speed, and control of the ring and pinky fingers is a hallmark sign of this carpal tunnel syndrome in guitarists.”

I’m always hesitant to try new things during a live performance. Whether its strings or picks or some new pedal or gadget.. but I thought I’d give the WristGrips a try yesterday. We had a totally chill, relaxed acoustic gig (As you can see in the video above). It’s one of those no pressure type gigs where I can just relax and play how I want. Totally fun!

I put on my WristGrip about 10 minutes before we started. It felt good immediately, so I left it on. I adjusted it slightly only once and didn’t take it off until I went to bed! After a while I forgot it was there.

Compression therapy for guitarists

In addition to having a pain-free and comfortable 4 hour gig, I am pain free TODAY, which is rare after a 5 gig run. I’ll be sure to edit and add to this article in the future as I use the WristGrips regularly and report back. So far, I love them!

The WristGrips come as a pair which is ideal for Pianists, Drummers or even the guitarist suffering in both hands. For now, I’ll probably leave one in the guitar case while I’m wearing the other so I always have one handy.

Discount for Readers

The guys at WristGrips were cool enough to setup a discount code just for my readers. Entering code: ‘12keys-15′ will get you $3.00 off. You get a pair of WristGrips for only $17.00 with FREE SHIPPING!

WristGrips Website:

WristGrips Logo

WristGrips Features:

  • Custom tension stability control while playing
  • One size fits all, perfect for any wrist
  • Moisture wicking sweat free hands
  • Non-limiting full range of motion protection
  • 100% cotton w/nickel buckle
  • Virtually indestructible
  • Play longer, pain free for 90 days, or your money back

Treatment for Guitarists with Carpal Tunnel

Lastly, I’m not a Doctor. I only know what works for me based on my experience as a 30 year Professional Guitarist. Listen to your body. Compression therapy works great for me but may not be right for you. The one thing I know for sure is, it cannot hurt!

I’ve tried the Copper Fit and other types of compression wraps. These WristGrips work much better in my opinion. I’ve also seen gloves and other sleeves which would not enable to you play guitar while wearing them.

I think it would be safe to try compression therapy before doing something as drastic as a surgical procedure.

I would recommend talking to your Doctor and for further reading, check out this excellent article from Musicians Health’ website:

Guitarists Living with Carpal Tunnel

[UPDATE] After writing this article I received many emails from readers who are suffering from CTS. I had no idea! Here are a few quotes from guitarists like you:

“I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel last week. Am waiting for Dr’s remedy. But it is hard to play with 2 fingers numb all the time. “Kim E.

Kim went on to say in further conversation that like me, it is her 3rd and 4th fingers that often go numb and cause pain. She has agreed to follow up with me after her doctor visit and I’ll be sure to update this when I hear from her.

In another email reply, Ware shares his story:
“Very interesting and timely. I have carpel tunnel in both hands, as I am older than dirt.  I currently wear braces on both hands but through the night when I wake up my ring finger and pinky ‘fall asleep’ when middle and index are now experiencing mild effects.  I am left handed, so the decision is which hand first.  
My blessing is I live in Houston and will have surgery at The Methodist Hospital. The Ortho group is the best, taking care of some of the local professional and collegiate teams, ballet, as well as other performing arts professionals. 
I guess the one question I have for you is how to spend the time productively.  Since playing will not be an option, and depending on how I schedule the surgeries.  I will probably work on music theory (as an analyst it is like putting together a puzzle) and audio production to enhance my knowledge.  
As a side not my wife had the same surgery 15 years ago, on both hands as well.  I will continue to look forward to your emails and links to enhance my knowledge.  Thank you!” – Ware

I suppose there are all kinds of things Ware can do without playing such as sight reading, music theory, perhaps transcribing (with the good hand). I would also recommend keeping the picking hand up while in recovery.


One of my favorite things to do is work on reading rhythms which helps my overall sight reading. Check out the Rhythm Encyclopedia by the instructors at G.I.T.

“My right hand just quit. I could be standing with a drink in hand conversing and suddenly my drink would hit the floor.
No sensation, no warning, just stop gripping. Couldn’t use a hammer or much anything like that. Wound up at Sims-Murphy in Memphis with acupuncture needles hooked to a computer confirmed the diagnosis.

I elected to have the surgery, which they performed in house with only a local anesthesia. Unlike many, the procedure was a total success thanks to the staff down there, I have recovered to 100% capacity near as I can tell. Can’t even see the scar on my arm… Lucky.”Will R.

Until next time,