Forearm pain - Round shoulders

Edited: February 2, 2018, 2:49 PM · Hey Guys

Whenever I play for a longer period of time I suffer from a forearm pain and slight wrist pain in my right arm. I think I have good technique - I dont rise my shoulder the thumb is between frog and leather and I hold the bow as in textbooks and even if I focus on being completely relaxed I still feel the pain.

This really bothers me because when I play some fast piecies I cant even handle more than 1 - 2 minute of playing and I have to take rest for a little while.

I definetely know I have so called round shoulders. Did anyone has similiar experience and could be this reason of my pain?

Thank you.

Replies (23)

February 2, 2018, 12:01 PM · Can you post a selfie?
February 2, 2018, 12:06 PM · Could it be due to another medical concern or injury? You might try a massage and see what may happen.
Edited: February 2, 2018, 3:02 PM · Here is my shoulder. Sorry for the quality but I think you can see it.

No I have never had any kind of major injury. When I was younger I only bruised my fingers few times but I doubt thats the reason of my pain.

February 2, 2018, 3:34 PM ·

Judging from the picture alone... you have very poor posture: from head to toe. Your chin is too forward and your shoulder blade is too out. You are either number 1 or 3 in this pic........

February 2, 2018, 3:43 PM · Aleš, I don't know where you are located but I suggest looking for an Alexander Technique instructor. AT is about good posture and avoiding unnecessary tension. My violin teacher used it.
February 2, 2018, 3:55 PM · Thank you, I need to improve my posture but I am wondering if its the bad posture that results in my forearm pain because I dont have any neck pain or back pain.
Edited: February 2, 2018, 4:17 PM · The textbook bow hold is not for everyone. Try holding the bow in somewhat different ways for your usual "1- 2 minutes" of "fast playing" and see if there is a way to avoid the pain.
You can think of the muscle/joint chain running from your fingers to you neck and back and be pretty sure the problem is somewhere in there - not a lot of help.

I just found relief earlier this week from a right hand tremor problem that has affected my violin/viola bowing for the past 3 years. Prescription pills did not help enough. It finally occurred to me a year ago that it might be right shoulder muscles - but "Kaiser"exercises didn't help. Giving up the "textbook" bow holds did not work - although it helped. This Monday I decided to try an electric massager we have had in the house for 20 years on my right shoulder area. Ten seconds of that each morning and I have been able to play without tremor this week.

I have shoulder and back physique similar to yours. Not textbook posture - BUT IT'S MY POSTURE and always has been - can't really do anything about it - my grandpa had it too.

Edited: February 2, 2018, 8:09 PM · Andrew Victor - Thank you for your advice. Well if you have similiar posture to mine and you also experience pain then it looks like that its the bad posture that causes it.

I definetely have to improve my posture. It will be beneficial not just for my violin playing. How long did you try those Kaiser exercises ? I have done some research on "Round shoulders" and some people told that it can take up to one year to have a good posture again. Maybe you gave up too early.

If this doesnt help I will probably consider some other advice you gave me but I need to try some strenghtening exercises for at least few months.

I am also surprised I didnt find almost any information on the internet about this. There is so many people who suffer from pain when playing and not everyone realizes that it could be the poor posture that causes the pain. I have seen plenty of children in my school who have bad posure but their teachers didnt tell them to do anything about it.

Edited: February 2, 2018, 9:16 PM · You would definitely benefit from a few well-tailored excesses to bring more balance to your shoulders.
Some of them are described in "The Athletic Musician: A Guide to Playing Without Pain"

If in Ontario, consider travelling to New Market to meet the author for assessment. Their senior physiotherapist helped me a lot 2 years ago.

Apart from shoulder imbalance, another possible cause of pain is wrong setup (SR, CR) or less-than-optimal posture, violin hold and bow technique. RSI happens when we repeat sub-optimal movements many times.

February 3, 2018, 3:38 AM · Right,so Im nothing but a starting amateur, playing only to help my daughter, but I have a similar shoulder and I know a lot about body mechanics due to my peofession.

And I have to say the odds are against you. I cannot hold the violin in the normal position and even though physiotheraphy and alexander technique probably help you in some degree, the shoulder position can be of hereditary issues of which you eally cannot control. And violinplaying might be something that is not recommended for longer periods. Violin playing strains the wrong muscles and ligaments when the shoulder is in that positions so it may give you problems that you dont yet have.

