pain in right upper arm

January 11, 2020, 1:53 AM · I'm dealing lately with pains in my left upper arms in certain positions esp after playing( esp moving or rotating arm backwards ) also at times during playing(but it's not very strong pain. The right side is better. When try to massage my left neck muscle it's very tight. I try to massage that one and do some stretching. I had it less since a while, but it has gotten worse lately. I don't play for hours. I'm a part time teacher ( and homeschool parent) Any thoughts? have you dealt with that? What have you done that helps? Thanks

Replies (6)

January 11, 2020, 4:02 AM · I suspect you are raising your shoulder and clamping your head downwards to "hold" the violin (rather than "holding it up"..); and maybe you have to force your left elbow too far the right.
Also, a tension in one area will quickly spread to other areas.

Maybe you have a shoulder rest that is two high (obstructive) or too low (insecure), depending on your morphology.

Ideally, before and after playing, and between phrases, there should be no muscular effort, other than hold the violin up.

January 11, 2020, 5:28 AM · For the right arm, perhaps you have a raised shoulder, an elbow uselessly high, and a bow "pinched" rather than held "like a baby bird" (Menuhin).

"Hold the bow up" with the thumb, and "guide" it with the fingers.
Again, no tension when not making a sound.

Edited: January 11, 2020, 8:47 AM · I have pain in the upper part of my left arm too. My teacher cannot see anything wrong with what I am doing but of course he does not watch me while I am practicing. And I practice seated (otherwise my bow hits the ceiling), whereas I stand at my lessons, so my posture might be better there.

In the past, when I had neck issues, I got a prescription for a few sessions of physical therapy. This was useful because the PT showed me some basic exercises that are useful for freeing up the pinching and other distress that you're causing to your nerves when you play the violin.

Just another quick remark that you can be going along just fine with your violin playing and then suddenly start to encounter physical problems when you've decided to tackle some harder repertoire, because the mental bandwidth that you were using to stay relaxed and keep your posture correct is now consumed finding the notes.

January 18, 2020, 8:49 PM · First of all, sorry to hear you are having pain! I have dealt with a few injuries related to playing/overpracticing and have learned a few things along the way:

1. Go to the Dr. as soon as the pain lasts more than a few days! There are all kinds of things that could be causing the pain (strain or sprain, inflammation, pinched nerve, many others as well,) but it is very important that you go see your regular doctor and explain the symptoms so that it doesn’t become a more serious problem. It might even be worth bringing your instrument so you can play and have them observe which muscle groups are used. They may refer you to a physical therapist, or if it is a minor issue, might prescribe muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory meds, or simply tell you to lay off for a week or more. They might recommend physical therapy, which brings me to my next point:

2. If they refer you for physical therapy, try to find a PT who specializes in working with musicians, or at least repetitive stress injuries, which are generally what musicians are dealing with. Make sure you understand all the exercises your PT gives you- don’t be afraid to ask for explanation if it seems confusing. Make sure you do the exercises exactly as long and often as they tell you to! PT only works if you actually do it, and most of the work is on your own between appointments.

3. Make sure you warm up (scales, long notes, or playing slowly through easier music that doesn’t make too many demands of either arm, gradually work up to the ‘athletic’ playing.

4. Take breaks every 30 minutes. I have started setting a timer on my phone.

5. Try to do more mental practice instead of only physical practice with the
instrument. Most people’s bodies can only take about 5-6 hours of playing a day before they feel achy. More than that and it can creep into the danger zone of potential injury, especially if you are doing other activities that strain the same muscle groups, such as typing at a computer, carrying heavy bags with hands or on the shoulder, etc.

Good luck!

Edited: January 18, 2020, 10:12 PM · There are many possibilities including-->
1. Injured joints or disks in your neck. This could be the most serious type of injury and should be checked by a medical doctor/neurologist. Injury to 3 of my neck disks when I was 55 was due to playing a violin with a too circular neck cross section (should be elliptical) - or doing too much "desk work" across king-size beds when on work travel. Whatever - I was unable to play violin at all for a year, subsequent recovery was slow I and never regained my original vibrato technique. I also had that violin's neck re-shaped.

2. Many people retain the chinrest that came on their violin - this could be a bad idea because there are so many different chinrest designs that the chance of that being your ideal one is low. I had been playing for more than 30 years before found my perfect chinrest design.

3. Similarly, many people use the first shoulder rest they ever encounter - another bad idea. The ideal shoulder rest is the one that that in combination with your ideal chinrest allows you to hold the violin between jaw and collarbone and support the violin over the rest of your shoulder with the shoulder rest in a manner that feels natural and comfortable. I did not start to use a shoulder rest until I had been playing for 30 years and although I use one design of shoulder rest for 30 years after that, more recently I have been through a a number of different ones (including no shoulder rest) until discovering the new PERFORMA shoulder rest a few weeks ago.

January 19, 2020, 8:01 PM · Given what you describe, it is also possible that you have some sort of rotator cuff issue, perhaps tendinitis. Go to a doctor as soon as possible to get the problem diagnosed. Your doctor will probably figure out what the problem is and send you to a physical therapist. That (and anti-inflammatories) is the ultimate treatment for a lot of these kinds of injuries.


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