Jaw Pain

February 20, 2004 at 07:12 AM · I studied violin fairly seriously as a student and then gave it up for 20 years when I raised my children. About a month ago,I started playing again. Among other things, I needed a new shoulder rest.

I purchased a Kun. At first I thought it was great. It was higher than my old one so I hardly have to bend my head down to hold the violin. But now I have a lot of pain in my jaw. Now I am thinking that maybe a lower shoulder rest is better. If there is more space between my chin and the violin and I have to lower my head more, then maybe there is more of the natural weight of the head holding the violin.

Can anyone comment on the height of the shoulder rest and how much the head should have to lower rest the chin on the chinrest?


Replies (40)

February 20, 2004 at 04:26 PM · Could you be unconciously clenching your jaw when you play? I did that for awhile, or I still sometimes do it when learning something new and difficult. I don't notice it until my jaw starts hurting, but my teacher can tell immediatly if I start doing that.

February 20, 2004 at 06:59 PM · I'm experiencing the same jaw pains. I didn't think it was my shoulder rest though, because my jaw only started hurting after I got braces, which is quite recently, like a month ago. Anyway, I have a KUN too... I think it's too high for me.

February 21, 2004 at 02:22 AM · Greetings,

Deena, how much to lower the head and how to get it there in the first place are crucial issues. One reason is that the vertabrea involved in rotating the head while upright is differnet from the one concerned with the nodding action. Thus it is a very good idea to separate the two moevemnts every time you put the violion up. Thatis, put the violin up without moving the head at all. Then turn the head to the left without letting it drop at all. You might be surprised to hear that many professional players find this rather difficult to do. Only whne the hes is turned to the left where you want it to be should you let it drop. Practice this double ation over and over.

However, if you are using a good combination of chin rest and shoulder rest the head should not drop very much at all. In fatc you hardly need to use it at all. If you don"t use a rest then you need to use the head more on the downward shifts but the amount of pressur eis minimalconsidering the huge weight of the head and how light a violin is.

Putting the rest too hight creates the illusion that you need -more- rest because it forces the hea dbackwards and lengthens the throat.

I sugest you play around with the following:

1) Try a lot of chinrests.

2) Lower your shoulder rest.

3) Practice weith your head away from the instrument -cmpletely. Look in the other direction in act. this has other benefits as well...

4) Try chewing gum whileyou practice.

5) Consult a dentist immediately. Stroing up even the slighest probelm with teeth or jaw is extremely foolhardy. I know to my cost.



February 21, 2004 at 08:07 AM · Hi,

I had experienced jaw pain before, too. Sometimes it would hurt me quite bad that I had to stop practicing for a little while before I could play again. And it's not the shoulder rest giving me the problem, but the chinrest. After I switch to another chinrest, I have no jaw pain anymore and I could play a lot more freely! So definitely try as many chinrest as you can!

February 21, 2004 at 12:00 PM · A dentist might also suggest wearing a night guard when you play to keep your teeth from grinding. It feels a little awkward - a piece of plastic between your upper and lower teeth - but it can help you to stop grinding, which can lead to tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ) problems.

February 21, 2004 at 02:37 PM · I have a severe and complicated case of myofacial pain or TMJ syndrome. Dentists and PTs keep telling me to stop playing the violin. Ha! I recommend several things. Try different shoulder rests and chin rests, and try modifying the way you hold the violin when playing. It's important to find a way of playing that doesn't give you pain. Do some simple stretching exercises for the neck after you play and, if necessary, stop and stretch your neck from time to time when you're practicing. If the pain gets really bad, use Aleve and moist heat. The goal is to keep your muscles relaxed.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

April 30, 2004 at 01:25 PM · In my experience, much of the neck tension while playing w/out a shoulder rest is caused by the tendency of the violin to slip sideways. To prevent this lateral movement, the natural reaction is to apply excessive vertical pressure from the head. After trying several materials, I found that a mouse pad cut in the adequate shape is very useful to keep it in place. It is adhesive w/out being sticky. Otherwise, the violin will slip on your clothes. Mutter plays w/out a shoulder rest but her violin is kept in place because it is in direct contact w/ her skin.

