Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
User avatar
R_Pegio
Posts: 182
Joined: Tue May 19, 2009 10:03 am
Location: NW England

Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by R_Pegio » Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:16 pm

I fear I may have to stop playing because of a nagging ache to my left shoulder which is definitely induced by playing the guitar. I first noticed it about ten years ago when I acquired a footstool which made the shoulder pain excruciating, so I ditched that and started to sit cross-legged but that too was not comfortable.

Between Christmas and Easter we had a sequence of visitors which compelled me to relinquish the spare bedroom where my guitars are kept and this gave the shoulder a rest. However I resumed regular practice after Easter - sitting knees apart on a sofa with my left wrist only a couple of inches above waist-level but the discomfort gradually increased until all movement became uncomfortable.

I am not an accomplished guitarist and at sixty-nine I never shall be but it is something I enjoy doing and my life will be so much poorer without my harmless pastime.

I shall arrange a consultation with my doctor to see if there's any therapy which may help but I'm not optimistic.

Has anyone else suffered similarly and can they offer advice? Because I will be devastated without my music.
It doesn't take any brains to listen to music.

Luciano Pavarotti

Edward Aviza
Amateur luthier
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 5:42 pm
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar PLaying

Post by Edward Aviza » Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:38 pm

Yes, shoulder or back pain is not uncommon when playing with a footstool. Here's what I'd suggest:

1) Get your shoulder x-rayed or examined by a doctor to ensure that there is nothing more serious than muscle pain. Most likely, this pain is muscular, but if there are other issues they need to be looked at.

2) If the exam in #1 above shows that you are suffering only from muscle pain, invest in massage therapy. No joke, get a qualified massage therapist to work on that shoulder, it will release a lot of tension and loosen up your muscles, which will alleviate a lot of pain. A few sessions should do the trick.

3) Buy one of these when they are available: http://www.barnettguitarsupports.com/. Sitting cross-legged is also a high stress position for many of us, so if you sit normally in an upright chair with both feet evenly on the ground, the guitar support will help keep the instrument in a comfortable position without stress.

Good luck!
2005 Kenneth Hill Signature double-top, spruce face, 7-fan
National Steel Dobro
2017 Gibson SG Traditional
2005 Gibson SG faded

Nate Miller

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by Nate Miller » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:29 pm

every working musician I ever knew had back trouble of some sort. And your shoulder trouble is in the same ball park. We spend thousands of hours in an asymmetric position.

I would start by stretching and finding some activity that lets you move your shoulder about to get some blood moving through there. I have always done some sort of upper body training and I regularly stretch my shoulders and upper back doing yoga like stretches. I started having problems with my upper back when I was 19. I've wrestled with it for 30 years now

I think there's lots of hope for physical therapy, you just have to give it some time to work and be patient. You may have to build the shoulder back up after letting it heal.

so hang in there and don't give up hope. All of us will have to stop playing one day, but it doesn't have to be this day

Hildegard of Bingen

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by Hildegard of Bingen » Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:45 pm

At the end of each 30 minutes of practice, I always get up stretch my arms , move my shoulders in a circular position, then my head and neck, finally shake and loosen up my hands and fingers . I follow this each time I play. . I haven't had much shoulder pain at all. But I have had trouble with finding a comfortable position with footstools. So I am going to try those guitar supports. Sagreras in his Books 1-3, advises stretching and loosening for 5 to 10 minutes after each section of his lessons. Really hope you find a way to continue playing. Playing the guitar is for me the best part of my day.

User avatar
jpryan
Posts: 361
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:09 am
Location: San Diego, California

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by jpryan » Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:38 pm

Stretching before and during practice has helped me with guitar-related shoulder and back pain. I used to always have pain in my back and right shoulder after practicing for only thirty or forty minutes. My issue was tension in my arms, neck, and back. I try to be aware of tension while practicing now and when I feel it I relax, let my arms hang completely loose at my sides for twenty or thirty seconds, and then do some stretching before I continue. I used to blame it on using a footstool, but as long as I stay relaxed and nip tension in the bud the footstool doesn't cause a problem.
Using a music stand that's too low can be another cause of strain.
Good luck.
--John

sphinx

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by sphinx » Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:41 pm

Left shoulder pain can result from placing the guitar too far to the left. Try to play for a while with the guitar on the right leg, using a guitar support such as the ergoplay to raise the guitar neck conveniently, and see whether this helps.

