How to Relieve Guitar Tendonitis

As musicians, we are often at risk of developing tendonitis. This is painful, and can make music less fun.

But what exactly is tendonitis? And what can we do to relieve it?

What is a Tendon?

Joints are made up of bone, muscle, and other soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Ligaments connect bones to other bones.

Tendons connect muscles to bones. The tendons are the anchors that are able to withstand the  tension muscles create when flexed. The muscles tighten, and the tendon pulls the bone along.

The deep core of the tendons is thought to have no nerves. But there ARE nerves where the muscle and tendon connect.

Why Joints Hurt

Joints often hurt when the muscle becomes overly tight, and pulls too much on the tendon.

While there can be real damage to tendons, most joint pain is caused by inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury.

The tight muscle pulls too much on the tendon and creates a small injury. Then the body creates inflammation to help heal the injury.

The inflammation also creates the pain that will help us avoid re-injuring it before it heals.

This is called tendonitis.

Arthritis is Inflammation

Arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) are inflammation conditions. These are more serious and chronic. But some of the pain may be relieved in the same way as common tendonitis.

How to Reduce Joint Pain

One of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce joint pain is to reduce the tightness of the muscle. This is true for guitar tendonitis, as well as any other joint pain.

When we release the muscle, it no longer pulls too much on the tendon. This relieves the pressure of the nerves at the connection of the tendon to the bone.

So the question is: How can we encourage tight muscles to release quickly?

Quick Techniques to Relieve Tendonitis Pain

Enter Gary Crowley at He has excellent videos showing how to release the muscles affecting every joint in the body.

And he also has two videos specifically addressing guitar tendonitis.

How to Prevent Joint Pain and Guitar Tendonitis

Warming up before each guitar practice session can help prevent injury and inflammation. Bar chords are also a common cause of excess tension due to their difficulty. How to play bar chords offers some advice on playing bar chords with less tension and making bar chords more comfortable.

Also, using the techniques above after practice (or both before and after) can help. This relieves any current pain. And it reduces the chance that we’ll carry excess tension forward to our next practice.

We can also avoid excess repetitions in our practice. Instead of doing the same movement for long periods of time, we can switch between activities. We can also stay more aware during each repetition, and stay more engaged.

It May Take More Than Once

Most often, the techniques above create at least some relief in just a few minutes.

But if your muscles have been tense for a long time, it may take more than one session to completely release them.

That’s normal. If you put some or all of these techniques into your daily routine, you’ll feel lasting relief.

If you have other joint pain, visit Gary’s site. You can find techniques for fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders and more. It’s a wonderful resource and worth bookmarking.

[Special thanks to Gary Crowley for editing this article.]

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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