Resting your elbows

September 15, 2008 at 06:45 PM · Well... I am really not maent to be using my arms too much, I over played and doctor said I had 'mild tendonitis' but a week later only said it was due to over working but wasn't AS severe as diagnosed. Still, I don't want to ruin myself... Today from playing violin (after awhile - I rested fairly often to), I could feel my nerves being hit in the elbow (I could also push that certain part of my elbow and it provokes that 'funny elbow' feeling)

I am going to buy elbow bracers and wear those (Should be either tommorow or wednesday) How would I go about in balancing resting time/work and practise? I want to recover completely but I want to practise.

Replies (36)

September 15, 2008 at 08:00 PM · I have the same thing on my elbow about 3 years ago. I had to stop playing for 3 months completely. When I started back up again I felt much better but to this day I make sure that I warm up properly, stretch my muscles before and after playing, and I am aware of my limitations. I practice for shorter amounts of time but I make them count. I also avoid lifting heavy things, or even opening doors with that arm.

Although I am always aware of tendonitis coming back, I can still go through 6 hour rehearsals like yesterday and live to tell about it. I feel no pain so that's good.

Be aware, stretch, warm up, and take the necessary precautions. Advil helps too.

September 15, 2008 at 10:30 PM · Yikes 3 months??? I barely lasted 4 days. I even almost cried XDD

Thank you for the advice though.

September 16, 2008 at 12:58 AM · dimitri, don't you think it is quite important to check with a specialist (not just any doctor) in your country so you know for sure with confidence?

from what you are describing, if you wish, you may want to start with a google on cubital tunnel syndrome...

September 16, 2008 at 02:00 AM · :S

Where would I begin to go check with a specialist? Any specific doctor that I am supposed to visit?

This has me scared now :S Atleast my elbow isn't doing that funny bone feeling when I provoke it but still.....

When my doctor diagnosed me she recommended me to go visit a physio, I still have yet to find one >.>

September 16, 2008 at 02:18 AM · d, just like if you have a problem with your prized violin if you have one, you may come to the internet for a solution (which is free at first but may be costly in the long run) or head for a trusted luthier who shall be reimbursed for the service. but, it seems that most people come to the internet first anyway:)

not trying to scare you, just want to share some common sense. not sure what australia is like with specialization, but your "doctor" may point the way to something in the line of neurology, orthopedics or rehabilitation, etc.

by the way, what is your opinion of a valuable, authentic, great sounding strad?

September 16, 2008 at 02:18 AM · I see the sense of your analogy. Also your expecting me to to say "Yes strads are beautiful bla bla bla I want one for myself" to hahaha.

I'll book an appointment this friday for the doctor, I'll start writing down some notes to remind myself of what to ask her and describe the symptoms I'm experiencing. She seemed very understandable of the whole thing and describe it in steps (If it kept progressing in severity)

1. Take ibuprofen

2. Elbow Splints

3. Injections

4. Surgery

I think I'll avoid the injections however, by my understanding they wear down the tissue. I've also been doing 'pressure point' massage I'll bring that up with her aswell.

Also, if I mention the cubital tunnel it might change the diagnosis completely...

Still... It's all worth it, I want to spend as much time playing the violin.

Thanks for talking in common sense.

September 16, 2008 at 02:19 AM · d, i wish you the best luck and quick recovery and i can imagine for someone so intersted in violin and just starting out, it must suck having this burden on your mind and ,,,elbow.

proceed with caution (trust no one, believe nothing, including my posts) but try to get to the bottom of it, that is, the correct diagnosis. from there, you can confidently rebuild yourself and your playing mechanics.

forgive me for asking you about the strad. there was a saying that would you trade your arm for a billion dollars,,,

i was going to ask you if you would trade your elbow for a strad and expect you to say no way:)

since you are on your way to check it out further, i would take that back:)

September 16, 2008 at 02:28 AM · " I can still go through 6 hour rehearsals "

Ohhh Marina you are my hero !

Your postings are straight on and true.

Thanks !!!!!!!!

