Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

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

Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by savobalac » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:59 am

Hi everyone,

I play for an hour or two most days and this causes muscular pain in the left side of my upper back (rhomboids by the shoulder blade).
I need sports massage to release the adhesions (knots).

I'm certain that it's caused by the left arm - it's placed forward in order to fret the guitar!
When I use my computer I have to prevent my arms pushing forwards (keep the keyboard and mouse close to the body) to prevent the same problem.

Is there anything I can do?

Thanks,
Sav.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:18 am

Big caveat - I have no medical knowledge. However, in my view as a teacher and player, the problem is the constant rotation of the shoulder (the ball and socket joint) when playing. My solution is to lower the elbow, maintain the elbow quite close to the body as much as possible (except for positions such as an A major chord), keep very relaxed in the shoulder and upper arm, and to move the hand along the fingerboard as if on a 'rail' by laterally moving the forearm from the elbow. This has the beneficial by-product of positioning the second row of knuckles very parallel to the fingerboard and increases dexterity.

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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by Jack Douglas » Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:25 pm

Hi Sav,
I'm not a doctor and I'm not a teacher. So, we're I you I would do two things. The first would be to hire a classically trained teacher to observe your playing posture, check the tension in your hands and just give you general playing posture guidance. It may well be that you're in the habit of something that's causing your pain. Incorporate those suggestions to see if you get relief. If not, go to the next thing, make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist or to an orthopedic surgeon depending upon what is seen in an X-ray. And at that appointment they'll check other aspects of your state of health. Don't put off being proactive about your pain before real damage happens.
Remember to put your guitar down after 15-20 minutes and take a short break during your 2 hour practice sessions.
And you might consider trying yoga after the other things I mentioned.
Don't put off getting yourself looked at.
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brooks
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by brooks » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:26 pm

Also, be sure the chair you're using doesn't have a slight tilt backwards as many chairs do. A backward slanting chair, plus the classical position with footstool, is a recipe for back problems.

savobalac

Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by savobalac » Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:44 am

Thanks everyone. Denian, I'll try your left arm position.

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isaacfe
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by isaacfe » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:25 pm

Try to get an MRI of your shoulder. It might be a rotator cuff lesion. It is convenient to know if it is and the extent of the problem. Talk to a traumatologist or better to a shoulder specialist if available. Every lesion has a specific treatment.
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by Granary Guitars » Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:38 pm

Are you sure the fault lies with your shoulder? I had a similar very painful left shoulder problem and it turned out to be referred pain from my herniated C4 C5 cervical vertebrae in my neck which were trapping a nerve - caused by decades of poor posture! Nothing much touched the pain but it did go after about 6 months of not playing.
Al

uptempo

Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by uptempo » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:53 pm

Based on my previous post I would urge you to get a proper diagnosis so you know exactly what is going on.

I was convinced I had CTS but now I have discovered that it is issues of the neck and back. I have a programme of stretches and I am already seeing improvement.

Poor posture seems to be the root cause of so much guitar related pain and as far as I have been told in most cases it can be fixed with dedication to exercise.

Invest in a proper diagnosis. It will reveal the problem and send you on a journey for better all round health.

In my view massage only provides short term relief. It is best to undertake the exercises to correct the posture.

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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by isaacfe » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:52 pm

Cervical disc herniation is the differential diagnosis but the fact that your pain is related to the forward movement of your arm suggests that the problem is most probably your shoulder and not the spine. There are several disseases that can produce similar symptoms. An MRI of your shoulder or your cervical spine will get you on the right track. Start with the shoulder.
2012 Ramon Blanco Cedar/Rosewood. 650 mm.
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by HNLim » Thu Jul 28, 2016 12:57 am

This is caused by the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles. This is also because you lack exercise. Try to do some brisk walk or slow jog 3 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes each session. This is caused by many years of lack of physical activities.
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uptempo

Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by uptempo » Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:23 pm

HNLim wrote:This is caused by the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles. This is also because you lack exercise. Try to do some brisk walk or slow jog 3 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes each session. This is caused by many years of lack of physical activities.

Good general advice but to say that "This is caused by ..." is merely a guess. I still say that any pain that is becoming chronic needs to be looked at on an individual basis by an expert who can hopefully get to the correct diagnosis.

For example, I have maintained a thorough routing of exercise for all my life and have still fallen foul of bad posture through classical guitar playing and too much computer use.

My view is that musicians ARE athletes and that far too many do not perform any kind of musical fitness routines until such time as a problem occurs. In my case I can now relate my chronic pain to bad classical guitar posture:

Sat with foot on stool
Twisted body
Tense shoulders and hands
Head in forward carriage

Some musicians have clearly worked out how to sit correctly and attend very carefully to posture and playing positions but I have not done so and therefore have to deal with the consequences.

By the way - Jack Sanders has some nice videos on youtube (Guitar Salon) and looking at him play pretty much showcases what relaxation looks like.

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HNLim
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by HNLim » Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:03 pm

There are several solutions but I am not sure if it is appropriate to post it here. I had these kind of problem many years ago. I had difficulty standing up after squatting down. I had pain on both sides of my neck and shoulder blades. The pain extended to my arms and legs. I have a lump each on the front of my ankles approximately the size of a ping pong ball. I have gone to see a specialist but he only prescribed medication which doed not work. They are all gone. Now at 62, I can easily squat lift 60kgs.
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Re: Help! Pain in left side of upper back - caused by left arm?

Post by Luis_Br » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:08 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote: My solution is to lower the elbow, maintain the elbow quite close to the body as much as possible (except for positions such as an A major chord)
I wuld say not even for an A major chord. I recommend this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XbUkcjuMds#t=15m54s

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