Tips For Overcoming Sore Fingers
By Andrew Tintle

Developing sore or sensitive fingers is a common issue experienced by a lot of new
guitarists and those returning to playing after an extended break. The sensitivity can sometimes come on strong enough that it makes people reluctant to practice for fear they did something wrong. You don’t have to fear though, because this article will give you guidance on how to manage the early stages of playing while your fingers adjust. Here are a few tips to help you get through the finger soreness that can come with starting to play guitar:

-Understand That Experiencing Sore Fingers Is Completely Normal-

Remember that unless you played another type of stringed instrument before, you are placing completely new physical demands on your hands…and your fingertips take the brunt of it. Imagine running a 5K having not exercised regularly for many years. Your whole body (including your feet) would be very sore and it would take time to recover before you felt normal again. Learning to play the guitar is not as physically demanding as running is, but your body will still need time to adjust to the new activities it is performing.

-The Pain Won’t Last Forever-

Your fingertips will eventually become numb to most pain over time. Before you start playing guitar, your fingertips will be soft and unaccustomed to pushing against anything other than probably your computer keyboard. After you start playing, calluses will begin to develop from pressing against the strings of your guitar. As these calluses form your fingertips will develop a slight hardness to them that will help you to play with more ease. Even without the calluses, your fingers will eventually adjust to the new sensations and you will feel little to no discomfort.

How long it takes for the pain to subside and for calluses to form really does vary from person to person. How often you practice will definitely have a direct effect on how quickly your fingers become adjusted. If you experience some level of sensitivity and pain, and don’t touch the guitar again for a week or more as a result, it will take longer to get adjusted. Regular, consistent practice is better than having long gaps in between practice sessions - which leads to the next point below.

-Shorter Practice Sessions-

Focus on practicing the guitar more often throughout the day for shorter bursts, particularly in the beginning as your fingers are getting adjusted. It can be so easy to keep practicing the guitar because it is so much fun, but if you push it too hard for too long in the very beginning, you could make the finger pain exacerbated to the point that it is too uncomfortable to play. Practicing in shorter bursts throughout the day will give your hands and fingers time to rest and adjust.

-Ice and Massage-

Gently massage the ends of your finger tips to help get fresh blood flowing in your fingers before and after practicing. This can have a really soothing effect and though it won’t remove the pain all together, it will definitely help.

Another thing that has helped a lot of my beginner students is to ice their fingertips for a little bit after practicing. What you will want to do is put a couple of ice cubes or an ice pack in a plastic bag, and just rest your fingertips on the ice. Just 5-10 minutes of this post-practice can help to reduce excess irritation and provide some relief.

Why the plastic bag you ask? Well it helps reduce any excess moisture that can get on your fingers which would soften your calluses. After all that great practice, we don’t want to take away your calluses do we?

All in all, the most important thing you can do is keep a positive attitude about any discomfort you feel in the initial stages of playing. Remember that it is temporary and it will be so worth it once you are through it. Imagine how you will feel once you are on the other side of it, playing music you love, and having fun!

About the author: Andrew Tintle is a professional musician and guitar teacher in California. If you are looking for guitar lessons in Roseville, CA or any of the neighboring cities, please feel free to contact Andrew to learn how he can help you!