The stretches of hand, carpal tunnel

Use these simple but effective exercises to keep your arms healthy and avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

These exercises are useful for not just musicians but anyone who uses the keyboard a lot too. Many of us who play music these days are long time keyboard users too, which increases the need for such stretches to relieve our body which is being strained more than ever.

The basic carpal tunnel prevention exercise:

  1. Extend and stretch both wrists and fingers acutely as if they are in a hand-stand position or as if pushing against a wall. Hold for a count of 5.    
  2. Straighten both wrists and relax fingers.    
  3. Make a tight fist with both hands.    
  4. Then bend both wrists down while keeping the fist. Hold for a count of 5.    
  5. Straighten both wrists and relax fingers, for a count of 5.    
  6. The exercise should be repeated a few times (10 times is good).
  7. Then let your arms hang loosely at the side and shake them for a few seconds

The above exercises are shown in this video along with three other simple exercises for tendonitis prevention and relief.

These exercises save as warm up. Warming up before playing music or using the keyboard, just like athletes warm up before a race, helps reduce work related injuries – in our case keyboard and music playing related wear and tear.

Explained below are some warm up exercises to get your fingers moving, building strength and agility especially to the ring and little fingers which are the least used and have fewer muscles for movement. Here is a video showing the same:


The 3 versions of 4 finger guitar warm up

The third and fourth fingers need strengthening and warm up for effective long term guitar playing.  The third finger may take some time to move independent of the other fingers.

These three warm up exercises are directed towards building agility, independence and strength in the muscles required for using the fingers to play the guitar well.

This exercise starts with the first finger on the second fret of the 6th string (thickest string, top most string).

Play each of the following notes in the sequence, at a comfortable pace:

  1. 2nd  fret, 1st finger
  2. 5th fret, 4th finger
  3. 4th fret, 3rd finger
  4. 5th fret, 4th finger
  5. 3rd fret, 2nd finger
  6. 5th fret, 4th finger
  7. 4th fret, 3rd finger
  8. 5th fret, 4th finger

Make sure that the notes are sounding properly.

Remember to keep the 1st finger pressed on the fret even while you play the other notes.

Cup like Place your fingers in such a way that the thumb and the 4 fingers form a cup like shape, a U shape. This means we will be moving the fingers starting from the knuckles joint and not from any of the shorter joints. This makes sure that bigger and stronger muscles are working to get the job done.

Thumb position

Position your thumb behind the fretboard so that it faces in between the index and middle fingers. Experiment by moving the thumb to face the forefinger, the middle finger, the space between middle and ring finger etc. Feel how the change of position affects the effort of playing, the strain felt on the third and fourth fingers.

Here we use the 4th finger to play one fret farther than in the 1st exercise.

Remember to keep the 1st finger pressed on the fret even while you play the other notes.

Make sure the 1st finger is pressed in position even when you play the 4th finger note. Spanning over 6 frets, this exercise won't be easy in the beginning.

Practice the first one, then try the second one, get comfortable with it. Then, try this exercise. Play the stretch to the extent you can.

keep the fingers as close to the fretboard as possible. Trying to reach the farthest fret is similar to the action hero trying to reach the nearest window sill, standing at a height on the side of a tall building. Lesser the distance of the palm from the fretboard or the body from the wall, more reach one has.

In the case of this exercise, our aim is not being able to perfectly play it, but stretching and warming up within comfortable limits. No pushing, just pleasant stretching.

Remember the stretches to warm up and prevent injuries. When you pick up the guitar and before playing anything else, do the finger warm ups. These routines not only help us play better while preventing injuries, but also give a structure to our practice.