September 16, 2008 at 02:27 AM · Bah! Its all mind games! Here I am trying to second guess your second guess of my response and you just...killed me :P

I must of brought this onto myself, I'll admit I noticed signs a few months ago with my elbow - I simply thought I hit my elbow onto something (Didn't happen again till a few months later - actually when I started my new job). Must also be something to do with all those years spent using a computer XDD

There is probably a formula for the rate my elbow was healing at (When I first started violin I played 8 hours a day for the first 2-3 months, then cut down to 3 hours, now its boredline 1~2 hours) - does this mean I have to start playing longer hours for no elbow problems? hehe, I don't mind that.

Hmmm this is all valueable information to tell the doctor.

See the internet does help!!!

September 16, 2008 at 02:49 AM · 8 hrs a day,,,sounds like a job:) now you are scaring me. tomorrow morning i will threaten my kid,,,if you don't focus in your 40 mins, we will skip school and play 8 hrs/day, till your elbows drop. and get them fixed in australia.

which elbow of yours i am not sure yet? i suppose it can be more challenging if it is your right side...

September 16, 2008 at 03:09 AM · I kind of have the same situation,kinda...

For me, it used to be when I was playing 4 hours a day at first, and I had the pain in my left wrist, and I used to wear a brace thing, and now I dont get pain in that arm, even when I've had an 8 hour session throughout the day. I do have a little pain right now, but that's only because I've been typing and writing notes AND practicing a lot today... So it kinda depends on the day for me!

I get pain in my right wrist or on my forearm. This happens usually only when i've been playing a lot of fast solo Bach(which is everyday!),,, But it doesnt bug me alot and it's easy to work through...

It helps if your fit as well, At least your arms.

September 16, 2008 at 03:34 AM · Joe you're like my cheerleader sometimes. :)

September 16, 2008 at 05:56 AM · Al Ku its actually my left elbow. Originally I had it in both elbows, except my right has definantly recovered in terms of 'over-use', its much more relaxed. I'm wearing the brace on now and its kind of..restraining, it will take some time getting used to it when practising.

Also the reason I cut down in practise is because I found a thing called a job.. and I hate it =[ Trying to apply for Pet Store job now heheheeheehe... Its gonna suck when I go back to TAFE next year I hope my time table is very good =[

Paul G, it makes sense but I'm definantly not unhealthy/unfit (Well my fitness has gone down alot since of winter season). Though you have given me confidence that I can still learn to play fast passages hehe :D

Now I just need to get the medical phone number >.>

September 16, 2008 at 11:05 AM · Okay, Paul and Dmitri, you guys are both 'relatively' new to violin, and you've got a long career ahead of you, so I think it's really important to make something very clear.

The violin should not hurt! If it does, it's a sign that you aren't using your muscles correctly, or that you've got far too much tension in your body while playing. It might not seem like much now, but the habits you build and damage you do now can affect your playing for the rest of your lives.

What to do about it?

Emphasize general good posture and freedom of movement. Get in touch with an Alexander or Feldenkreis teacher, or take a yoga class. Alexander in particular will help you gain an awareness of where tension is and how it appears. Often, we've had poor habits for so long they feel natural to us, while in reality, we're using our bodies all wrong. I'm sure one of the Alexander teachers on the site would be glad to elaborate.

Stretch before you start playing. Have a good warm-up with and without the instrument.

On the violin: go slow! Here you're going to need a lot of patience and concentration. Dmitri, some questions first. Do you take breaks? How long do you play at once? What hurts, and when? Depending on the severity, you may need to limit your practice to ten minutes at a time, with longer breaks (like 20 minutes) between each set. During your practice, concentrate on freeing your body, feeling that the entire back-shoulder-arm-ebow-wrist-finger/thumb unit works as one free mechanism. Are you squeezing with your chin? How about your left thumb? Is your wrist free? What's going on with your shoulders? Use your other hand to manipulate the joints to see if there's any resistance. Don't forget to investigate your other side as well. Even though problems are showing up on the left, they may also exist on the right - our bodies like to mirror themselves. Be careful of any sudden jumps in speed or technical difficulty, as they may cause tension to well up and exacerbate your problem.

What you're doing here, even if it doesn't feel like it, is crucial practicing for the rest of your career.

