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Lower back pain?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Bass Catcher, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. Hello -

    I've been experiencing some lower back pain and aching. I think it's a result of my playing. I encountered this problem several months ago, but remedied it by doing some stretching before I play (the only back stretch I do is one where I drop my upper body to the floor, and hang there for a minute or so, then I slowly get up.) Doing these stretches seemed to alleviate any back pain I was having.

    I've been practicing a lot more lately - usually three hours a day - and the pain is coming back - lately really badly. I still do my stretches first thing in the morning, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. The pain will usually come in later in the day, when I'm not playing.

    Anyone had any experience with this? Any advice?

    Thank you!

  2. dylanjohnson

    dylanjohnson Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2002
    Morro Bay, CA
    Keep your back relaxed, of course. But besides the obvious.... I just purchased a pair of shoes called Earth shoes that are designed with the toes higher than the heels to put your body in more proper alignment. After a couple of gigs and rehearsals, I noticed that my lower back pain was gone.... Now every time I put on my dress shoes for a gig (with higher heels) my back is killing me after the gig..... Gotta get some dress shoes made by Earth now... Really has helped.

    Jimmy Riot likes this.
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Back pain can be coming from all sorts of things. But a rule of thumb that I know is that if you got any kind of back pain, most likely your abs aren't strong enough. Yeah I know it sounds weird but I know (and have been told over and over) that having a strong core helps alleviate the stress on your back.

    IIRC, it has something to do with that if your stomach is weak, then the stress of bending over or incorrect posture causes back problems. If your abs are strong, then your stomach is better at holding up it's part to keep your posture in place.

    Anytime I start getting any kind of back pain, I start doing crunches every night and the pain goes away after a couple of days. It doesn't come back unless I don't do crunches or sit ups for quite a long time. It's a simple cure and it works every time for me. If that doesn't work, then the problem lies elsewhere - like your feet or your posture. HTH.
    Jimmy Riot likes this.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I bought a Sleep Number bed and my back pain of 15-20 years has disappeared.
  5. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    As a personal trainer as well as a struggling bass player , I do have some insight on this. It's almost assuredly your posture and not you abs. Strong balanced core muscle will help your posture in some ways for sure, but they don't ensure good body position. The culprit here in very often the position of your pelvis. It should not be tipped too far forward thus overextending your back. This tipped forward position CAN be made worse when your lower abs are weak in relation to your hip flexors( those muscles which attach just below the point of your hip and extend and attach to the upper thigh). So as both jason and hdiddy said making your abs stronger(thus shortening them) and stretching your thighs straight back, (elongating the hip flexor) will help If there's an imbalance there. It's important that when strengthening the abs you don't engage the hip flexors, because you then defeat the purpose of correcting the imbalance.

    Maybe more importantly, you have to pratice every day keeping that pelvis from tilting extremely in either direction while you play. Take a couple of minutes of practice time where your body position is your main focus. Guard against getting lazy and locking your knees and letting that pelvis tilt forward putting pressure on the lower back. Keeping your knees slightly unlocked will make this neutral position seem a lot more natural. And of course BREATH and RELAX.

    Do some research on the Alexander method as well. They have some extremely helpful info on the subject of body awareness.

    I hope this has been some help
  6. Do you stand or use a stool when you play? My back pain went away when I threw away the stool and concentrated on standing posture instead (now my feet hurt instead, but I can deal with that). That's not to say that there's not a proper way to sit while playing; I just never figured it out.

    I was initially taught to bend over the bass when approaching the upper positions. Now I keep my back as straight as possible, and I can reach the high D harmonic without bending (too much). I achieved this in part by actually lowering my endpin.
  7. Reuben


    Aug 8, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Make sure your weight is evenly distributed on the whole of both feet.

    As Jason suggests, make sure when going for upper register stuff that you don't bend any more than you have to. Bring the bass back to YOU.

    Rest, rest, rest, every so often during practice sessions and check yourself in the mirror throughout the session. I find I start off practice sessions with good posture and tend to "cave" a little as I get tired, or as my attention weakens. Posture is more than back straightness.

    Remember that 100 bad postures are better than 1 good one. Be flexible.

