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Back Pain - Bass related?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by AlexFeldman, Oct 26, 2000.

  1. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Hello all,

    I've been playing upright bass for about 4 years. In the past six months, I've had one muscle in my back that bothers me, located on the right side just to the left of my shoulder blade. Has anyone experiencied this kind of back pain and traced it back to bass playing?

    I'd say that my posture is pretty good (imitating pictures of Rufus Reid in _The Evolving Bassist_)... but I do play for 2-4 hours a day. Perhaps I should just go see a chiropractor?

  2. The short answer to ALL your questions is: yes.
    Remyd likes this.
  3. snyderz

    snyderz Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I'm a chiro and can at least throw a couple suggestions your way. I don't play DB but the position of the right arm is going to put some stress on what are called the rhomboid muscles which attach to the medial (toward the middle) shoulder blade. These are deep muscles so some good deep massage might be of value. The most common problem I see in that area is called a posterior rib head. Easily taken care of by a chiropractor. Good luck.
  4. Save the money you'd spend on a chiropractor and spend it on a teacher. I get bass-playing related back pain, but it's my lower back and I'm certain it's from standing for long periods and leaning over the bass to reach way up into thumb position. Judging by where you said the pain is, I'll almost guarrantee the pain is from bad technique and posture of the left arm. A little rest and correcting the problem will fix everything. That said, I also want to mention that stretching before, during, and after playing is important. And no offense to snyder but, I avoid chiropractors like the plague. I've seen people become semi-dependent on their adjustments.
  5. paul

    paul Staff Member Founder Administrator

    Jul 20, 2000

    Do you sit or stand while you play?

  6. snyderz

    snyderz Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    No offense taken, David. I'm not one of those chiros that keeps 'em coming back. I totally agree that technique and posture should be addressed. If he can get to the root of the problem, all the better. The plague??

  7. Sorry, Doc. A High School football injury took me to a chiro's once. The experience was less than pleasant, but what was worse was that a few days after the treatment the
    pain returned worse than it was originally. I've seen others suffer the same consequence. Despite the occassioanl back problem (pinched siatic <sp> nerve) and a stiff neck that puts me out of commission for a few days once every November or December, I haven't been back to the chiro in 11 or 12 years since that one visit.
  8. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I stand while I play... I have a smaller size bass (5/8ths, perhaps? Larger than 1/2 size but smaller than 3/4) so its pretty easy for me to reach thumb position, i.e.: I don't have to lean that far.

    I'm between teachers at this point, but I'll be having my first lesson with a new one soon. I did speak with him last night about the problem and he wasn't sure if my technique could be contributing to the problem.

    I suppose my question should of been more along the lines of: 'Hey, do you fellow bass players go to see a doc when you're experiencing minor pains that might be playing related, or do you just suck it up as with finger problems? :)'

    Thanks for the replies...
  9. With stretching, knowing when you need a break, and proper technique, there shouldn't be pain. The only problems I've encountered was tendonitis in my left hand/wrist which was caused by improper technique and playing longer than my body was capable to at the time. I've since corrected my technique; and though I still have the tendonitis, it doesn't bother me. I no longer experience any pain.
  10. Unless you're sure the pain is muscular in nature, a checkup might not be a bad investment. Pain in the area you describe can also be a symptom of gall bladder trouble.
  11. There are different ways to describe relaxed elongation of the neck. Think of releasing your head to float upward; at the same time relax the muscles from the neck to the shoulder. Your spine will straighten to follow your head. Train yourself to do this just before you play anything, even on a half bar rest. Also, when you stop, a rest passage or the conductor needs to yell at somebody, appraise your posture. Did you regress? That's OK; pause, relax, and readjust. New habits require repetition. My teacher sometimes says "Stop. Let go of the bass." If it falls, my posture is usually wrong. Actually, I found that standing erect made spicato easier and better sounding.