Play for ten minutes. Stop. Put down the fiddle. Lie on the floor and feel your muscles sink into it. You can do some mental practice now, plan what you're going to work on next, or make a cup of tea. Give your body a chance to relax and refuel. If you're giving the practice above your full attention, your mind will be in need of the break as well!

Over time, gradually increase the length and number of the practice sessions and decrease the length of the breaks. Move to 15 minute sessions, and so on. Make sure you don't increase too much too fast. If anything hurts or is sore, STOP. A general rule of thumb, even when you're practicing 5-6 hours a day, is to practice for 45-50 minutes and take a 10-15 minute break each hour. Again, you don't have to lose focus in the break, but you should put the fiddle down and let your muscles do something else.

Avoid using the computer too much - this can cause or aggravate all sorts of problems itself.

During my studies, many of my friends had serious problems with their arms and hands. Some of them had to give up the violin and change directions completely. Playing professionally is strenuous (a Wagner opera can easily last 6 hours), and it's so important to develop healthy playing/practicing habits early.

September 16, 2008 at 08:13 AM · USE ICE. The way I have used ice in the past to very very good effect is to: take the ice pack and don't put it in a towel or whatever, put it on the bare skin (i.e. all the area which hurts and the area of all the muscles/tendons connected to that area), leave it there until it goes numb, keep it on for another 5-10 minutes for good measure (10-30 minutes total, which also varies depending on how large of an area - elbows shouldn't take too long), then take it off. Wait for your elbow to defreeze and you should be in playing condition. Don't warm it up by putting it on something warm, like your hand. Let your body warm it up by increasing the blood flow. If, after defreezing, it's still bothering you, sleeping it off and maybe repeat the next day.

Also, I don't want to stir a nest of bees here, but are you using a shoulder rest? It might be creating tension in your elbows....Although that's a total shot in the dark.

Paul, my wrists hurt too when I type too much; I guess typing is a more athletic activity than playing the violin :P.

September 16, 2008 at 09:56 AM · Megan, bless you - this is one of the directions I have been searching for.

(I'm sorry for this long post hun!)

When I first played I didn't really take too many breaks (I played for insane lengths of time - 8 hours), but over time I realised this was stupid and I try to incorporate alot of breaks, I try time myself to play for 10~15 minutes, then take a 5 minute break and repeat and rinse. Though I don't really 'relax' my body during that break period (I could probably relax my body via meditation, I use it often to clear my mind out if I can't focus) - its a good idea you bring it up.

The only PAIN I had suffered from was squeezing too tight with my right hands thumb - that was when I had an improper bow grip and my pinky felt the pressure (That was due to being self-taught) My current teacher fixed that.

However, the discomfort isn't very common - it happens after practising the violin for a period of time (E.G. Three hours) then sometimes it feels like I've hit my funny bone (I know to stop immediately and rest the whole day if that happens - well now I do atleast =/) - today it has been perfect though (I have also been playing with the bracer on - It is annoying but it feels like it is really doing something)

Just before I continue - No I do not use a shoulder rest (I am going to buy one and try pracitising with it, comparing how I feel between the two)

I have noticed AS I am playing (If I am concetrating too hard I end up straining too hard also) that I end up pressing my chin into my chin rest - I always try to make certain that I am playing 'Gentle', I always start off relaxed and calm - but I have noted that sometimes I come out of it tense. I have been trying to figure out why, my only idea is - maybe if I buy a shoulder rest it'll help.

Funny you mention the 'left thumb', a few months ago I was having constant problems with it - I kept tensing up with my thumb while playing the violin, I tried practising without it for a little bit and every now-and-then I let my thumb loose and readjust it on the violin (Its more like I tap it against the fingerboard); that seems to of dealt with the problem. But again, I'm afraid I may of gotten 'used to it' instead of over it.

I think I have to cut computer out of the picture a large amount, but its a bit hard... I want to stop using computers but after all of these years I have become really proficient with them - I am even studying programming next year.... I don't want to do it anymore, but I have no idea what I want to do career wise (Apart from [trying to] play violin professional - but would my parents support this?)