Mick the Ramirez Man

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by Mick the Ramirez Man » Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:46 pm

Believe it or not ... I'm on the forum right now because my left shoulder started to bother me after a couple hours of practice! But, it's never happened before and I was playing in an unconventional position ... half sitting up on the couch ... :wink:

User avatar
Lawler
Posts: 1298
Joined: Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by Lawler » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:41 pm

R_Pegio wrote:... I may have to stop playing because of a nagging ache to my left shoulder which is definitely induced by playing the guitar.
Sorry you're going through that. That's hard.

Some good ideas so far.

Also...

before you stop playing, consider...

1) when the shoulder hurts, lie on your back while practicing. I've done it and I liked it!
2) when sitting, some of the time rest the guitar on the right leg instead of the left to change the physical "geometry". Philip Rosheger and Jose Tomas (not to mention Paco de Lucia) sat that way. And they were quite fine guitarists.
3) increase your fitness level, especially shoulders and abs. This is what worked for me when I had a similar issue. I'm not talking about macho bodybuilding... 5 lb dumbbells and easy ab exercises for a few minutes a day. Easy to research online, create a balanced ex program, and try for 3 months to check. IMO, that would be a good thing for any guitarist, actually, shoulder pain or not. :)

Jim Imbur

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by Jim Imbur » Thu May 01, 2014 1:39 am

If you go on the website for Dynarette guitar cushions (I do not remember the site name but I believe it is not Dynarette- time to google), somewhere on the site there is a very interesting testimonial from a Scottish physician who has studied musicians' injuries. He writes about the effect (on some people) of the twisting of the spine due to use of a foot stool and the effect on nerves located in the shoulder. There are those who have used a footstool for years with no ill effects but the good doctor's comments may apply to your situation. I agree with other posters who recommend a visit to your personal physician but the info on Dynarette is certainly worth reading.

dbeau

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by dbeau » Thu May 01, 2014 2:21 am

All the above is good advise BUT:
I had the same problem and when diagnosed it was not my guitar playing but severe arthritis (73 yrs). Surgery was done to implant new joints and today my left shoulder is pain free with normal motion. An aside is that my right shoulder experienced pain in specific positions/movements too so i expected it to be a logical next step. Regular self therapy with rubber bands (Therabands) was ordered and I've used those exercises daily for both shoulders for 2 years now. The right has improved to the point that playing guitar is not painful nor pain inducing. Just to say.
Good luck
Dave

dory
Posts: 1952
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:29 am
Location: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by dory » Thu May 01, 2014 5:50 am

I recommend experimenting with different kinds of guitar supports. This is not easy, because most are not available in local music stores, and have to be ordered off the internet, making returns complicated, but I am convinced from personal experience that keeping both feet flat on the floor makes an enormous difference.there are some people who can practice many thousands of hours using a footstool with no ill effects, but many of us are not that lucky. For me, the Dynarette cushion has changed my life. Before I was developing severe pain in my left hip flexor muscle, making it difficult not only to play the guitar, but to,walk across a room. With the Dynarette I can practice as long as I want to, pain-free, although it did take some time for my hip to heal completely. Others prefer different supports like the Neck Up. I paid a lot of money for expedited shipping for my Dynarette, as I had become desperate with the pain. It was worth every penny. Don't give up on the guitar. Try different supports until you find one that does not cause you pain.
Dory

jen delsignore

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by jen delsignore » Thu May 01, 2014 2:33 pm

