If you’re suffering from the pretty common condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome, that doesn’t automatically mean your only connection to the world of music is to be an avid listener. That’s right, nothing can stop you from picking up an instrument. However, some instruments you won’t be able to play. Now, if you’re wondering exactly what instrument you can play with carpal tunnel syndrome, simply read the text you’ll find below.

What’s carpal tunnel syndrome anyway? Are there any symptoms fellow hypochondriacs will surely get after reading this one? Needless to say, that’s what you’re about to find out in a few minutes! As usual, here at Music Gear Heads, we’ll try to cover some of the topics tightly associated with our theme for today. Oh, and as the old saying goes: stay tuned!

There are a few instruments you could try playing with CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome). For instance, have you tried the trombone? Or theremin? The latter is great since it doesn’t involve you touching the instrument at all. Also, a digital workstation equipped with touchpads and software might just do the trick.

C’mon, this little preview ain’t all that we’ve prepared for you today. Venture deeper!

Table of Contents

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Before we begin our little talk about the instruments you’re able to play with carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s better we first decipher exactly what it means to suffer from the condition in question. Therefore, it’s only natural to ask: okay, what is carpal tunnel syndrome?

As we’ve already noted in the opening sentence, carpal tunnel syndrome is a pretty common condition. It’s characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and forearm. Why does it occur? Well, it appears when one of the crucial nerves in the hand (the so-called median nerve) gets squeezed or compresses on its path through the wrist.

It’s very important that carpal tunnel syndrome gets treated immediately. That’s because symptoms only get worse with time. If left untreated in a proper manner and for too long, that is. Eventually, it can lead to permanent damage to the hand. That, for instance, includes weakness and loss of sensation in your fingers (speaking of which, here’s whether you need to have long fingers to play guitar). Before you get all panicky about this one, know that it can be treated with pretty simple measures such as:

  • Sporting a wrist splint while you’re sleeping. 
  • Doing some exercises to preserve the mobility of your nerves. 
  • Trying to avoid activities that can only enhance your symptoms. 
  • Getting a steroid injection into the carpal tunnel. 

Okay, but what about the symptoms?

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

Here we’ll consider the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. We sincerely hope you’re not a hypochondriac. However, one can never be too careful when health issues are in question, so… Yeah, watch out for these “sensations”:

  • Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night, felt mostly in each of your fingers except for the little one. 
  • Tingling & pain that emerge in your forearm and travel through your hand to the shoulder. 
  • Shock-like sensations in the fingers of your hand. 
  • Weakness in the hand that makes buttoning your shirts a difficult task.
  • Losing awareness of just where your hand’s positioned in space. Dropping things. 

Keep in mind that most of these start to appear in a gradual manner, without a person experiencing them having to endure a specific injury. As the condition worsens, they, of course, tend to get worse and more frequent.

Alright, now that we’ve considered what it means to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, let’s tackle our main topic for today: what instrument can you play with carpal tunnel?

The right hand of a person suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

What instrument can I play with carpal tunnel?

Once you’ve realized what carpal tunnel syndrome represents, you might think: alright, so playing the violin is out of the question, what about other instruments? Let’s take a closer look!

We’ve gathered some information from professional musicians, and we’d like to share it with you. Here are the instruments you might be able to play with carpal tunnel syndrome without much hassle! A quick disclaimer before we begin: keep in mind that these are only assumptions since we can’t simply know what kind of symptoms is a certain person experiencing or the severity of their condition.

#1 Trombone

Playing the trombone might be a great option for folks who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because even though it’s heavier than the trumpet, it’s designed to rest quite nicely on your shoulder. Also, there’s no fingering you’ll have to worry about. Oh, and if you have short hands, you might want to opt for the alto trombone.

However, there’s a downside: by playing the trombone, you’ll be using your non-slide hand to keep the instrument in the proper orientation, and that could turn out to be something of an issue.

#2 Theremin

You must’ve seen this one somewhere and thought: now, that’s something different! This instrument is one of the first electronic instruments, made in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. The best thing about is that it doesn’t require the player to touch the instrument at all. Therefore, it’s an ideal instrument for folks experiencing issues with carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s how a theremin works:

  • It’s a little box with two antennas, one vertical, and one horizontal. The free space around it is your playing field. By moving your hand near the vertical antenna you’ll alter your pitch. Moving your hand near the horizontal antenna will modify the volume. 

If you’re wondering what this whole setup looks like once it’s put into action, check out this fantastic video: a theremin cover of Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

#3 Install a digital workstation

Lastly, we’d like to mention that installing a digital workstation inside your home might just do the trick. That’s right, a digital workstation equipped with various pads, modules, and software, makes things much easier for folks that suffer from the so-called CTS. Oh, and since we’re on the topic of e-pads, click here to see how to clean Roland mesh heads.

Okay, so now that we’ve given you a couple of suggestions, there’s a question everyone’s eager to hear the answer to.

Can I play guitar with carpal tunnel?

While you’re able to get CTS from playing the guitar, let’s check out if a person is able to learn to play this fantastic instrument after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

You’ll be quite happy to know that you’re most likely able to play the guitar with carpal tunnel syndrome if your symptoms are mild to moderate. However, keep in mind that CTS can develop pretty quickly if you don’t take some time to avoid some of the scenarios that enhance the probability of its appearance. Here we’ll introduce you to some tips on playing the guitar with CTS (they’ll also help you prevent CTS from appearing as a result of guitar playing). As always, stay tuned!

Of course, before trying to play guitar with CTS, you should first consult with your doctor. The success rate of surgery that greatly reduces the symptoms of CTS is 75-90%. Needless to say, that’s a fantastic score that should give you some hope. All in all: talk to your doctor first.

#1 Do some warm-up exercises

Here we’ll show you some of the warm-up exercises you can do to prevent the appearance of CTS or alleviate the symptoms if you’re already diagnosed with the syndrome. These are the most efficient ones:

  • Shake your hands. As we’ve said most of the symptoms appear during the night. If you wake up to some pain or numbness in your hands, simply shake them to find some relief. You can do the same once you’re warming up for some guitar practice.
  • Touch your thumbs. Do this one finger at a time. Touch the tip of each finger with the tip of your thumb so they form the shape of the letter O. You’ll want to repeat this one a couple of times.
  • Fist to fan. First of all, you’ll need to make a fist. Fan the fingers of your hand and outstretch them as far as possible. Of course, repeat this exercise 5-10 times.

#2 Consider the wrist position

You’ll want to try keeping your wrist as straight as possible. You’ll achieve this by wearing your instrument up higher since this will naturally decrease the angle of your wrist with basically little to no effort. Of course, you mightn’t think that looks cool, but such a setup will enable you to play much more and with fewer consequences.

#3 Think about the weight of your instrument

For certain folks, the weight of their instrument might turn out to be quite of an issue. Here’s the thing: modifying the position in which you play the guitar to a more classical one might assist you in reducing the stress your fretting hand will experience. Also, you might want to opt for a lighter guitar model, if possible.

For more interesting tips on playing the guitar, follow this link.

Final thoughts on what instrument can you play with carpal tunnel syndrome

Okay, folks, that should’ve done it for our today’s topic: what instrument (or instruments) can you play with carpal tunnel syndrome? As always, we hope you’ve had a fun time reading this one, besides learning a thing or two about the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome and instruments you’re able to play if you’re suffering from it. Anyway, if you’re on the lookout for more music-related articles, visit our blog page.