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Upper shoulder and neck pain

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Ryker_M, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Alright, I had hoped that I could resolve this through slight tweaking on my own; but to no avail.

    I play seated 95% of the time, and when I do stand the pain persists.

    All through my upper right shoulder into my neck I have serious pain. It's not unbearable at first, but after two or three hours, I reach the point where I become unable to focus and have to walk away until the pain stops. I'm not sure if this stems from a bad bow arm (which I will post a picture of tomorrow when suitable lighting is possible), or from my time spent at the computer.

    Any suggestions for dealing with upper shoulder and neck pain? I'm seriously in need of help here... :bawl:
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Massage will get you out of the woods. After that get some time with a good teacher and/or someone who's an expert in body mechanics such as a good chiropractor or Alexander teacher.
  3. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    My teacher seems to think it's just my bow being held up too high, instead of just letting my arm to relax and work that way.

    I haven't seen my chiropractor in so long, but I'll ask what he thinks as well. Alexander technique is something I'm VERY acquainted with, having studied it before. Never really thought to apply it to the music world though.

    Thank you for your suggestions!
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I've been dealing with this for a few months now. I had some physical therapy sessions and have been concentrating on not tensing my neck and shoulder muscles while playing. Think relaxation all the time. I also use a theracane and stretch the area daily. I now sit at a height where both feet are planted on the floor. I think this is helping as I had my left leg up at a pretty high angle with my last stool and that is when the stress/pain began...
  5. German or French bow?

  6. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
  7. I will give your problem some thought and come back with a list of suggestions.

  8. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Here's a few quick photos I got taken while I was practicing today.

    Noticing the picture of my bow arm, I can definitely see a problem there.


    Thanks you guys and gals
  9. mattgray


    Nov 16, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    Just my 2 cents - you're slouching in the pictures. It might help to support your upper torso with your abdominal muscles; that will put your arms in an optimal position to 'use their full weight', as they say. Otherwise, you're having to use your arms to pick them up into a position... just to put them back down into the bass. That might be a good place to begin.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I had a terrible time when I was asked to play a 7/8 five string which the orchestra owned. The ribs were way deeper than what I was used too, so I had to have my arm out much further. I switched to German for awhile, which seemed to help. In the meantime I did a weight regimen and was able to switch back to French after a few months. My colleagues preferred that I switch to German in principal, but I did such a lousy job of it that they actually encouraged me to switch back. I didn't get fired, though!
  11. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Yeah, that's what I noticed. I suppose I should pull my bass up higher in height, move the endpin away from my stool and lean back further.

    Something more cello-like will probably help my posture, and my pain, greatly.
  12. Look at the vids from Bradetich on youtube:

    and consider a German bow. I always had tension in my right shoulder when playing French bow, all of that disappeared when I switched to German.
  13. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Been through lots of back and arm pain.

    +1 on weekly massage/acupuncture...this can help reduce pain... not necessarily solve the problem. Take more breaks during practice and do some stretches. Regular exercise will help too. Possibly swimming that will not put pressure on your muscles/bones.

    I also suggest looking into getting an adjustable stool with a padded/tiltable seat (and a back). Sitting on a stool with a non-adjustable hardwood circular seat for hours may cause muscle strain due to your body attempting to maintain balance and may also reduce circulation to your legs possibly creating other problems in the long run.

    For computer usage and relaxed wrists, a Microsoft Natural Keyboard works well.

    Possibly have a professor/instructor take a look at your body positioning and recommend some changes.
  14. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    I've considered a German bow, but the bass I have isn't even legally my own, it's on loan from the school with the bow.

    That, and none of my teachers play German bows. I don't want to be stuck learning it myself, and end up hurting myself even more.
  15. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    This is all my opinion, of course, but here's how I see it:

    You're a young man, and the fact that you are experiencing persistent pain means that something is wrong. Whether that is in your posture or your approach to playing, I couldn't tell without spending time with you in person, but judging from what you have said, as well as your pictures, I have some thoughts.

    1.) Massages are good, but they are treating, the symptom, and NOT the problem. go get a few (they take time to get rid of built up muscle tension, Fascial adhesion, etc), but do not consider this a solution.

    2.) do some basic PT. I have to get after myself for this as well, but when you play the bass, you build up certain muscles. If you do not build up other muscles to compensate for the strength you are gaining on one side, you become lopsided, which can give you a funny posture and make you slouch (ever seen those "built" guys who walk around with their upper arms 20cm away from their body? they have this problem too). Muscle areas I have had recommended to me: Abdominal and upper back. Talk to a trainer, or (if you are still in high school) even your gym teacher.