May 1, 2004 at 05:10 PM · Is there somewhere where one can get a plaster cast of the jaw done and then get a chin rest made to fit exactly? I have found a good one after going through about 50, at least it seems like 50, as some are just wrong the way they sit on the jaw. Does anyone else have this problem? I end up looking like Pavarotti waving his white hankie around because I sit the hankie on the chin rest as it helps stop everything slipping. I use a Yehudi Menuhin shoulder rest with springs on each side as it has give in it and doesn't lock me up in a state of tension.

May 1, 2004 at 05:35 PM · i find i can play almost as well without a chin rest at all, seeing as how my head moves around a bit while i play. For me its only necessary to have my cheek and jaw resting on the violin during certain shifts, the rest of hte time i like to glare at the orchestra

May 2, 2004 at 06:18 AM · I too have had jaw pain. I put a gel pad on my chin rest and it cut most of the pain, then I switched from a kun to a wolfe shoulder rest that was higher and I haven't had a problem since.

Jenny, where would one get a Yehudi Menuhin shoulder rest, it sounds really interesting.

May 2, 2004 at 07:06 PM · You can find a Menuhin shoulder rest here:


My teacher just *loved* them.

She used to tell the story that when she was concertmaster at Drake, she, the conductor, and Menuhin were meeting to discuss his appearance with the orchestra. She noticed this odd-looking shoulder rest on his violin and asked about it. He got all excited and told her about this new shoulder rest he was having manufactured. Then said, "Here, try it" and handed her his violin (!). She was instantly hooked.

I never liked them that much, but everybody's different.

May 3, 2004 at 04:32 AM · Beverly I got mine from Lamberti Bros. in Melb. in Aust. There are about 3 different models I think. I am not sure what the one is called that I use. It has springs under each side. There is also a student one without springs at each side which is comfy too but not as comfy as the one I use.

May 4, 2004 at 07:12 PM · I use a Wolf shoulder rest (Forte Secundo,I think... Sorry, it's a bit old- I got it for a fourteenth birthday present- so the label has peeled off) and a rather fat and fluffy face towel (neither old,nor used, I hasten to add!). I fold it in half and wrap it around my chin rest and shoulder rest. It works a treat and gives the bathroom linen industry an excuse to make many a violinist and viola player very happy.

Best wishes,


May 4, 2004 at 07:29 PM · on a very different note, there is a brown recluse lurking in my practice room, which is pretty frightening. To tie it in to this thread, if it bit you on the chin, you would have extreme jaw pain. Now i must go do battle, i'll put on HOlst' Mars, BRINGER OF WAR> DON THY GLOVES, GET THY ROLLED UP MAGAZINE, I SHALL PROTECT MY PRACTICE ROOM NO MATTER THE COST!

May 4, 2004 at 08:14 PM · We don't have those here. I was attacked by an Alaskan mosquito last night while practicing. They are the size of small chickens.

May 5, 2004 at 12:03 AM · hmm, that sounds irritating, at least your arm doesnt rot if you get bit.

May 5, 2004 at 02:18 AM · OH MY GOSH, a mosquito the size of a chicken!? o.O

I went to the bathroom at school today during lunch and there was a mosquito on the toilet seat. -__-" I screamed and dashed out and everyone in line thought I was weird. Mosquitoes are dnagerous!!

May 5, 2004 at 05:48 AM · We found a beautiful spider web strung across our porch, with a big, black spider with a red head sitting at the center, waiting for its prey. The web seemed big enough to logically infer the spider might consider one of my children as potential lunch.

May 5, 2004 at 06:54 AM · Yikes!

May 5, 2004 at 06:03 PM · likely a garden spider, we have a lot of those in california, they are HUGE, and some are fairly venemous so watch out. luckily its hard to miss them

November 25, 2004 at 02:44 AM · I have a TMJ problem to...I put my Kun shoulder rest at almost its maximum height so I don't have to clamp as much, and it also helps to keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth so your jaw doesn't clamp.

Also, frequent breaks are advisable.

November 25, 2004 at 06:52 AM · I have found that often when put on the maxium height, shoulder rests can make you clamp more. I have a longer neck than my sister, but her shoulder rest (she plays the viola) is way higher than mine. As soon as I start to play it, I notice I have to clamp just to keep the bloody thing on my shoulder.