I even had a big fight with my step-father of me wanting to get into I.T (hell, at the time I was fighting for something I didn't even want to do) - he didn't want me to go into it and told me to get a full time job instead. I really do want to get into the Violin business, I told my teacher I want to play professionaly and she's pushing me really hard to go for it. If I do end up studying programming next year, I'm going to have a long hard talk with the teacher and my 'ergonomic' needs. I guess I will study programming, it'll fuel my passion for violin even further. Just constant timed breaks for me, hehe.

Charles, haha yeah Ice does wonders - I only tried it for one night however (did it while watching a movie) and it felt remarkable the next day! I'll try make it my before bed routine. I mentioned somewhere in my current post that I don't play with a shoulder rest, I am actually considering to buy one to compare the difference and feel of it.


Thank you soo much for posting here guys, its really given me alot to chew - I want to become really great and play for a long time.

September 16, 2008 at 11:59 AM · what megan has suggested, though not particularly new to readers, makes a lot of sense and is worth repeating. often, we know what is the right/wrong approach in our hind brain (is there such a thing?), but when we are in the midth of the excitement/greed to get better in violin faster, we take short cuts, as we often do in other parts of life, such as buying houses that we cannot afford:) therefore, it is great to have forums like to refresh our awareness of the necessary routines that are healthy for the long term. boring perhaps, but quite important. everyone trains hard for the olympics but only those not injured gets to go.

i want to point out one thing clearer, something about soft tissue injury which often plagues violinists/sports people. funny thing about it is that when you first "hurt" "it", it does not necessarily make you jump up and scream, something you may do if you break a bone. it may feel tight, a little achy, something you would have felt some other days doing something else. so the courageous you, like everyone else, make a decision to march foward on the same path of play till you drop. the difference right there is that you don't shovel snow EVERYDAY but you play the violin EVERYDAY, which sets you up for cumulative trauma. before you heal completely, you injure again. because of poor blood supply to some of the soft tissues in questions, some soft tissue injury heal very poorly. under stress, fibrosis sets in, leading to a cascade of chronic symptoms. (on the other hand, if you break a bone, after couple months of cast and rest because you are really scared, it heals completely since bony structures have great blood supply to rebuild properly, thus the saying go break a leg?)

gradually, with improper healing and new injury or reinjury, your body actually gets used to it somewhat,,,you build up tolerance to the discomfort while you hurt yourself even more. you can actually use anti-inflam or ice or whatever the wrong way to hide the symptoms, because you want more out of life, right here right now. then one day you wake up with a basket of issues to untangle and you start to wonder,,,why am i so young but feel so old and uncomfortable? how did this happen all of a sudden?

back to megan's post about developing good habits and routines. if you have not developed them, you are at risk, close to 100% in the long term.

further, directed at no one in particular but to violinists as a whole, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced mental state. from what i understand, it may not come easily, naturally because of the lofty goals and standards set by wizards like heifetz, etc and constant competition from better players around you. you may start hating yourself and use physical pain to alleviate your anguish, as a way of self punishment, for the mistaken perception of you being lazy.

September 16, 2008 at 01:58 PM · Hi, Dimitri,

I am also having pain in my left elbow, and I am exploring some options for correcting the problem. I have altered my practice schedule; I am working specifically on relaxing my left hand; I am getting ready to contact an Alexander Technique practitioner. I am also paying particular attention to how I am holding the violin, and I have asked my teacher to look over everything very carefully. Here are two things we are discussing.

First, I need to be very careful about keeping my left wrist straight to softly curved. If it bends backwards ("pancakes") there is a lot of unnecessary work done by the muscle and tendon that is involved with "tennis elbow". (One of its jobs is to stabilize the wrist when the fingers move.)

Second, I have moved the violin further to the left. It was creeping forward to be sort of in front of my body and we have put it more open. Although the forward position clearly works for some people, it forces the hand and arm to twist further around to line up on the strings. The closer the violin is to parallel with your chest, the less the hand and arm have to twist.

So those are my current strategies. Your case may be utterly different. Take it for what it's worth. And good luck!


