Can Playing Guitar Cause Shoulder Pain?


When I first started playing guitar, I suffered from severe shoulder pain due to my inexperience. I didn’t know back then whether it was normal or not? If you are also experiencing the same thing, then you’re in the right place. Just like you, I also wondered, ‘Can playing guitar cause shoulder pain?’

Experiencing shoulder pain while or after playing guitar isn’t normal and shouldn’t happen. Guitar shoulder pain is usually the result of bad posture.

Here I will tell you:

  • Do all guitar players suffer from shoulder pain?
  • What should I do if I experience guitar shoulder pain?
  • How to reduce or eliminate your guitar shoulder pain?

Do all guitar players suffer from shoulder pain?

No, shoulder pain isn’t normal, and not all guitar players suffer from it. If you are experiencing shoulder pain after a guitar session, there was something wrong with your posture.

Although several factors may contribute to shoulder pain, the wrong posture is the most common. You must identify and address your problem to eliminate guitar shoulder pain.

What should I do if I experience guitar shoulder pain?

As I told you previously, there are several reasons for guitar shoulder pain, and you have to identify and eliminate that reason. The following can be the reasons why you feel shoulder pain.

Reasons for guitar shoulder pain

Normally, guitar players don’t have shoulder pain. So, if you have one, then that may be because of any of the following reasons:

  1. You don’t know the right way to hold the guitar.
  2. Your wrist angle wasn’t right when you were playing the guitar.
  3. Your guitar strap isn’t of good quality. It puts pressure on your shoulders.
  4. You use a heavy guitar which is hard to handle.
  5. You don’t take a break during the practice session.

What to do if I have guitar shoulder pain?

You should do the following things if you’ve played guitar for a long time and now have shoulder pain.

  1. Don’t start practicing guitar for many hours in the beginning. Instead, play guitar for a shorter period of time. Develop your stamina and gradually increase your practice time.
  2. Take frequent breaks during guitar practice sessions.
  3. Change your guitar strap to the one which offers good posture and pain-free use.
  4. Pay special attention to your playing position. Make sure you aren’t holding the guitar or your body in an odd and uncomfortable position.
  5. If you have poor playing posture, then work on it and slowly change it to the better one.

How to reduce or completely eliminate guitar shoulder pain?

I have told you the various reasons which can cause guitar shoulder pain. If you want your shoulder pain to go completely, you have to identify and eliminate the reason responsible for your pain.

Here are some things to do in case you have shoulder pain after or during a guitar session.

Hold your guitar correctly.

One of the most common factors which can cause shoulder pain is inappropriate guitar holding. The proper way of holding the guitar is:

  • Sit in the chair without bending your back.
  • Your feet should be on the floor.
  • Hold the guitar against your body, near your stomach.

While holding the guitar, you should be comfortable. Don’t sit with crossed legs, and don’t put the guitar on your legs. Such postures increase the risk of shoulder pain. You can use a footrest to angle your leg for better fretting.

The chair you’re sitting in should be without armrests. Don’t play guitar sitting on a couch or bed because that will create an unusual angle which can induce or complicate shoulder pain.

Correct your wrist angle.

Your hand and wrist greatly influence how comfortably you play the guitar. Any tension in the wrist will go up and down the arm and even radiate to the shoulder.

Your wrist should be relaxed when you play the guitar. Don’t tense up and strain your hand. Only play the guitar when your hand is comfortable and ready. You would know your wrist angle is correct when:

  • Your thumb is behind the neck of the guitar.
  • Your fingers are slightly curled to reach the frets.
  • You should use the tips of your finger to play with chords. Relax if you feel pain, and gently slide the strings.

Any tension in your wrist can cause shoulder pain.

Change your guitar straps.

The guitar strap is usually the worst culprit of shoulder pain. Strap strung too low on the shoulder and back or strap, which bends out of shape as you try to reach the fret, can cause shoulder pain. Your strap should be higher for you not to feel pain. Your strap should have the following characteristics:

  • The guitar strap should be of high quality. Leather straps are considered the best guitar straps.
  • It should have some padding in the shoulder and neck region to reduce the strain.
  • The adjustment room should be in the strap so you can find a comfortable length.

Avoid using the heavy guitar.

A heavy guitar is difficult to handle and can put a lot of strain on your shoulders. If you use heavy electric guitar and that is causing pain, then switch to a lighter one.

Full-sized acoustic guitars are usually heavy. You can try using ¾ sized guitar, which will be a lot lighter. Lighter guitars take the strain off your shoulders.

Don’t practice for too long.

Don’t practice for endless hours. You should take short breaks. For example, if you have played for an hour, then take a 10-minute break to give rest to your body and shoulders. You shouldn’t practice continuously for more than an hour. When your shoulders start to hurt, take a break and relax them.

Ice, medication, and time off.

If you have shoulder pain, you can take some medication and use ice or heat to reduce the pain. Don’t practice guitar again until your shoulders are completely healed. Also, address the cause of shoulder pain and avoid it in the future.


Guitar shoulder pain isn’t normal. If you have shoulder pain after a guitar session, then there is some cause behind it. You should evaluate your playing time and posture and make plans for the future. Make sure to use a high-quality guitar strap.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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