Ergonomically, it's probably best to give your head space to move around and lift up occasionally, as this stops your neck from getting stiff. If you watch any videos of Oistrakh, you'll notice he does this quite a bit. It's therefore important to find an appropriate balance between a high shoulder rest, a low one, or none at all.


November 25, 2004 at 07:30 AM · Try chewing gum while practicing. It will keep you from locking your jaw!

November 25, 2004 at 04:30 PM · In my experience, any jaw pain has come from stress or gritting my teeth when I play. I can't hurt to investigate how tense you are while you play. Next time you practice, you could set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, freeze and think about how your body feels. This worked for me to relieve tension.

November 25, 2004 at 06:17 PM · ya... I also unconsciously clench my jaw a lot. I wondered why my jaw was hurting so badly after I was done practicing. Then my mom was watching me practice once and she told me that I was clenching my jaw a lot. I usually do that when I'm playing a difficult section of a piece. hmmmm... do any of you know how I could prevent from doing that? I mean, it wouldn't look so great if I did that while I was performing.

November 25, 2004 at 10:16 PM · Keep the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, right in front of the palette (the softer, spongier part).

There are also self-moldable jaw guards that prevent clenching - should be available at drugstores.

November 26, 2004 at 03:55 AM · A professor I had in college used to address this issue by having his students stick their tongues out while practicing. it is hard to feel so serious when making a silly face! Another method that helps me is to draw smiley faces in my music at difficult passages to remind myself to relax.

In a conducting course, a professor also told us that violin and viola players tend not to breathe well while playing. He suggested writing in breath marks at phrase ends. This helps me relax, too!

November 26, 2004 at 06:20 AM · I have a serious case of TMJ. One dentist told me that I'd never get well unless I give up playing the violin. Ha! I do a lot of stretching exercises for my neck, shoulder, and facial muscles. I recommend stretching when you're finished playing or when you begin to feel stiff and need a break. Shoulder rolls and head rolls are very helpful. So are stretches for the deltoids, pecs, and neck muscles. I also find it very helpful to stand up and bow down from the waist, as if to touch your toes. Just hang there for a little while and let the blood flow into your head, neck, and shoulders, bringing body warmth to your tight muscles. Ahhhh, it feels good. I hope this helps.

November 26, 2004 at 02:38 PM · I had the same problem for a while, but being a poor grad student, I didn't really have the whole dentist option. Anyway, I remedied the problem myself by cutting plastic-tubed Q-tips in half and letting my left-side molars bite down on one of those. It made the pain go away, but I've had some funny moments with my teacher (who doesn't speak much English in the first place) when he couldn't understand me for the junk in my mouth. Do what works for you!

November 27, 2004 at 01:44 PM · Hello, I'm a brand spanking new violin student as of a month ago and I have intense jaw pain. My teacher never even heard tell of jaw pain relating to the violin until me and she's been teaching for a hundred years, LOL!

I did a search on the net and found this place. I've been reading everything here but it's not doing my pain any good. I tried the carrot in my mouth.....NOT!

Last night, it took me an hour to eat my supper....pain and trying to open my mouth wide enough.

I'm practicing up to three hours a day. I think that might be too much but I don't have much time to learn the instrument, as I'm 53 years old, haha!

My pain is in my right jaw. I'm right handed. I feel my jaw clench and try to correct it while I play. I've tried using just a towel over my shoulder, no shoulder rest and it hurts more.

Anyways, I'll be reading here and welcome any input.

November 27, 2004 at 09:33 PM · Greetings,

how longhave you been learning? Three hours soudns liek it may be too much.

But, first and foremost, no matter how much you looive the violin, please stop and rethink what you are doing. The long term damage associated with the kind of pain you mention is tremendous and it just isn"t necessary.

Try chewing gum (hate the stuff myself) , do whatever you can to kepe the head off the instrument and set a time for five minute inervals or less and stop. Evaluate non criticvally the condition of your teeth/jaw at that moment and plan what to do next.

Alexande rlessons would also help a lot.

Time? Why are uyou weorried about time? You have a good forty more years of playign to go.



November 27, 2004 at 10:21 PM · Thanks for the reply, Buri.