    My skeleton has led me to experience every mode of treatment. I have had good and bad experiences with orthopedists, accupuncturists, therapists and others. I give the ortho the first shot, but have found instances where a chiropractor was the only source of relief.
  12. The first 6 mos I played DB, I had this exact pain. It would get so bad that I would stop, even while playing with someone, and form into a backwards arch on the ground to try to alleviate it. But it kept happening...

    Then it stopped. And I still am not quite sure why, but must assume that it had something to do with learning to relax my body a bit better while I played, use a better posture, etc. So the jist of what I am saying is that if you concentrate on all aspects of playing, you should be able to alleviate the pain, rather than the symptoms...
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I'm no expert, so please take this for what it's worth, but from your profile and some of your previous replies, you sound like a jazzer (at least in part). Paul's question was a really good one. Have you tried sitting for jazz playing? I'm not an orchestra player, so I have nothing valid to say about body position while bowing, but I was never able to get comfortable while standing for jazz playing. (I got the exact same back pain you describe, plus some lower back twinges on the left side) After a bit I tried sitting on a stool with my left leg up (against the bass, foot on one of the rungs), and my right leg on the floor. I have never had a hint of back pain since, and I've taken a folding stool to every gig and session since. Life is no fun when your back hurts.....

    BTW, Rufus has a special endpin on his bass - it's graphite and it sticks out at an odd angle from the bottom of the bass; he had to have a special hole drilled to fit it. I got to try it for about 30 minutes last summer, and it was an improvement, standing or sitting. He's way into the whole "body posture to avoid back pain" thing, having been through it before. Good luck!
  14. Yeah, I gotta agree with you Ed. I only took a couple of lessons, but I was using a stool and working alot harder than I needed to be for a lot less sound until he showed me how to kinda let the bass come to me, and how to relax my technique. Now I stand up, get no pain, and enjoy it a hell of alot more...
  15. It's hard to swing when I'm sittin'.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Okay guys, I give!

    Remember, I said "take it for what it's worth"! I freely admit that you all know a hell of a lot more about proper posture than I do....I was just trying to relate what worked for me. Playing bass isn't the only thing that gives me back pain, but sitting in that way while playing was the only thing (that I know of, anyway :) ) I found that would make it go away. I admit it looks strange, but I find it comfortable, and it also somehow or other alleviated my left arm pain as well....There are many drawbacks to being self taught; but when that's the road you're taking, sometimes it comes down to, "it hurts when I do this, and it doesn't hurt when I do this". I guess that's about as deep as my reasoning went on the whole standing/sitting issue.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ed - the beer's on me...
  18. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all the replies. It's a miracle - I found a teacher (i've been teacherless now for about six months). He should last me at least until I get into college where I can have my own bass professor (I can hardly wait).

    As for the back pain itself, I've been keeping myself relaxed and the pain has lessened to the point where I hardly notice it, but the muscle (and I'm pretty sure its a muscle) is still tense. I have found that a back massage, even issued from an amateur, really helps allieviate the tension.

    Chris - yeah, I'm a jazz guy. Yeah, I've tried sitting down. A few weeks ago I brough a stool to a gig but ended up kicking it over after the first two tunes. But it is nice to have around during long, boring rehearsals. ;) And I did get to see Rufus' wacky endpin. Lynn's was even wackier. But hey, maybe someday...

  19. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Alex, When you get to be a fossil like myself, there aren't many aches and pains that are new. I have found that a couple of aspirin ,taken about an hour before I play makes the pain more bearable. Arthritis in my fingers almost made me quit but after discovering the "miracle" drug my pain went away.

    If I have any advice, it would be to listen to your body. If something hurts, there's usually a reason for it.

    My opinion of chiropractic treatment is much higher than some of the other posters. I don't think it's a cure-all, but I've seen a lot of people get relief from various pains with chiropactic treatment when conventional treatment had no effect on thier pain at all. YMMV.

  20. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    One thing that I have found to help is something Jim Stinnett (author of The Paul Chambers Books)suggested to me which is to put a plush carpet under your feet when you play because it somehow relieves some of the pressure on your heels when you are standing and playing for longer periods of time...

    Just thought I'd share that piece with you all..


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