Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
amojobim

Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby amojobim » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:16 am

Hi everybody,
I have been playing classical guitar for the last 10 years. About 5 years ago I had a tendinitis, followed by a tennis elbow in my right arm. It took me a while to get rid of the tennis elbow pain (through chiropractics and exercises for my arm) and in the mean time I radically changed my posture. I think the posture I have now is similar to what the Gilardino method prescribes. I use a foot stool and the guitar is at an angle with respect to my left leg, i.e., the side of the guitar does not lie flat on my left leg. I found that in this way I have more room between my body and my left elbow, and my right arm can rest more comfortably on the body of the guitar.
A couple of years ago I started experiencing pain in my right shoulder. I'm experiencing a sharp pain right next to my spine, under my right shoulder. After I practice for a little while, the pain gets triggered and it remains the same for days even if I stop practicing. I should point out that I work at a computer for 8 hours per day and also play electric guitar, but the sharp pain in my shoulder gets triggered only when I practice on the classical guitar (even for short periods of time). I can't seem to figure this out and it's driving me crazy, sucking all the fun out of playing guitar. I'm even wondering if it's the size of my guitar the problem. I have a Ramirez R1 and although it has a 650 mm scale, it "feels" a little smaller compared to guitars with the same scale. I'm wondering if the body is smaller and that might cause some tension in my right shoulder that triggers the pain.
Anyway, this is probably a very specific issue and I'm gonna see a physical therapist after the break, but I'd like to know your opinions as well.
Thanks!

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George Crocket
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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby George Crocket » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:19 am

amojobim wrote:.......
Anyway, this is probably a very specific issue and I'm gonna see a physical therapist after the break....


The right thing to do.
George
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby AndreiKrylov » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:11 pm

Did you try to play in standing position with a strap?
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amojobim

Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby amojobim » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:33 am

I didn't try that, but I wouldn't prefer it. I used to play for 2 hours a day sitting without the smallest pain, so I think my change of posture is probably one of the culprits. Searching on the forum I found a lot of useful information and I think I'm getting a little more aware of what I'm doing when I play. I have the impression that my right shoulder gets tense, in the region that goes from the neck to the arm. That prolonged tension probably causes the pain. I also noticed that my legs are not positioned symmetrically, or maybe I should say my torso is a little rotated towards the left. I think that kinda reduces too much the distance between my right had and the strings, leading to a tension in the right shoulder necessary to increase the distance again (I have very long arms and fingers). That's why I was also wondering if I might be more comfortable with a longer scale guitar. All this thought just from spending the whole night the other day browsing the forum, so thank you guys!

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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby AndreiKrylov » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:49 am

I play 42 years 4-5-6 or more hours a day and it is only possible for me because I'm standing/moving most of the time.
I have a long arms and fingers too... :)
If I have to sit so many hours a day the I probably would not be able to play at all now... My back is not good and I play guitar for living therefore it is too important for me to be in a good condition and I can'f afford to be sick or play with pain - then I'll have nothing to eat ... :)
But if you feel fine about your position then keep looking - try another guitar or else.
Good luck!
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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby FHC » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:57 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote:Did you try to play in standing position with a strap?


Andrei what strap would you recommend? Would this require drilling into the guitar?

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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby AndreiKrylov » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:01 pm

FHC wrote:
AndreiKrylov wrote:Did you try to play in standing position with a strap?


Andrei what strap would you recommend? Would this require drilling into the guitar?


