Viola pain

Edited: January 16, 2019, 9:42 AM · Hi all,
Practising today, I have noticed a sort of fatigue pain in my upper left arm. I thought I was clamping, but I'm not. Does anyone have any ideas on what it could be?

Thanks in advance!

Replies (13)

January 16, 2019, 9:50 AM · are you pushing your shoulder forward too much? i used to have that problem and it caused the same kind of discomfort for me.
January 16, 2019, 10:01 AM · Hmm. Not that I noticed. I'll have a look next time I practice
January 16, 2019, 10:22 AM · Depends how long you've been playing.
January 16, 2019, 10:41 AM · Well the viola about 2-3 years or so. Violin has been 11
January 16, 2019, 11:42 AM · In that case it's not just about accustomisation.
Edited: January 16, 2019, 4:00 PM · The pain is caused by your dignity rejecting the viola. Switch to violin.
January 16, 2019, 2:59 PM · Make sure your teacher looks over your posture and your hand positions carefully at your next lesson. A little pinched nerve here and there, and pretty soon you've got pain in a weird place.

Pain in the upper left arm is associated also with heart failure, so don't just ignore it.

Edited: January 16, 2019, 3:29 PM · What size viola are you playing? And what music are you playing?
Edited: January 17, 2019, 2:42 PM · What Paul said. If you have a teacher, s/he will be in the best position to diagnose the problem. Andy's question about viola size is also important. Every violist would love to play the biggest d*mn viola they can get their hands on because the big ones can sound so fantastic. However, that desire must be tempered by the reality that you need a viola that fits your size; otherwise, you are subject to all sorts of injuries.
January 16, 2019, 5:44 PM · I fully agree with those that suggest that you get someone to look over your posture. You should also look at your standing and sitting posture i.e are you slouching.Also, do you hold the viola pointing out to the left or more forward? Were you supporting the viola with your left hand more than you were used to? It is very difficult to diagnose this without seeing you so I’m only speculating.
January 16, 2019, 10:22 PM · I have a 15.5" viola. And I will get my teacher to look at it during our next session
January 17, 2019, 2:42 PM · Your viola size is probably appropriate unless you are relatively small.
January 17, 2019, 7:49 PM · Hi,

The most common causes of upper left arm pain are usually caused by the following:

1- Pressing of the thumb and side of the index against the neck. Creates tension that goes up the arm to the base of the neck. Making sure to keep the thumb released at all times usually solves this one.
2- Bringing in the left shoulder or the instrument to the bow. Making sure that the chest open and one brings the bow to the instrument and not vice versa usually resolves this one.
3- Raising the left shoulder. Making sure that the shoulder is down. Open chest and sitting shoulders are a big one for relaxation and avoiding pain.
4- Controversial with teaching these days, but rotating the left elbow inwards. IMHO and experience, this movement is non-necessary and only adds tension, nothing else. Making sure the elbow points down and not sideways is the solution. The balance should feel vertical.
5- Again controversial with some teaching, but having the thumb too low for a particular hand geometry can create all kinds of tension (as does gapping). Having the neck resting on the base of the first finger, the thumb at its own natural height and having double-contact (in other words, the old-school setups advocated by Flesch, Galamian, etc.) really helps in having a good balance for most hands.
6- Having the balance on the heels instead of the ball of the feet. Just leads to general imbalances that adds tension all over. Again, balance is vertical, so having the feet well balanced with the weight on the ball of the feet is most important to be grounded.
7- Excess pressure of the fingers into the bow, or hyper-extending the index. This often creates sympathetic tension on the left side often felt on the underside of the upper left arm. Again, keeping the thumb released in the bow (and as a result all fingers) can help in alleviating that. Also, to be really natural, the fingers of the right hand are meant to extend forward at hand with (so closer than many people think or what is taught today in many schools of playing). May be worth looking at.

Hope this checklist helps in diagnosing the issue and finding a solution.


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