September 16, 2008 at 02:13 PM · Three cheers for Megan, loads of great advice and information in her post.

I've always considered myself extremely lucky that all of my teachers have made a big thing about correct posture, relaxation, reduction in tension etc etc right from the first months I started to play violin. As a result I've been lucky never to suffer any of these kind of injuries (touch wood of violin) Sometimes I used to think that their floppy limbs and deep breathing exercises seemed really silly at the time but now when I look back and realise how it has never HURT to play the violin, I'm eternally grateful for the way in which my teachers concentrated on this.

I really recommend the original poster to look into having some instruction in Alexander Technique.

One can only repeat once again what Megan says:


September 16, 2008 at 02:31 PM · I had a few injections in my elbow for bad tendonitis when NASAIDS didn't help. They really didn't hurt and the pain has been gone for ten years.

What others say is so true, play relaxed. I would go so far as to stop every few measures and take inventory on whether everything is relaxed and free. However, your left fingers need to be semi rigid, but pliable. An oxymoron, true, but when my teacher got me to do that there was a major improvement.

Check out Drew Lescher's latest blog for left hand "relaxation."

September 16, 2008 at 02:57 PM · Also, going along with Al & Megan, it's also easy to fall back into a bad habit. Usualy we 'drift' back so schedualing time for a reality check... Check ourself out head to toe to see if a bad habit has crept back.

September 16, 2008 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

I agree with Royce but reocmmedn being a little mre proactive. When one pracytices a passage one tends ot focus on one criteria at the expense of the others. This point is addressed in Burton Kaplans book (artistic development) in whch he teaches hw to consciuolsuy focus on either intonation, tone, expressin or rythm , arguing that violinst typically focus on intonation. However. I think one should take this approach a step further.

ASdd the criteria of absolute ease of performance . This should be focused on as much in work on an individual passage as anything else.



September 17, 2008 at 12:05 AM · Hm I found one Alexander practioner locally but he's $75 per 45 minutes. I don't know how I'd manage on my current wage and necessicty to spend =/

(Paying off my mouth bracers which cost a fortune)

*edit* found another one she didn't give a price but I'll give her a call up during my lunch break :D

September 17, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Greetings,

yes, AT lessons are usually expensive. Its sometimes rather like investing in a new instrument. The payoffs usually last a lifetime and are as valubale. But its hard and it can feel like a gamble to many.

Best of luck,


September 17, 2008 at 01:54 AM · I've contacted 3 soo far now I just have to wait, going to try compare prices and distance to travel. I'm going to take some classes with Alexander without a doubt - It sounds like an investment well worth it, I'll try save up a pool of cash (hopefully $750) or half of that and I'll go visit. I just have too much needing to be paid off. (I get paid fortnightly, every pay check I get - $200 off for Bracers, $100 off for 2 weeks of violin lessons) I only get like... $450. I'd get more shifts but really I get too discomforted here.

September 17, 2008 at 02:13 AM · Greetings,

ten lessons is usually enough to get a good grasp of the basics. After that it depends n the individual.

I took a lot longer;)



September 17, 2008 at 03:08 AM · Beautiful! I called up the Alexander Technique place, she said she'd reduce the price for me down to 65 p/h. Now I just need to make sure I have enough money, I think if I budget myself properly I will be able to make it :D

Also doctors on friday 9am.

Now I just need to write up everything that I'm going to talk to her about, phew.

I'm kinda of worried atm, I Was wearing the brace for 20 minutes, I took it off and it felt like I had a build-up on my elbow, so I touched it and I felt my nerve being pinched... but I'm being a bit of a pendantic *itch and I've been playing with it alot to.. I mean 1 out of 70 times of touching it is good.

I hope I am not making a bigger issue out of it than really is.

OH ALSO Important - I went to pharmacist and she recommended to me 'Voltaren Emulgel', instead of taking ibuprofen (oral drug) she gave me a rub-on instead, I've also been using that.

Man my doctor is going to have a heart attack when I see her.

September 17, 2008 at 10:19 AM · Lose 65 pounds per hour... Dang! At first I thought it was a diet!

September 17, 2008 at 11:06 PM · oh, you@ve tried fasting too!

