V.com weekend vote: Do you currently suffer from, or used to suffer from, playing-related pain or injury?

June 9, 2018, 9:37 PM · Unfortunately, the awkward nature of violin or viola playing can put violinists at the risk of injury.

painful wrist

Sure, there are ways to minimize this risk: Make sure your set-up is as ergonomically correct as possible; take breaks from playing to avoid physical strain; attend to your emotional health to minimize other stress factors while playing; exercise and eat properly for overall fitness, etc.

But sometimes things just happen: you overdue it with practicing or rehearsing, or you injure yourself some other way and it affects your playing. A long-term condition develops -- tendonitis, nerve damage, repetitive stress disorder or back problems. When it happens, it may be necessary to seek medical attention, to change things about your set-up, or just to take a break for a while.

Have you ever developed a serious playing-related pain problem or injury? A mild one? What did you do to solve the problem, or are you still grappling with it? Are you someone who has never had any pain or injury associated with playing?

Please participate in both votes below and then share your thoughts, experience and advise about pain and injuries from playing.


June 10, 2018 at 03:05 AM · I used to get a pain on the right side of my neck.

After giving up on shoulder rests this has never recurred.

June 10, 2018 at 03:32 AM · I currently have tennis elbow - I think from vibrato in the higher positions on the G and D string. Been to a chiropractor a couple of times, have some exercises to do and use an anti-inflammatory gel. This enables me to play half-hour bits a couple of times a day while waiting for to mend.

June 10, 2018 at 03:45 AM · I was headed for carpel tunnel surgery (tested and scheduled), but decided to try one more thing. Found a great sacral-cranial message therapist who fixed the numbing problem. Saved me so much in lost playing time without guarantee of a fix. Play every day now.

June 10, 2018 at 05:46 AM · A very delicate subject for professional players, especially, as most of whom must protect their

playing 'integrity' and understandably deal with specific problems in 'silence' ~ Various playing

Injuries occur due to mythical ideas about How's ~ 1.) How to hold the violin 2.) use a shoulder

pad or not despite having body physique needs as a long neck but deferring from an aide to not

seem 'that good a player' (mythical thinking) 3.) How to hold the Bow 4.)False ideas about the

need to have "a straight bow" & going against the natural sway of the body & slight curvature

trajectory of the Down or Uo (V) Bow. *It must follow the quarter moon curve of the Bridge in the trajectory of a slight curvature sway of the violin & bow moving together - not against each

other as is drilled into beginning violinists by teachers looking at distorted publicity photographs

of Heifetz shot from way below to give the impression of holding the violin so high it can choke some with sensitive Adam's Apple's ~ This produces faulty ideas of bowing as well. 5.) Thinking

that the for-arm, wrist & fingers all have differing techniques of holding or the idea that they are independent of each other, a deadly injury producing idea of lowered right shoulder which with

all moving parts will surely contract Rotator cuff for starter's & a lowered right wrist w/ higher elbow & thoughts of the fore-arm are correct posture to control the Bow, but does the opposite -creating perfect physical tension for tendonitis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel (lowered tense wrist induced) & multitudes of un-natural bowing. Better to hold Bow with hand/thumb wrapped around the Bow forcing the player to sway around avoiding tension, temporarily ~ I've had few of the above but know the hands & arms of thousands of students over 55 years & the past 40 years after studying Bowing with The Master of Bowing. Deferring mentioning 'Name Violinist's' it is a question of Common Sense. The Body is at peace if it is directed to move naturally; it has pain if moving contrarily & with un-natural tension - i.e., Against a rounded tendency of the body ~ For healthy images go to a local Zoo & watch/ study chimpanzee's or monkey's move eating a banana. They hug themselves & seem to be rounded. They Are!!! Human people are also like monkey's & this may seem so odd, I won't go any further here because this is being posted anonymously ~

Over repetition without a calculated build up w/ a good metronome in rapid passage-work too soon before the muscular tone of the left hand is such that no tension exists in the left for-arm

under-side (btw, a serious cause of tendonitis development) can cause severe injury requiring physical therapy from truly qualified musical therapists - preferably, those playing violin who've

No physical afflictions or have overcome such & can therefore help others afflicted, more tense from utter frustration ~ (A vicious cycle)

Such a huge subject, this demands common sense & great knowledge acquired by experience doing all required to play full concert recital repertoire publicly & major in concert violin concerti.