I would say that definately dont overstrain your body, dont take any painkillers to help you play and stop when your body tells you to. Alexander technique and physiotherapy are really good ideas but I have to say, that even though you need strength in the some shoulder extensors and backmuscles it is not realistic that you are able to change the shoulder posture from what it is to a completely normal posture, trying to change everything might result in inflammation of the shoulder.

Different ways to hold the bow are great ideas, also different ways to hold the violin too.

Edited: February 3, 2018, 3:48 PM · Aleš V.

I do not generally have pain when I play. I may be wrong, but I doubt that your forearm and wrist pain are due to your shoulder and back formation. I suspect the pain is because you are doing something wrong wrt your body.

The "standard" violin and bow holds and positions were prescribed by teachers of 100 or more years ago who had body types of a very small group of very accomplished violinists. Those of us with different body types have to adapt what we do to our own comfort zones. It may take quite a bit of experimentation. We are not all destined to become very accomplished violinists, even so, there is a lot of room for a satisfying musical life at lower levels.

A really good teacher could help, this would be one with very broad experience, not some whiz kid.

February 3, 2018, 1:09 PM · What does your teacher say? Try looking at yourself in the mirror to see what your posture's really like.
February 3, 2018, 1:21 PM · Maria, most of our activity is in front of us, including violin playing. It is inevitable to reach out and use arms. I would not share such a pessimistic view; with a proper set of exercises, warm-up and stretch, violin playing can be completely safe.
Edited: February 3, 2018, 7:43 PM · Attention: Ales V. ~ from concerned & interested Heifetz -Milstein Pupil Pro Violinist/Teacher

Responding to the most important issue which affects nearly 80 to 90 + percent of String Players, yet having been more than blessed to study with both Jascha Heifetz, and later, in London, w/ Nathan Milstein, privately, for 3 & 1/2 years - being listed w/the same London Concert Artist Management Roster of Violinists including Ricci, Henryk Szeryng and Nathan Milstein; + Pianists, Artur Rubinstein, Gillels, Peter Frankle, Louis Kentner (Menuhin's brother-in-law), Clifford Curzon, & etc., I know what can occur if a violinist is out of sync (alignment) with his/her own body type & more importantly, is going against the natural Motion of both Arms of the Body due to what I term, "the Straight Bow Disease" ~ Although concertising throughout the UK & all Continental Europe to much acclaim, I had the distinct feeling my Bow Arm (Franco - Belgium & well taught) was lacking Mastery to portray the most intricate & Basic bowing I'd witnessed in Nathan Milstein - the acknowledged Master of Bowing in the World ~

Mr. Heifetz alludes to my weakness in knowledge at the Frog in my JH Violin Master Class, USC - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky film, when given passages in Khachaturian's V.C. cry out for a heavy three chords repetitive rapid bow arm. JH planted the seeds of what I sensed was the most critical aspect of my playing despite "great success." 'Great success' doesn't mean the Body will Last for a Lifetime!!

Providence stepped in once in London, under a major Concert Artist Rep management, & JH's admired St. Petersburg Conservatory class-mate, Sascha Lasserson, began guiding me Up and Out of what might well have turned into a crisis after logging in a million miles of honest & disciplined practising as well taught but missing the most important piece of authentic concert artist's toolbox Tools - Bow Art as Milstein. Through Lasserson's recommendation, after playing Bach's Chaconne, Mr. Milstein taught me with demands to change & add his proven mastery of the Bow! Nicknaming me, "my guinea pig" as he stated I would play well & not badly reflect on his teaching, for the genuinely First Time (as he was beginning to lessen his big touring schedules & restricting appearances here in America to NYC, LA, Chicago (my later home), & Phoenix, it worked with Nathan Milstein 'experimenting' on my musical-violinistic skills ~

Nathan Milstein was legendary for his Unaccompanied Bach playing and focused on most of Bach's Partitas & Sonatas + standard violin concerto concert repertoire + intricate aspects of colour, style, the 'aroma' of given concert pieces (Chausson's Poeme + many more), and Always The Bow!!