I break my practice time up through the day. It's not straight time.

What do you mean by Alexander lessons?

I will try chewing gum too:)

haha I hope I have 40 years left to play. So far so good.

You advised me to keep my head off the instrument.....does that mean do not use the chin rest to hold the violin in place?

November 28, 2004 at 10:57 AM · Greetings,

if you can search through all the archives of v.commie you will find me mentioning Alexander again and again. It is a system of self awareness and control/movement study that is now taught at most reputable music institutions; Julliard, Rcm , Arcm etc becuas einstrumentalist have recognizes that a non specilaist can pinpont dangerous or ineffcicient movement very quickly if they are trained by such a system.

the benifits for any kind of tensiob problem are so enormous it is not even worth bothering listing them.

You might do a 'google' for Conable-Alexander for some top teahcers giving a overview.

yes, I do mean keep your head off the instrument. If you don"t know how to put it there in the first place you may be in trouble. Diffenrent vertabrae have differnet functions that we are often not aware of. It is also probale that you have habits of misusing the body that are unrelated to violin playuing that you automatically integrate into your playing. No offence intended- all human beings (in my experience) learn bad use of the body from their parents from abour three onwards...



PS keep coming with the questions.

November 29, 2004 at 12:21 AM · I'm writing again as a long term TMJ patient. Don't chew gum! That's one of the most effective ways of triggering jaw pain. When you're hurting, apply moist heat and take Alleve. Once you're past the acute pain and stiffness, try gentle exercises for the facial muscles. You can probably learn them from a dentist or PT with a specialty in myofacial pain. I'll search the Internet for such exercises for you and other people. You can write to me and I'll try to explain the exercises. I also recommend some mild stretching of the neck and shoulders when you're finished practicing or whenever your muscles feel bad. This is good for prevention of pain.

I have really suffered from intense TMJ/myofacial pain intermittently for many years. I've even been told that I'll never get well unless I give up playing the violin. Hah! I'm still playing and you can, too, if you just learn how to take care of yourself.

December 4, 2004 at 08:11 PM · Hello. When I recently started playing again after a 15-20 year hiatus, I found that my Yehudi Menuhin shoulder rest was in need of repair. I noticed a link in this discussion to a site that sold "Menuhin" shoulder rests, but upon ordering the rest I found that it is NOT the original Menuhin shoulder rest, but is a Chinese-made knockoff which is not adjustable and higher than the original. This newer version says "Albert Breton" and "made in China" on it.

This newer version does not work for me like the orginal Yehudi Menuhin rest does. Does anyone out there know where I can get a real Yehudi Menuhin shoulder rest? Are they (I'm afraid) not made any more? If they are not made any more, can anyone recommend a shoulder rest which is closer to the original Menuhin in form and function than the Chinese version? Thanks for your help.

December 4, 2004 at 11:25 PM · i dont see what shoulder rest has to do with jaw pain particularily.

December 5, 2004 at 07:29 AM · Greetings,

shoulder rests can induce clamping whe used badly. But from a philosphical perspective I think you are right. The fault is not the tool but the way one is using it,



December 5, 2004 at 03:57 PM · Re-Deena Schrier, jaw pain.

I am professional violinist, and have jaw pain(TMJ),which

can be solved by teeth guard.

Also, shoulder pads have little to do with it. It,s your neck"make up", and physical and emotional aproach to holding, and violin playing. I use Kuhn,

and it helps some.I would like to continue this subject,

because it,s important,for all professionals! It can become a handicap.

Thank you!

December 5, 2004 at 07:48 PM · i suppose if it fits badly, it seems to me it would be more the chin rest than the shoulder, and of course it all boils down to whether or not you're clamping your jaw.

December 6, 2004 at 05:52 AM · I think that an appropriate setup is important (i.e. comfortable chinrest that is high enough, good shoulder rest set properly on the violin or not rest). However, I think that it is simple: just don't squeeze with your neck down on the chinrest. That is the best way to avoid jaw pain.

A good band-aid solution from Joseph Silverstein. Chew gum for a couple of weeks while practicing. Helps to get the jaw free. Has worked on some of my students, so definitely worth a try. Cheers!

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