My fingers hurt…is that normal?
In a word… YES.
Yes it is.
To a degree… (jump to the end to read when you should take care)
4 good and ‘normal’ reasons your fingers WILL hurt when you’re learning to play guitar and why it’s worth it:
1. You’re pressing down on steel or nylon strings that hold tension. It takes time for our bodies to adapt to extra movement and pressure. If you’re playing your guitar frequently you will get lines on your fingers and they will feel sore at the tips. If you’re doing this over a period of time your fingers adapt and the soreness subsides. You won’t lose your touch sensation, your skin will get a bit thicker but it also softens back up again. You will be able to play pain- free and more nimbly once you power through this beginning part.
2. It’s a new movement / skill. If you have never played guitar before and you start to learn you are asking your body to do something new. There is nothing else that is similar to playing a stringed instrument. Our bodies then go through intermittent periods of soreness and rebuilding as they become competent at the new work we’re asking them to do. If you do this over and over it will become easier and less sore as your body accepts its new normal.
3. Your nervous system is doing its Job. We’re supposed to feel soreness when we push our bodies past what they’re used to. It how we get stronger. It’s how we get quicker. It’s how we become smoother, more refined and more capable. Think of yourself like an athlete in this respect. The main thing is not to over do it to the point of injury.
4. Tendons, muscles and ligaments. Aswell as your fingertips the other parts of your hand, wrist, arm, shoulders, necks and back anatomy will be affected when you’re playing guitar too. Sitting in different positions, holding your wrist and hand in new fixed positions, sitting down for long periods of time, leaning over the guitar to look at the fretboard and making sure you’re landing in the right place. This all puts a new stress on your body. Muscle aches and stiffness can be really normal if you spend a good amount of playing. We all get lost in the world of playing once we’ve started and can end up sitting there for a lot longer than expected.
So does it hurt? Yes. Is it worth it? It can be!
There is no quick or easy way around any of the above. It’s part of the journey. Just do it, safely, of course. Give yourself chance to recover and carry on. The joy of feeling yourself progress in playing guitar is worth the effort. Play the long game, it takes time. Feeling how effortless and natural it becomes eventually and remembering how clunky it was in the beginning is a real motivation booster.
Take frequent breaks to stand up and stretch. This is good for concentration anyway but also will give your fingers, wrists, neck, back, shoulders etc time for a breather before you go back to it.
*Some additional thoughts..
…there is another side involved in learning anything physical. Any repeated movement that involves being in a fixed positions can be a risk if over exerted. You need time to recover. If there are any signs of tendon issues, arthritis, previous muscular issues or postural pains, back / neck / shoulder /wrist / hand injuries etc you need to take care. Get some advice on whether this is a safe pursuit for you or at least how to do it in a healthy and safe way that will keep you well.
Have fun and embrace the learning. It really is about the journey. Most of all enjoy the music.
See you in 2023,