I agree with the suggestion for guitar supports. I use the Dynarette and it is quite comfortable. I wish you luck as you figure out this problem. I hope you can get back to playing soon!
Jen :chitarrista:

soufiej

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by soufiej » Thu May 01, 2014 4:23 pm

I've suffered a series of injuries to my left side over the last few years. From a fractured collar bone/dislocated shoulder to broken fingers and tendon damage in my left hand plus a fall which shattered my elbow thereby releasing my triceps muscle. The last injury required surgery to screw and glue my arm back together and to reattach the muscle. Those were the most serious injuries I received in that incident but my hand was once again disabled for a few months due to more breaks, fractures and tears. Through all of the rehab associated with such problems, every physical therapist I met with told me playing guitar was about the best way to exercise the areas I had damaged. Many of the techniques used to stay limber and increase leverage and dexterity for playing are duplicated in the PT world for the average joe in need of getting back into the work force.

Therefore, while I agree pain is at times associated with playing guitar - especially as we age, physical impairments set in or our technique simply no longer supports our desires - there's a definite need to have your issues checked by a physician. If you can find an orthopedic who specializes in the ailments of musicians (not easy to find), you'll likely have the most success. Unfortunately, most orthopedics have little idea when it comes to the special needs of a musician. Here in Dallas (8th largest city in the US) we have any number of specialists geared to the pro athlete and the weekend athlete but none who are really conversant with a musician. The first ortho doc I saw looked at the Xrays and told me my problem was I had "tight joints". "But, sir, wouldn't I have had 'tight joints' before I did the yardwork and woke up the next day unable to straighten my fingers?" Silence.

I assume you are on this forum because you play classical guitar. Classical is merely another of the genres I play so giving up nylon string guitars wouldn't be as devastating to me as it would to some other folks on this forum. However, when I was going through all of these injuries and the required time off from playing I did decide that, should the time come when I can no longer fret a guitar, I still wanted to play for as long a time period as possible. I looked around and purchased - and learned how to play - the lap steel guitar and its near relative the square neck resonator. I've been able to continue playing a conventional guitar as recoveries have gone well. I've therefore never played classical music on either instrument. Though I do know I will always have an alternative should I finally reach a point where my fretting hand simply can't accomplish what I desire of it.

User avatar
R_Pegio
Posts: 182
Joined: Tue May 19, 2009 10:03 am
Location: NW England

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by R_Pegio » Fri May 02, 2014 10:02 am

Well many thanks to all who took the trouble to post their kind offers of encouragement and advice - I certainly feel more optimistic than I did when I initiated this topic! I have made an appointment with my doctor for the 13th. May (the earliest I could get) and we'll see what the outcome of that is.

I daren't imagine what he'll say if I can bring myself to tell him that when the I am affected with the shoulder pain it gets worse when I go to the toilet! (True!) I suppose doctors always say that nothing they hear in their consulting rooms shocks or offends them, but I bet that makes him smile!

I mentioned on these pages a few weeks ago that UK Sky TV was repeating Segovia's "Song of the Guitar" which I put onto DVD and have watched a few times since; I am amazed at the height of the footrest the great man employed - it's a solid box about ten inches high! That would be absolute torture for me!

Thanks again!
It doesn't take any brains to listen to music.

Luciano Pavarotti

dory
Posts: 1952
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:29 am
Location: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Re: Shoulder Pain Induced by Guitar Playing

Post by dory » Fri May 02, 2014 2:21 pm

Some people are just lucky. Sharon Isbin says in my understanding that no other guitar support works like a footstool, and I can't even imsgine how many thousands of hours she has played. She also says that anyone whose hands aren't big enough for a 660 mm fingerboard won't get the fulll sound from the guitar. Fine, if you are blessed with an invulnerable back, shoulders and hips, and have unusually long fingers. Segovia was obviously the same way. Many of the rest of us aren't so blessed and need adapt the guitar to our own physical limitations--hopefully before we develop problems that are permanent and difficult to fix medically. I hope your doctor can help. In the meantime do consider some sort of support.
Dory

Return to “Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists”