Lower Back and Hamstring Pain
I am interested to know if any of my fellow violinists, especially those over 40 years old, have had problems with pain in the left side of the lower back coupled with tightness and pain in the left hamstring. I am an amateur violinist that began playing at 5 years of age, and I'm now 47.
I HAVE experienced an ongoing problem with this, but I have no way of knowing if the violin playing caused it, hence the question. After I've heard a few responses I'll explain in more detail and also go into some of the things I've been doing to heal myself. Thanks!
Do you play standing up? Poor posture and form while holding the violin can create a lot of tension on the left side of the body. This could have developed recently or been a slow development over time.
Not trying to get a diagnosis, just seeing if other players have had the same problem. My posture has always been textbook (my teachers were VERY strict about posture and technique). I practiced standing and seated, but when I was a kid, mostly standing.
Except for solo performances I have played the violin only sitting in chairs since I suffered a herniated lumbar disk in a tennis accident 56 years ago. Six months after the accident muscles spasmed and suddenly the pain became excruciating and I was hospitalized in traction and under heavy sedation for 10 days. Since then 2 additional disks have herniated and I had one back surgery (double laminectomy) 12 years after the original accident. There were periods of virtual immobility during those 12 years. There were also periods when I "lived on" a combination of aspirin & Parafon Forte (a muscle relaxant). I gradually learned what my limitations are and how to live within them.
Wow! It's amazing that you are still able to play. Do you think playing contributed to the additional herniated disks, or did they just herniate due to weakness from the original injury? I've never had an injury to my back from an accident, but I did injure my left foot pretty badly a number of years ago in a running accident years ago, and that damage is pretty permanent.
Ben,I'm 53 and can relate to your problem very much.I've been having a very painful lower back and yes, like you extreme tightness in my hip and hamstring.I've been playing violin for 46 years and don't think I can contribute my problems to playing.I now work out 3 to 4 times a week at the gym with emphasis on stretching during and after the workout.Have you looked into going to an RMT? They're excellent and can give great advice on how to stretch individual muscle groups.My family doctor emphasized wearing indoor running shoes when in the house,especially with hardwood floors.
Count down before someone mentions cure-all restless playing.....3,2,1
So are you going to" explain in more detail" Ben?
Benjamin I did have subsequent pain problems for another 23 years after the initial herniation and two additional herniations. One was due to carrying a sheet rock panel upstairs and the final one occurred when I was doing some back exercises I found in a "back book!" I did my final back exercises as prescribed by my neurologist around 32 years ago - it cured my pain and I've never done another back exercise. The nerve damage that resulted from my herniated disks - especially the 2nd one has been permanent, but limited one side of one foot and not critical.
I think you should first rule out the obvious, e.g., undiagnosed medical conditions that cause the pain. With these out of the way,
deleted. I have no time to play online games.
I practice sitting down. Still, posture is important there too. I notice pain in my hamstrings pretty much only when I am getting pretty damned stressed out about some passage not improving, etc. That is probably when my posture suffers and my general level of tension is highest.
To try answer your question correctly from a non medical uneducated view.
Benjamin Eby wrote:
Benjamin these threads take on lives of their own. "Answers" extend well beyond the original question. Have you not noticed this about violinist.com already?
Yes, Paul, I've noticed. Yixi, what I've been doing, and has worked wonders, is a strength program called Convict Conditioning, together with a related stretching routine called the Trifecta. Convict Conditioning is really based upon the analysis of strength that powerlifters use, i.e. understanding how groups of muscles work together to move the body. But Convict Conditioning uses bodyweight calisthenic exercises instead of weights. The Trifecta is a set of three active stretches that target the posterior chain, the anterior chain, and the lateral chain (see powerlifting). If you do Yoga, these stretches will look familiar. An excellent book to look up in regard to this type of analysis is "Becoming a Supple Leopard." The three Convict Conditioning books are also great, if you don't mind the silly hook (working out like a convict).
Yes, Charles, I agree. See my above post.
An overall fitness program is a must when playing the violin.I just started swimming lengths again which,along with my old TaeKwonDo stretching routine has brought me back to feeling "normal".
I second the idea of yoga, if there aren't any other underlying conditions that would require medical attention.
Yoga can be good. I have Iyengar's book, and use it as a reference. I also have Menuhin's violin lessons book, and do some of the exercises he recommends. But I have found the strength training approach, if used in moderation (I don't feel the need to bench 300 lbs. or squat 500 lbs.) to be the most direct. I wouldn't advocate a violinist pushing heavy weights. But the calisthenics approach has worked wonders in a short period of time. At my worst point, I would literally double over in pain during orchestra rehearsals. Now I'm 90% pain free, and I'm certain that in a couple of months it will be 100% Regarding weights, if someone DOES want to use them (again, I would suggest going for higher reps and less weight), a great resource is the book "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. He is a true expert about how to execute power lifts correctly to avoid injury. You can check out videos about all these books and approaches on YouTube, by the way.
Instead of weights use a rowing machine to increase tone and improve endurance.I don't like bulking up either with heavy weights.
Benjamin, the Trifecta exercises look similar to my yoga and pilates routine. Your advice on convict conditioning (strength training) also is consistent with what my physiotherapist (also happens to be a national competitive triathlete) advised a few years ago when she successfully treated my right shoulder tendonitis. Thank you!
You're welcome, Yixi!