Yes it will require drilling for buttons. But it is just small holes and when done properly and with nice buttons then it is look good too. I tried other setups in the past like strap through the soundhole or one button and connection with headstock, but guitar was unstable in those positions and soundhole setup was even dangerous for guitar... I know that there are many people who would rather have a back pain but would not make hole in the bottom of guitar ...
There are some strap which have slippery problem so in this case I would recommend strap which would not have such problem (with inside surface which not slips). It is very clear that when you sitting (especially with footstool) your back and especially lower back bones etc. are under intense pressure and this position as a whole is not ergonomical by default and leads to different spinal cord problems - because of the constant pressure and tension just by itself , but guitar playing adding to this tension even more and you could be OK for awhile when you are young and strong but in 50-s and older pain from so called standard position will be almost guaranteed... but when you stand then your legs and their muscles work instead of spine and there are almost no pressure on lower back at all, that's why I still can play/work long time even my lower spinal disks destroyed at least 12 years ago (according to x-rays) ... But there is one possible problem - if somebody is very heavy then it will be hard to stand too... I'm 189 sm height and 79-80 kg weight for last 34 years and my legs can hold my weight easily for many hours, but if I would be 110 kg then it will be probably difficult. Therefore I would totally agree that standing moving will be difficult for some folks with large weight. But at the same time sitting in so called classical position will be very difficult for them as well... I would be glad and happy if all this could help...
Good luck!
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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby FHC » Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:25 pm

Thanks Andrei for the reply.

amojobim

A follow up

Postby amojobim » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:11 pm

Hi everybody,
thanks for the comments!
I'd like to add a short follow up to my story. I have noticed lately that while playing classical guitar, my right hand is very tense. That's probably due to an effort of over-controlling the movement, precision and strength in the hand, but of course it backfires and I think it might possibly be the source of my back pain. I also tend to contract my jaw as well (like clenching it), which doesn't help. Interestingly, I don't experience any of the above when playing the electric guitar (with a pick).
So assuming this is the main cause of my troubles, what are the methods you recommend to relax while playing? What's your experience? I think I'll start meditating on a regular basis, but I was wondering if there were more effective methods.
Thanks!

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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby lagartija » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:46 pm

You don't mention if you are working with a teacher or not. I would recommend that you find one who will help you with this before you hurt yourself. It is sometimes easier to have a coach notice when you are playing with excessive tension than it is to notice it in yourself. If you play slowly, do you have the same tension? Or only if you try to play at tempo? If you cannot play slowly and be aware of your tension and thus release it appropriately, I really think you might seriously consider getting the help of a teacher.
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amojobim

Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby amojobim » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:07 pm

I know I need to see a teacher again (I haven't for the past 4 years, but I was with a teacher for about 6 years before that). I wish it was that easy! There are NO teachers that I know of here where I am, State College, PA and if any of you guys know of any please let me know.
I tried practicing today paying more attention to relaxing my jaw and hand. I followed some of the suggestion from viewtopic.php?f=71&t=33040
The result is that my hand was more relaxed, especially while playing simple slow exercises, but I think there's something wrong with my posture, in the sense that I feel like there's some kind of imbalance that leads me to make too much effort on the right side of my body. At some point the muscles right above my right hip got a little aching and I had to spend some time trying to adjust my position to be more balanced. This was kinda difficult as it would change the position of the guitar with respect to my arms and all kind of small adjustment in the position of my right hand with respect to the strings.
Well, that's my experience so long. I'll keep posting updates in the hope I find a guitar teacher soon (or finally decide to take a 4 hour round trip to Pittsburgh to see a teacher there).
Thanks everybody

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby AndreiKrylov » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:35 am

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Last edited by AndreiKrylov on Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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jsilva

Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby jsilva » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:12 am

I would suggest revisiting the idea that you're leaning in the direction of the left hand enough to make it uncomfortable for your right arm/shoulder. I have felt the same tension/pain and realized that I needed to align my body and shoulders towards a central position. Even the slightest turn towards the left would accumulate right shoulder tension in my case.

amojobim

Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby amojobim » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:42 am

Yeah I think that's how I feel about my right shoulder. And I think seeing a teacher would really help me figure out my posture.
About relaxing, I played with my mouth slightly open yesterday, which prevented me from clenching my jaw and, surprise! no right shoulder pain this time around. So that's good news.
Just putting this out there: does anybody know a good teacher in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg or Altoona, PA?
Thanks

RaphaelPazos

Re: Right shoulder pain: posture or guitar size?

Postby RaphaelPazos » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:54 am

Congrats! That's good news!
So strange that clenching your jaw would cause shoulder pain....
What I liked the most to read on all of these posts is the amount of info given and acquired and traded over 1 issue. We read about use of straps, alignment, posture, playing as a profession and preparedness, and so on.
Great stuff!


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