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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: Which violin injuries have you had?

September 27, 2008 at 12:29 AM

Sometimes practice doesn't make perfect...it just makes you injured!

It happens to many, many violinists, due to the awkwardness of the instrument as well as the fact that it requires a lot of hours to master. If it happens to you, you probably need a plan both for treatment and for prevention in the future. (By the way, look at this lovely picture of a violinist in balance on violinist Melissa Hullman's website.)

Most of us fall out of balance at some point. As a left-handed person who plays the violin and also writes, I've had issues with my left hand and wrist, where taking notes as well as playing them have compounded to create repetitive stress. I've also had...a pain in the neck! due to violin playing. I've had physical therapy for the hand and neck problems, but more recently I've been practicing yoga, and that has been the best prevention for me.

I'm curious about what our most common injuries are, and in this poll you can check off more than one answer, if you've had multiple areas of injury. Also, tell us a little about how you handled the problem and got back in shape. I stuck with injuries actually caused by violin-playing; if there's something I didn't include, you can also mention that in the comments section.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 27, 2008 at 12:36 AM
Hi, since I think this topic is very interesting and that I didn't see any answers yet, I took the initiative to talk about what I have experienced. I have a very long neck and tiny tiny fingers! My first teacher let me choose my own equipement and posture! Since I was beginner, I chose the first shoulder end chin rest I say! I got tendinites all the time. The teacher that I actually have is constantly checking my posture. In addition, I discover that YOU MUST always be aware of your muscular tension when you play. You don't realize that you are tense and you have to MAKE AN EFFORT TO NOTICE IT and AVOID it! It becomes an habbit and you discover muscles that you didn't think you have before playing the violin believe me! The less tense you are, the more you can play without injuries. It has also A LOT to do with the sound. When your muscles are not tense you can make a huge "open" sound (without forcing) even on low quality instruments! That is the reason why soloists are so relaxed when they play, they know the effect it has on the sound! I'm sure there is something scientific there but I don't know what. Also, since I left the shoulder rest "one size fits all" for a little cushion perfectly adjusted (my left shoulder feels so comfortable) Shoulder rest or not, I learned SO MUCH by putting a miror in my back when I play (and another one on front to be able to see my back) to see if my left shoulder was down. In the beginig it was quite of a shocking surprise, I lift it and I didn't knew it. It looked terrible but I got rid of this bad habit in 1 week. The back and neck problems are often because of this famous left shoulder... Finally, the best trick I found to cure my tendinites (when I didn't know about posture) was to stop 1-2 days and take some pain medication and put ice like a crazy. I was able to cure quite serious ones in less that a week but if you are stubern and keep playing just the same, then it can take longer. A phisiotherapist told me this!

Anne-Marie

From Mendy Smith
Posted on September 27, 2008 at 3:55 AM
I've always had an issue with CPS. Not enough to require surgery, but enough to have required treatments from time to time. As near as I can tell, this is due to a "death grip" on the mouse (waaaay to many hrs at the computer at work with mouse-work). This lead to a tendancy to carry that tension to my bowing. It gets very bad once in awhile, and the result is like having a pinched nerve from my shoulder tingling all the way down to my fingers. I actually dropped my bow once due to this.

Hense the all the effort in finding a setup to help reduce the tendency for this tension, and bowing exercises focused on a relaxed and flexible hand.

From Annette Brower
Posted on September 27, 2008 at 4:07 AM
I developed a bump on my left palm between the thumb and first finger. The doctor called it an over developed muscle. As a beginner it bothered me but over the years I have learned to play without tension. Although it is still there, I haven't thought about it in years. I also have one in the same place on my right palm that is twice the size. I am also a pianist so I guess I don't know which instrument caused the bumps.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 27, 2008 at 11:23 AM
I don't know if this actually counts as an injury, because it wasn't permanent, and went away when I put the instrument away. But I used to get back and neck pain, sometimes pretty strong, during long periods of sitting and playing (i.e. 3-hour orchestra rehearsals).

I saw an Alexander Technique teacher about 15 years ago, who didn't specialize in musicians but who was willing to watch me play and make adjustments while I did so. That seemed to help a lot. It made me aware of a habit I had of clamping down with the jaw to hold the instrument up without any participation of the left hand. Now I do a couple of things which I've seen suggested on this site too: I balance the instrument rather than clamp down on it, with one of the balance points being the left hand/thumb, and I sometimes take the opportunity during a rest or other pause in the music to lift my chin slightly off the chin rest.

I still have 2.5 hour orchestra rehearsals on a regular basis, but the only time I get any back/neck pain now seems to be when I'm stressed and tense--such as one rehearsal last year when it was only a couple of weeks before the concert and the bowings weren't settled. This year I'm one of the people in charge of the bowings: no pain yet.

From Alison S
Posted on September 27, 2008 at 3:21 PM
I've never injured myself playing the violin, but I find that practising for over an hour exacerbates an upper back injury of a decade ago. The only thing for it is regular breaks. When I get the occasional pain in my lower right arm, I revert to pizz.

Following the upper back accident, I'm mindful of trying to use both sides of the body equally in everyday life; eg, learning to touch-type and not carrying a handbag on one shoulder. Dancing and skating are good activities for highlighting asymmetries (especially skating!)

On a positive note, I was advised that playing the violin would help with a shoulder injury resulting from a boating accident three years ago. Apparently the repeated action of bowing helped prevent me developing a frozen shoulder. That was the first (and only) time a doctor advised that playing the violin was actually good for me!

From Karin Lin
Posted on September 28, 2008 at 5:26 AM
I've had neck problems for the last 2-3 years which I believe are related to playing the violin. I tried an Alexander Technique teacher, but she was relatively inexperienced and didn't seem to have much useful insight to offer. Perhaps it's time to think about trying another one.

As a side note, I'm not surprised to find out you're a leftie, Laurie. I'm not one, but somehow a whole lot of my favorite people (including my husband) are. ;)

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on September 28, 2008 at 3:06 PM
Currently working through tendonitis in both wrists . . . I'm finding it to be due to a combination of poor posture, underdeveloped muscles, and tension in my thumbs. Ahhh, its a slow process recognizing and fixing these things, but I think in the end these changes will help me be even better than before.

I'll probably write a blog about this in a few days . . . thanks for the interesting poll, Laurie. :)

From Dottie Goldfarb
Posted on September 29, 2008 at 12:49 AM
I've had two problems. Back pain. I find that by sitting on a wedge cushion all the time when I play stops the ache. If I don't use it I have back pain within a short time. Also sometimes (not too often fortunately) my fingers in my left hand sometimes my right will spasm, especially when i put pressure in the higher positions. So now if I feel like it may happen I either switch fingers or don't use too much pressure.

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