Becoming good friend's as NM saw my determination to change whatever wasn't working no matter what, & did so over a process of 2 & 1/2 years w/ 2 artist tutorials pr week lasting no less than 3 to 3 & 1/2 to 4+ hours each 'session' & on-going discussion re bowing, I began feeling liberated ~

Becoming free to implement what had always been in one's imagination but needing prime inner techniques in How to do that which I heard in my head, mind & heart, many don't know what a marvel artist teacher Milstein was, & possessing his common sense instinct regarding what I shall call, 'circular bowing'. His Godly gifts included a body physique perfectly formed to 'look' as though the fiddle was growing out of his body w/ both his arms always in synced body motion which produced a bow technique as a fish in water, so fluid was Nathan Milstein's mastery!

This lengthy 'Intro' brings us to the subject of Ales V.'s Rounded Shoulders. From my Milstein bowing passed-on-to-me perspective, I see great & real possibilities in store for Ales V., instead of dire later to be troubles due to innate formation of rounded shoulders. In fact, Ales V.'s rounded shoulder's may be a blessing of Nature when shown natural Body Motion in a 'circular' fashion. Not one to teach that which I haven't seen nor studied carefully, & online, I sense Ales V. has the desire & determination to resurrect his 'Now situation' because he Loves the instrument and Music which is waiting to be played, plus he had the courage to come on to & truthfully state his current road block/s and fears re his violinistic future ~ Applauding you, Ales, I would be willing to view a short video of your holding the violin and enlarged footage of your Bow holding presently. When sick, we go to the Dr., so by all means, think seriously about the author of this Reply, also known as 'The Violin Doctor' by most of my pupil's here in the U.S., and in London, where I guest teach, and in Helsinki, at the Sibelius Academy of Music due to a 'Master Teaching Lesson' (w/ recital also given) to Finnish scholarship violinist's & one, in particular, who had out of control bowing problems in the cascading arpeggio'd slurred bowing crossings over the 4 strings in the grand opening of the Brahms Violin Concerto 1st Mov't at her wits end as the left hand configurations had been worked out but she was very Bowing 'Handicapped' (challenged) & I walked her thru a 'home-made' exercise which she then physically 'felt' & after repetitive tries, duplicated in the first of the cascading arpeggio'd crossings of 4 strings from the highest Note A on the E String Down and back Up ~ Going overtime, we solved the root problem, which after 45 minutes liberated her thinking to 'circular' and enabled her to Do It w/a full house audience of fellow string students and audience. She was thrilled as was the audience & afterwards, meeting in the Sibelius Academy of Music lobby, Alexandra threw her arms around me, sobbing with Joy & speaking in Finnish - English, wanting to know when she could have her next lesson! (My eminent colleagues, including French violinist colleague, Jean Jacques Kantorow, were hugging me and wanting to know 'How you could release her very mixed up bowing in just 45 minutes?!' It's all due to years of experience & Mr. Milstein's adamant non-stop demands I could have a mirrored Bow Arm as his, which I give Thanks for and to The Almighty every day ~

Ales, think about emailing my Studio a 10 or 15 minute video but with All sicknesses presently, so I can try to assess All reasons for your pain & the "1 to 2" minute only playing time situation ASAP!! Not usually giving my email, I will give you my Artist Rep's email and on the Subject line state:

Attention: Elisabeth Matesky ~ "Studio for Advanced Violin, Chamber & Orchestral Music & Bowing Studies" - Ales V.

Email to:
BCC: Your email address, Ales V.

With best wishes for 2018 to be a 'Liberation from pain Playing the Violin Year, I'll alert Dale to be on the Look -Out for an Ales V. Don't be alarmed with the attorney title; Dale graduated from Indiana Univ. School of Music and had to decide on doing Law with their 1st child on the way tho' he was in line at some point to be invited to audition for our Chicago Symphony Orchestra Horn Section of the fabled CSO Brass section!! You needn't 'title' worry as his great love is Music & the Berlin Phil!!!

"Let's Roll", Ales V. !!