Those with training but 'No Play' may mean well but add to troubles if not feeling the physical sensations of what it is to play well without tension. In other words, warm ups before 'running' on the track (fingerboard) once loosened up in a healthy routine readying for repertoire work ~

A most serious subject for every string player, healthy beginning habits give Talent a chance to assert itself when one's physical 'tools' incorporate Healthy habits from Day 1 ~ Diligence pays

enormous dividends. One other imperative piece of the Puzzle: REST & healthy rest. So many with tension in the left or right hand or fingers with tension shake their fingers or wrist or arm to get loose! This is crazy for in shaking loose tense muscles/tendons & the mind, it requires a 100% physical effort, only adding on more tension to already existing tension! Drop the body from the waist letting the arms, & everything just drop and move like a drooping Doll. This, folks

is relaxation & continue to droop & allow the Head to droop. This simple idea deletes all tension

immediately & one suddenly realise's what real relaxation feels like. This is the ultimate Goal but with a degree of tension when in concert form and segueing back into relaxed motion w/the mind & brain calm. Remember: The mind/brain are the Master Computer's and govern every thought, emotion & reaction. This is the Why of calculated practise & drill to train our physical troops - the left hand fingers to navigate flawlessly on a C Major scale & so forth with a calm & calculating thought process directing all - The Brain's Thought & Eye ~

Done for now, a Last Thought: Do watch babies' first hold a violin and move around in circles! This is beautiful for no one has infiltrated their natural movements, YET!!! More under one's

Pro name later ...

A very important Subject posed by Laurie Niles ~

From a Professional Violinist for All Seasons

June 10, 2018 at 05:50 AM · Used to have some pain and stiffness on LH finger ith old cricket joint injury. Sarted messing about with small piano accordion and the different finger movement seemeed to cure it, presumably because it used muscles differently.

June 10, 2018 at 05:58 AM · To ~

Could you describe what ailed you when holding the violin and holding the Bow or when bowing, or holding the violin & did you use a chin & shoulder rest or defer using a shoulder rest due to being told better violinists' don't need shoulder rests???

To understand the remedy, I, for one, need to know the oroblems you were experiencing and your pain levels Before what sounds like a 'miracle' Fix ~

I look forward to your answer/s!!!

Elisabeth Matesky *

*(Known as 'The Violin Doctor' in London & parts further! )

June 10, 2018 at 07:09 AM · If I get tightness in the left hand (I study the violin-age 72) I play with or more correctly rotate a pair of 'Chinese Iron Balls' in the palm of the left hand. They each have their own 'jingle' sound; one high the other lower. By rotating in the palm they act on acupressure points and act a healing agent. The mingling sounds along with a differing sound provides a healing agent to the mind. Try it; for me it works ! Good luck Stewart

I believe they are also known as Baoding Balls.

June 10, 2018 at 07:30 AM · I played for 18 years without pain, and then suddenly had severe left shoulder pain starting this March that forced me to stop playing for most of April. I think it came from overuse (playing in three orchestras for much of March) and time I spent trying to rework my left hand position from December through March. In the process I tried changing my chin rest and shoulder rest positions several times and testing new setups by playing on the viola C and G strings, which probably exacerbated the muscle tension.

June 10, 2018 at 08:37 AM · Years ago, I developed a herniated disc in my neck which caused weakness and shooting pains in my bow arm. Surgery relieved this and gave me an extra 13 years of professional playing in an orchestra.

June 10, 2018 at 09:48 AM · I'm not entirely sure if this is a playing related injury or not. I have some pain in the knuckle of my middle finger.

The reason I'm unsure if it was playing relates is I also dropped a small tree limb on my left hand while cutting wood recently.

I didn't notice anything right way, but it happened shortly after that incident. Seems to be getting better. Hasn't stopped me from playing but I need to take breaks in between to flex my hand. The pain seems to run from my middle knuckle and up that finger.

As I type this the pain is very minimal.If I play for an extended period of time it gets worse.

June 10, 2018 at 11:36 AM · The opening comment is interesting: I would start having pain if I played without a shoulder rest.

June 10, 2018 at 01:10 PM · I play cello more now than guitar, my former primary instrument, because the guitar caused the most pain for me and the cello is less aggravating. It’s been years of dietary change, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, Qigong, Body Mapping, a bit of Feldenkries. I’m an artist and luthier too, so i’m constantly working out the tension and pains in my hands. I’m also constantly giving thanks for the incredible wonder of my hands which enable me to create beauty everyday. I’m not yet pain free, which of course breaks my heart, but I cannot begin to recount the richness of the journey or the deep lessons and insights that I have been gifted by having this life challenge. Even away from all strings at one time for over seven months has improved my musicianship as I have taken up piano too while resting from severe pain. It’s not a path I would have chosen, but it’s testimony to the wonder of music that I continue to explore how to heal and how to make my music. I’m certain that I will live a longer, healthier life because of my efforts to be in optimum health to play music. I’m certain that my journey towards healing my hands has uncovered the trauma and attitudes that I have really needed to recover from as well to live a joyful and liberated life. Maybe next year i’ll write in again with my miracle full recovery story. But this part of my life’s score also contains the key to the great composer’s main themes,.. love, loss, vulnerability, courage, perseverance, disappointment, resilience, unexpected breakthroughs, wonder, reverence, release, love.