    Hope that helps.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    And my back pain went away when I quit trying to play standing and starting playing seated holding the bass like an overgrown cello. Go figure....
  9. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    ... you may want to experiment with the height of the bass - see if you can get into a position where you can keep your body upright and have easy access to the whole range of the instrument. Definitely good advice not to lock your knees - think of your head, neck, spine and legs making a shallow, flexible 's' curve. That's what keeps the pelvis in a neutral position instead of canting it. Alexander technique really helped me with this stuff.

    I lean the bass back quite a bit whether I'm standing or sitting, got that from my teacher who was a Petracchi student. Like Reuben and Jason said, you can lean the bass back into your body instead of craning over it. To play really high, I actually bend my knees and let the neck rest on my shoulder - that way the strongest muscles in the legs are doing all the work of bending.
  10. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    My rehearsal shoes of choice are these plastic clogs called Croqs - they absolutely took away a major chunk of back strain -- and cost about $30! Highly recommended. I used the black one's for "dress" shoes when I can get away with it
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'd like to see what you're doing, but if you're standing I can almost guarantee that:

    • You're locking your knees.
    • Most of your weight is on the heels of your feet
    • With your legs straight, you're bending at the waist.
    • Your bass is almost perfectly vertical when you're playing.
    • Your neck probably also gets tired as you have to crane your head up to see while in the strange posture that you assume to play.
    • Your left arm probably gets tired as well, and you blame this simply on 'holding it over your head'.
    • Your hands, head and heart fatigue easily as you are playing with a lot of tension.

    Am I close?
  12. I've tried to closely analyze my posture when I'm playing. Here's what I found:

    I play standing up, which I have done for the past year or so. I lean the bass in towards me. My left knee is not locked at all - it is somewhat bent to help me keep the bass balanced. My right knee is closer to being locked. I tried bending it, but it seemed like that would cause more trouble. Should this knee be bent as well? My left hand doesn't really get tired, and I don't get fatigued while playing. When I stand, should I stand as straight as possible?

    I had an insight when I read about strengthening my abs to help with the back pain. This all started about a month ago. This was immeadiately after I had a horrible affliction of food poisining. I probably lost five pounds and most likely a lot of muscle. This might be the result of the problem.

    I haven't noticed much pain in the last few days. Maybe by simply being conscious of it, it fixed itself.

    Thank you for all the advice!

  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Your weight should be distributed evenly on your feet, both from right to left foot, and from heel to toe. Neither knee should be locked, and you shouldn't be supporting the bass with your knee at all.

    I really think everyone should check out some AT or something similar.
  14. What is AT?
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Alexander Technique.
  16. The back stretching was a therapeutic response to a condition. It alleviated the symptom, without addressing the cause. An Alexander Teacher (me) would suggest that your condition is caused by your own response to stimuli, almost certainly habitual and entirely unconscious. Therapy comes after the injury, Alexander gets in front of it so that it doesn't occur. My job is to teach you to respond differently, i.e., with conscious choice. It's a long process, but once learned, permanent. It is impossible to describe with words (left brain), since the learning is experiential (right brain). It's also true that you cannot understand it by simply reading about it.
    My site is under construction, but FWIW:
  17. I would be interested in AT if a clinic or something ever came to Chattanooga. I play with more weight on my left foot which causes my right knee to lock up (but not for a few months I corrected it). It just caused my leg to be stiff and in pain. I never experienced lower back pain on the bass, but there was a point in time were I had upper back pain around my shoulder blades (mainly left side). Several years ago when I had back pain I swam in a pool. The moor I swam the better my back felt until the pain was gone.
  18. Did you say Chattanooga? Right south of you, on Sand Mountain in Alabama is the town of Higdon. Yup. Them's my kin. That's where my grandfather was born.

    You won't find a clinic for AT. It's taught one-to one. There are teachers in Memphis and Knoxville.
  19. Charles Shores

    Charles Shores Commercial User

    Jul 26, 2005
    My school had serveral clinics for musicians, and has a year round class for actors? :confused:
  20. North Carolina has twice as many AT teachers as Tenn.
    I was taking mcnaire's location into account.