Elisabeth Matesky *

YouTube: Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Class, USC - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky *Russian version best quality - (Library of Congress Performers) Profile Elisabeth Matesky (Int'l Concert performing/ recording/ artist teaching + Musical writing - speaking career) Google

ASTA (American String Teachers Association) Profiled Int'l Play/Teach go to:

February 4, 2018, 4:24 AM · My teacher told me to push back the shoulder so it looks like I have normal posture but the problem is I have to constantly think about pushing my shoulder back and its unnatural for me.

Elisabeth Matesky - Thank you for your offer. First of all I will try to improve my posture and if it helps then its obvious where is problem if it doesnt I will contact you.

Edited: February 4, 2018, 5:28 AM · A better posture will always feel wrong initially. It's because your body subsumes the feelings of tension of anything you habitualize (your present poor posture) until it all becomes too much to bear. You'd better make a start at improving - it's going to take years.
February 4, 2018, 6:20 AM · Striving for "better posture" is noble, but the root cause is in relatively small, but very important muscles. The attempt to change posture is like a belief that if you imagine yourself as so-and-so, your violin playing will be instantly better, even if you neglect scales and studies.

Start small, dream big.

February 4, 2018, 6:48 AM · The root cause could very likely be 'rounded shoulders'. The rhomboids pull the shoulder blades towards each other. When they are habitually stretched instead trouble will follow, even if decades down the road.
Edited: February 4, 2018, 6:16 PM · To Ales V. ~

I said Nothing about Posture as Rounded Shoulders are what you were born with ~ perhaps you do not know what I'm referring to? It is a full body movement which needn't cause pushing back your shoulder or shoulders. Trying to re - make the body you were born with is not the solution. Do you
know about Nathan Milstein or Jascha Heifetz?

Please write a bit here about your teacher or teachers and beginning violin training as well as how long you have been playing the Violin? I sense you may be from abroad which is Lovely! Perhaps Russia or Ukraine or other place somewhere in 'Eastern Europe'?

I strongly suggest ignoring dire forecasts as this won't help your Thinking. The Mind & Thoughts do influence how we do whatever we do which does include playing the Violin or any other instrument! However, I'm quite sure the idea of 'pushing back' your shoulder isn't helping but adding pain and
causing more frustration ~

Wishing you the very best approach and forsaking that which isn't working, I remain

Yours musically ~

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

Edited: February 5, 2018, 3:13 AM · No one is born with rounded shoulders. Under the age of 8/9 you're just not going to find it. Below a pic from TV.

Edited: February 5, 2018, 8:32 AM · Hi,

I have to say that I agree with Ms. Matesky - your body shape is probably not the cause, and doing something unnatural will make it worst.

Reading your original post, a few things to explore that may be simple came to mind...

1- You mentioned bow hold and textbooks. These days, there is a tendency to teach an over-extended index finger. Through repetitive movements, this spreading of the hand beyond its natural width can create tension that will manifest as forearm pain on top of the forearm, inside closer to the elbow. If this is the case, bringing the index closer to the rest of the hand nearer to its natural width can be helpful.
2- Another possible cause of the problem is the pressing in of the fingers into the bow. This will usually manifest itself as causing pain near the wrist and the forearm as a whole in the third near the elbow. If this is the case, keeping the thumb released which releases the whole hand can be helpful.
3- Feeling you are "holding up" the bow instead of letting it sit of the string balancing it. This will usually cause a slight lifting of the shoulder but is usually felt as tension on the underside of the forearm (and sometimes as fatigue below the shoulder blade in the back). Allowing the bow to sit on the string and the arm/hand/fingers to sit on the bow can be helpful in relaxing this.

Hope these three things might be helpful in finding the source of the tension and reducing it...

Best of luck & Cheers!

February 5, 2018, 8:50 AM · Bud: there is more than meets the aye: Supra Spinatus, Infra Spinatus, Teres Minor, Sub-scapularis.
Teres Minor is very, very important in shoulder stabilisation.
I am not a PT, but am writing from my own experience.
Again, the OP needs an expert advice, and the will to improve. This is not a verdict, but a curable condition.
February 5, 2018, 9:28 AM · Exactly. The will's the thing!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Warchal Strings
Warchal Strings

International Violin Competition of Indianapolis
International Violin Competition of Indianapolis

Dimitri Musafia
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Metzler Violin Shop

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pluhar Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings Ltd

Violin Lab

Violin Pros

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop