Carpal Tunnel

Hi All! Does anyone have any tips on how to hold the harp to avoid carpal tunnel in your hands – especially the left hand? Also any hand exercises you do after practicing? I am getting some carpal tunnel symptoms in my hands after I practice for just a few minutes. .

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Hello @bjdas,
I suffer from severe osteoarthritis in the left wrist and thumb joint area. I also have to be careful because my fingers sometimes go numb. For me it comes from decades of wheelchair use. Carpal tunnel syndrome won’t be there, but pain and the like are similar.
Ultimately, there’s not much you can do. I do the relaxation exercises and warm up my hands before using the harp. Likewise in between and I make sure that I only hold the harp loosely in my hand when playing. I don’t just hold the harp sideways, I change the position. That means thumb at the side, palm and four fingers behind the harp. Take frequent breaks in between and loosen/pour out your hand. Don’t play for too long every day.
Over time, the hand will strengthen and become accustomed to it.
I wish you much success and a speedy recovery!

Regards from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Thank you so much Astrid. I do tend to grip the harp too tightly. Warming up the hands sounds like a great idea. All these tips are very helpful. Big Namaste! BJ


Carpal tunnel is caused by compression of the nerves in your wrist. This is usually exacerbated by extreme flexion of the wrist. Do a search for tineal’s sign to see an example of this.

If you can watch the angle you hold it with your left hand you may be able to lessen the phenomenon. I am not sure how certain you are of having carpal tunnel but You can also get carpal tunnel like symptoms from the elbow. This is a tendinitis that compresses the nerves. Both can also be helped with bracing to avoid certain positions. Generally they are annoying and persistent. It can be worth a trip to a medical office to confirm a diagnosis and see if PT can help with the symptoms. You could also consider learning to play with one of those holders that people use when also playing the guitar.


A good stretch for one’s wrists is to: position your hands like you are praying, then spread your fingers. Then turn your “praying hands” with spread fingers inward toward your body, and if you can, to deepen the stretch, lower your hands in that position gradually. You will feel the pull and stretch in your wrists. I hope that helps a bit.


Thank you very much peg_T. I’ll try that one. BJ


Appreciate the advice. Thank you!


I don’t know if this will help for your situation. I have arthritis in multiple spots. My left hand sometimes locks up when playing - incredibly painful. A few suggestions:
~ Drink more water (or other liquids)
~ Wear a glove or covering on your left hand, or wrap gauze around your thumb and/or index finger for a while when playing - a reminder to not grasp so tightly.
~ Hold the harp in your right hand temporarily to play.
~ If your left hand is stiff or cramping, gently lay it over your right wrist until you can softly grasp your right wrist (yeah, I’ve done it while on stage - harp into the right hand and and relax the left)

The above recommendations have no side effects.

There are some products for cramping (magnesium-based like Theraworx), creams for pain (arthritis creams, CBD infused creams) and meds for nerve pain (Gabapentin) but I’m sure you want to reduce the occurrence, not treat the after affects. I always start with making sure my water intake is 64-90 ounces per day.


Thank you so much for the thoughtful tips. I’m trying everything suggested here by everyone. And it is helping.


Hey @bjdas - yeah definitely recommend holding with one hand, and switching hands as @BnT recommended.

More stretches:

Hold both arms out straight, put your fingers up, rotate your arms so fingers go down and thumbs are out, and put your palms up against the wall.

The other ones is holding arm out straight and pulling hand up by fingers gently. Followed my pulling hand down by fingers gently.

You can be VERY RELAXED holding the harmonica. It shouldn’t be a problem to play harmonica with Carpal Tunnel. Repetitive Stress Syndrome from playing guitar is what actually drove me more deeply into the harmonica.

Hope that helps!


Yes, it does help–and all the tips from the forum friends are helping as well. I’m trying everything, and it’s improving. Especially the exercises and the idea of warming up your hands before playing–from Astrid. But I do have to loosen up my death grip on the harmonica as well. Luke, really appreciate you looking over the forum and adding your tips --the same way you do in the B2B lesson chats. I’m sure it’s time consuming. Thanks to everyone here for your help! BJ


Hi, I had carpal tunnel in both hands to the point. I couldn’t drive or even eat popcorn I went to the doctor and he recommended surgery. He did a test to make sure it was carpal tunnel. The surgery was fairly simple and quick, although it took 6 to 8 weeks to get use of my hand fully back, they told me if I wait too long to have the surgery the surgery may not be successful so I did not hesitate and it was a good decision. I have use of both hands now and am playing the harmonica so if possible, I would check on that option.