September 18, 2008 at 01:06 AM · Yes Stephen, I have tried fasting. However, with my family's genetics, after turning fourty every time I have a dream I'm chewing gum I gain 5 pounds! Sigh.

September 19, 2008 at 01:43 PM · Hi All

I ended up whacking my elbow really hard on the corner of my piano whilst teaching last year right on the funny bone (really wasn't funny), and ended up with tennis elbow for many months. Voltaren Emugel worked absolute wonders, combined with one of those tennis band things around my elbow.

I've had the worst luck with my arms, have RSI in my hands from working as a Word Processing Operator around 5 years ago (bad situation, long story - don't ever work for Lawyers, lol) and we didn't think I'd ever be able to play violin again, because I couldn't even hold a pencil. But I can still teach, and thankfully can still play, but no-where near as well as I used to. Especially not if I continue whacking my arms around :)

Take care of your elbows, hands, arms, legs, feet, eyes etc lol. You'll really regret it if you have to go through what I went through. Heartbreaking to think you'll never be able to play again.

Take lots of breaks, definitely stop if it even remotely hurts (it really shouldn't hurt in the first place, unless you have RSI like me) and if you have to stop playing for a little while (eg a few weeks or whatever to allow for recovery), it's best to do so, because you could make things worse.



September 19, 2008 at 02:31 PM · I want to propose again that a lot of "RSI's" are really what one doctor calls Tension Myositis Syndrome - i.e. your body is distracting you so unconscious distress won't surface in the conscious.

Once you accept that this is happening, the pain goes away.

I am deeply indebted to the doctor who seemed to pioneer the theory behind this process, Dr. John Sarno from NYU Medical Center. He's written lots of books on this - The Mindbody Prescription, Healing Back Pain, The Divided Mind, etc.

There's a lot on this on the internet as well...Wikipedia has a good overview on it for starters.

Essentially, what I'm proposing here is that there doesn't need to be anything wrong with your body for your body to create pain.

I've had numerous manifestations of this, the most severe of which was nerve pain down both arms that, of course, no doctor was able to figure out.

I accept that a lot of people here will probably read this post, think, "nonsense," and move on, but I urge you to reconsider. For me, and others I've known, learning about this rid them of their pain.

September 19, 2008 at 10:59 PM · Greetings,

I belive in this 100% percent. In particular back pain has an emotiona trigger , the reolsution of which can obviate the need for surgery in many cases. That I think was Sarnos speciality.



March 6, 2010 at 12:06 AM ·

While this may be a massive bump, the pain was attributed to a massively terrible technique :)

I made some life style changes also, got back nito proper exercise.

Over the past year I've learnt the Russian style of playing and I have been pain free ever since, no need for AT or ssurgery or anything - I don't get the 'shocks' anymore either. Just change of technique, arm stretchs and push ups :D

(I never visited an AT specialist)

March 6, 2010 at 03:45 AM ·

Another one who got ride of the pain with the Russian training...  ; ) 

It's fantastic what a stick can do... (just joking there is no stick at all!)

I am as strong as a butterfly and violin was really painful. I though I would break! I remember putting ice and taking pills daily... But this stoped when I began to learn with the Russian way. Maybe a little hard for the ears (slightly high decibel instructions!) but how good for the posture... In addition, it has streighen my back and helped me gained srengh without forcing.   I think the key is to learn to play without tension, with the good setup, beeing aware to not lift the left shoulder etc.    And good bowing technique/direction too. I owe my teacher to not feel pain anymore and too of course.

Happy this as worked for you as well!!!





March 9, 2010 at 09:59 AM ·

Its awesome .. I can't play using a SR anymore either (Well I can play using an SR it just feels too weird - I can find my comfort faster without SR), and I only get 'fatigue' from playing long time! No pains at all :D My neck only gets sore if I decide to press too hard because the passage is hard or something .. If thats the case, then I know I gotta slow down and just practice till I start crying from repetition haha. All I have to do now is get a lighter violin, I realised recently that mine weighs a ton after playing on a professional one (It was soo light and pretty sounding!) - my current violin feels like I have a cello on my shoulder

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