    3.) when you sit on your stool, try flexing your abdominal muscles to help your back muscles keep your upper body stable.

    4.) Set a timer for 3 minutes. every time it goes off, ask yourself if you're sitting with proper posture, and check.

    5.) Do what jallenbass said, and speak with someone who's Alexander Technique or (there's another one, but I can't remember the name).

    I don't think any of these are particularly divisive opinions, but I suppose there are some who might disagree. My main point is that you need to take care of your body. Young men like yourself (and to a lesser extent myself) need to take care of their bodies if they're going to have any hope of a long-term career. Try a shorter stool, a taller stool, longer endpin, shorter endpin, bass futher out, closer, whatever, but listen to your body. when it says "ouch", ask where, and then ask why, then find a solution.

    good luck man,

  16. Please excuse me for sounding rather blunt.

    From the pictures that you posted -
    (1) You are slouching and very round shouldered. This rolls your shoulder over and results in a misalignment of the joint and misuse of neck and upper back muscles.
    (2) You appear hollow chested, pulling your shoulders forward when in your playing position.
    (3) You seem tall, thin and lightly muscled, wrapping yourself around the bass with the bass neck very close to yours. This might have you sit too much behind the bass and lean your head to one side?
    (4) The bass neck is almost resting on your left shoulder. Reaching for lower positions will have you pulling your elbow back and up, another cause of discomfort and tension.
    (5) Your left foot is resting on the rung of the stool which may add to the distortion of your body if your pelvis is tilting to your right.
    (6)You appear to be sitting right down on the top of the stool. How high is it?

    So what I think I see is poor posture and seated position combining to cause your pain and tension.

    Some broad suggestions (perhaps already made) -
    (1) Posture therapy. Take your bass and stool to a physiotherapist or Alexander teacher and show them what you are doing.
    (2) Exercise with light weights and many repetitions to add strength to your torso and upper body.
    (3) Stretches before and after playing, especially for your neck and shoulders.

    Some immediate suggestions to try -
    (1) Examine your posture for comfort without your bass. Is your stool about 27 inches or more high? Sit more forward on it with both feet on the floor so that if you picked your feet up you might fall forward. If you have done some Alexander work you will know how to lengthen your spine by extending your head "forward and up". This should help you to not slouch because you will feel your lower back muscles tighten and produce a small curve in your lumbar region. Feel for this curve with your hand behind your back. The act of lengthening your spine will also help pull and roll your shoulders back and align them better with your torso. Bend forward from your hip joints with your spine extended like this. Try to do all this without much tension.
    (2) After making yourself comfortable then bring the bass to you. Adjust the end pin so that the bass is a little more vertical, the nut is just higher than your left ear and the neck comes further forward, almost level with your face. Turn the bass more to the right and lean it more across your body and towards the inside of your left knee to create a hands-free stand. Where they rest against your body the bass ribs are lower and should be just below your right ribs. The extent to which you turn in is to just avoid leaving a stripe of rosin on your trousers when bowing the E string. Picture an arrow pointing out from your chest roughly towards the bridge and strings where your hands are working. The bass neck should be far enough forward that you don't pull your elbow up higher than and back behind your shoulder to reach the lower positions. Yet you should still be able to bow comfortably at a good contact point.
    (2) I refer you to stretches and an exercise that I have put in the current thread "Thumb Position Shoulder Blade pain".
    (3) If you PM me a fax number I can send more stretches that I have collected.

    Best wishes,

  17. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Thank you for the input. I'll have to give all those a shot. I believe my stool is just a little less than twenty six inches, right now I'm at school though so mostly everything else will have to wait.
  18. I was comparing the second and third photo. In the third one, it looks like you have the bass in more of a cello position and your neck looks like it is in an uncomfortable position along with rounded shoulders and some twisting in upper body. Check the suggested video about turning the bass inward. Notice how symmetrical Jeff's body is. Try to avoid any part of the body being twisted, and practice in front of a mirror to maintain it.

    Also, are you placing both feet on the floor, or is the left leg propped up on a footrest on the stool? Both feet on the floor would be a better choice.

    I certainly have my share of physical challenges on the bass, have a twisted spine to begin with, and have to work hard at correct form, so its great you are asking for feedback. I see the chiropractor, and do some strength exercises. Rounding the shoulders as a habit does create more stress in that area.

    I do think that standing is less stress on the body than sitting.

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