Playing Despite Pain

November 15, 2021, 8:31 PM · Does anyone have such a love for the violin, that they just play through their pain? I've played violin for 30 years and it feels like a part of me. I developed a chronic pain condition, that will be with me for the rest of my life. Playing violin makes it so much worse, but not playing leaves me with a feeling of void.

I stopped playing for a while and even finally sold my violin. Then I became sad and ended up renting a decent violin. Then I returned it and stopped playing for a while. Now I just drove an hour to rent another violin from a different place. I ordered this $65 homemade contraption, made by Duncan Wickel (https://www.wickelbuckle.com/), to see if this would help me play. I know I should just stop playing, but it's really hard for me. Has anyone else stopped playing, due to pain, and experienced this violin withdrawal?? I feel crazy posting this, but maybe only violinists can understand the deep attachment to the violin.

Replies (9)

Edited: November 15, 2021, 9:03 PM · https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=5234
click down to the entry by Catherine Kostyn
Edited: November 15, 2021, 9:44 PM · I guess the obvious should be asked: is there another instrument that you could play that would both satisfy your passion and ease the pain? A cello would be the first guess if raising the instrument to the shoulder is the problem. You can also learn to play the violin in cello position (a friend played it better than me this way) holding it upright on the knee.
November 16, 2021, 6:16 AM · Can you tell us the 'what' and 'where' regarding this pain ? Somebody might have suggestions that you have not tried yet.
Edited: November 16, 2021, 2:00 PM · Nancy - I didn't play for 30 years like you have, but recently had to set aside the violin for the hammered dulcimer so I could play music without pain and probable permanent damage/surgery. I have several posts about this as Erin mentioned. You can check those out if you want more detail.

I wanted to say that, for me, even being a beginner again is very much worth the ability to play without pain and a broad range of musical genres have opened for me. With my violin related physical limitations I could not have progressed further and, likely, would have had to give up music entirely. It was a hard decision to make even after only 2.5 years and I had just reached a solid intermediate level. I am thankful I did, and my progress on the new instrument is ahead of the curve according to my teacher.

November 16, 2021, 1:45 PM · Pain is your brain telling you that something is wrong; medical, ergonomic, over-training, or simple fatigue. The immediate treatment is to just stop. Playing through the pain can cause increased injury. Two groups of people have not learned that lesson; musicians and the military. Do consider another instrument, include piano, guitar, voice on the possible list. Technical improvement for adult musicians on a second instrument can be quite rapid.
November 16, 2021, 3:37 PM · Hi Nancy -- long time lurker, first time poster here. This topic brought me out of lurk-mode. I have arthritis in my cervical spine (C4-C6 are affected), a damaged labrum in my right shoulder (old tennis injury), and a bit of thoracic outlet syndrome beginning to cause problems with my left hand pinkie finger (it's developing an intermittent tremor - Schradieck to the rescue?).

I'm not even 50 yet, so it's quite depressing to have such a long list of physical problems, but... it is what it is. Physical therapy, stretching, yoga, all that can help a bit, but it won't cure it. So, I have to limit practice time; no more 4 hour marathon practice sessions, and if I ever start gigging again, I'll need to take this all into account.

Recently, to add to the fun, I've been getting some synovitis on my right thumb (probably attributable to letting tension creep into my bow hold along with computer mouse usage). Mental stress can lead to tension in muscles, and my stress level is quite high these days.

So, I've had to lay the bow down this past week until my thumb recovers. I can still practice left hand fingering, and some limited pizzicato as long as I don't brace my thumb too hard against the fingerboard.

But, when there's too much pain from playing the world's most non-ergonomic instrument, I'll just get out my mandolin or some other instrument and pick up where I left off. I suspect the time will come when playing violin is no longer possible for me. I dread that day, but at least I can still play other instruments. Life without music is not life.

Playing through the pain when I was younger (violin or tennis) is why I have these problems now. Don't make the same mistake!

Best of luck to you.

P.S.: That Wickel thing looks interesting; something to consider for future.

November 16, 2021, 8:59 PM · When I was in my early 40s I had a 30 minute violin warmup routine and even though I felt pain during it I played through the pain and by the end of the warmup the pain was gone and I could start to "practice" for another 60 - 90 minutes.

That was half my life ago. Now my fingers often get numb after a few minutes of playing so that I cannot feel the strings properly and my sound goes bad - time to pause. This often happens in ensemble playing as well - fortunately there are some rests that provide time to shake out my left hand and regain some normality.

My new warmup involves trying to work up the Bach 2nd Partita a preprise from my late teens. Maybe that's why it hurts!

November 17, 2021, 3:59 AM · Dear Nancy, when I was 20th I had a tendinit to left wrist. i stopped to play for 2 years and I had varied terapy . Than I rebegining in a mor relaxed way..Yes this caused me ansiety problem but my dream was to play violin and finally I did it...you must try your own way to stop the pain(terapy and posture), don't stop your dream to play violin,you must only found your wright way.
November 17, 2021, 2:46 PM · I hear that CBD oil is being used with great success to treat stubborn chronic pain and inflammation. Depending on legality where you live it may or may not be easily available on Amazon. I've never tried it (haven't had the need) but who knows. May as well give everything a shot, since you're so passionate about violin.


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