June 10, 2018 at 01:26 PM · Besides mild cramps from excessive tension and/or bad posture and overstretching my hand, which I have been able to avoid completely unless I go completely nuts, which I don't, I've never played in pain.

June 10, 2018 at 06:40 PM · I am 54 years old now.when i was 20 years old (i played good);i had a left hand tendonitis:because i played to much hours and whith a strong pressure of fingers on fingerboard to produce a wrist vibrato. after two years of stop and different theraphy( ionoforesi;agopuntura,anti infiammatori,ecc) ,i played again . But it was very slowly because my hand was weak. I changed the way to do vibrato and only after years i played good enough.

June 10, 2018 at 06:45 PM · Excuse me Laurie,i wrote the last post as anonimous as an error.i am Maurizio Cassandra

June 10, 2018 at 07:12 PM · Which came first is my personal experience. Age, bicycle crashes that injured my left clavicle and right shoulder have changed my bio-mechanics. Then there is some arthritis in my thumbs that, when I play too long, results in a total lock-up cramp of my left hand.

Shorter practice sessions, a shoulder rest that I didn't use before the clavicle injury, and generally taking it easier keep my ability to play. Fortunately, I don't perform or make a living with the violin. I play enough to continue to enjoy the instrument.

June 10, 2018 at 11:25 PM · I've suffered injuries from other things that have affected playing (wrist and forearm stuff from weights/fitness, generally) but never stuff directly from viola.

Most of my injuries don't affect my playing because there is little force and the plane of action is very different.

June 11, 2018 at 01:06 AM · I have carpal tunnel in my right wrist occasionally, but I've found a series of stretches that pretty much fixes that. The biggest issue is that my right shoulder has developed arthritis which irritates the bursa there; every few years, a cortisone shot is needed. (I love the cortisone shots.)

June 11, 2018 at 11:54 AM · I have a grumbling pain in my right shoulder joint. Anyone got a cure for this?

June 11, 2018 at 04:34 PM · Every single violin player or viola player should read Isaak Vigdorchik's "Violin Playing: A Physiological Approach." It is worth checking out of the library if you cannot find a copy. This book, and a student of Galamian, have helped me avoid any playing injuries in my career. I have never, ever played with pain except from the flu or other non-violin related things.

June 12, 2018 at 01:18 AM · I had left shoulder bursitis a few years ago from sleeping heavily on the shoulder, and this later developed into frozen shoulder which I self-treated successfully. I was relieved that it didn't affect my playing at all.

Now the bursitis has returned and is worse, and hurt last night at my community orchestra rehearsal. I am worried to say the least.

Ironically, the problems that stopped me advancing to be a professional - short pinky and thumb, and inflexlible wrist - have not troubled me since the shoulder got worse. I've had a very sore wrist at times in recent years, and a joint subluxation in the pinkie that perenially threatens to return.

Just for the record, I have a mild spinal scoliosis that was first pointed out to me when I was 20, which I think is from violin playing. My spinal muscles are constantly in spasm in a zigzag formation, and I've never been able to practice more than an hour a day.

Ah, the life of a musician...

June 12, 2018 at 04:40 PM · When I first switched from violin to viola, I developed tennis elbow in my left arm. (Must be all those Strauss waltzes.) I found a good exercise to deal with it. While holding a small (3 to 5 pound) dumbbell in your left hand, lay your left forearm flat on a desk with the hand hanging over the edge, palm down. Use your right hand to raise the dumbbell, flexing the left wrist, which remains relaxed. Release the right hand and use your left wrist to slowly lower the dumbbell. Do three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions several times a day. These eccentric contractions proved quite effective for controlling the pain. Before long I was completely cured, and the pain has never returned; either I've adjusted my arm position in a way to avoid undue strain, or I've developed my "viola muscles".

June 13, 2018 at 11:42 PM · I had neck pain from the viola. Fixed by physical therapy. Nowadays just way more aware and careful of posture. So far so good. Paul Deck

June 14, 2018 at 08:22 PM · wishing to tell my story and also preserve medical privacy, how does one respond anonymous ?

June 15, 2018 at 02:18 PM · I played for 30 years without an injury, then I tore my left rotator cuff. I have managed to get about everything back but internal rotation so it's now hard to play in first position on the G string without turning the violin almost perpendicular to the floor. Vibrato in 1st is also a challenge and I do a wrist vibrato! I can only play the violin for about 20 minutes under 0 stress and 7 under stress.

I have always had pain behind the left shoulder blade when I played too much when I was getting a music degree. That hasn't gone away and eventually I have to stop playing because it's too hard to hold the violin. Normally I don't play through the pain but I had to on a few recitals.

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