question for flute players

question for flute players

Hi there:

I was wondering how many flute players have problems with tendonitis? I am playing whistle at the moment, (Which gives me no problem) with the hope of graduating to wood flute one day but wanted to see what the story was. I know the arms/body position causes trouble for some people. Any thoughts/advice?

Re: question for flute players

I’ve been playing 2-3 years seriously now (a few more years before that on bamboo flutes, but not playing too often). I practice about 1/2 hour to an hour per day, and on good weekend days and with session have played 2-4 hours from time to time.

I have no problems with tendonitis. I find the flute very comfortable to hold. There is a period where some folks report hand pain in the right hand as you adjust to the tone hole spread, but my hand reach is 8.25 inches (pinky to thumb spread apart) and never had any pain. Keyless is definitely not as heavy as a keyed or Boehm flute.

Eric

Re: question for flute players

I didnt have tendonitis but I had shoulder and back aches whenever I was playing the flute for more than 2 minutes. I heard about the Alexander technique, found a teacher, and after about 5 lessons I more or less identified and fixed the issue. If you ever encounter any strain issues when playing the flute (and we hope not) I highly recommend the Alexander technique.

Re: question for flute players

Ah, but don’t even get me started.

Ganglion cysts in the wrists, Repetitive Strain Injury all the way down my right arm (different parts of the arm at different times, fortunately - but ranging from shoulder to wrist), and arthritic-like pain in my finger joints.

I should add that I also work at a computer for 12 hours a day, and have done so for the past 6 years. Before that, when I played (silver) flute but didn’t hack away at the keyboard all day, I had no problems, and when I started working full-time, I didn’t have any problems either until I started playing flute again last year.

So if you’re prone to tendonitis, as you mentioned in another thread, be careful. Do you use a keyboard and mouse all day? If so, maybe get Alexander Technique lessons right from the word go, to learn the most relaxed posture and technique. Wish I had.

Fortunately the pain disappears after a guinness or two :-/

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Re: question for flute players

I think I am starting to develop somthing in my hand…but I’ve been playing for over 10 years now…

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Re: question for flute players

Thanks, all. Is the Alexander technique a playing method. or is it a posture/body thing? I will be looking out for it.

Tendonitis is an evil thing, I think we are at a bad place in our evolution or something. I do varying forms of computer/art/animation work so I have trouble if I am doing one thing for hours (as I do) but lately I am mostly unemployed so my hands are fine, wheeeeeee.

Ganglion cysts, I feel your pain, that sounds awful! Look after yourself, Q.

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They go away if you stop playing flute for three months :-/

but what’s a little crippling pain when there are tunes to be played, eh?

Ah, just kidding. I’ve found my balance and it’s not so bad now - but this after a lot of posture re-learning and therapeutic treatment, so best you get it right from the get-go!

Good luck - it’s worth it.

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Re: question for flute players

I’ve never had problems, but I’m also on the younger end. Of course, this past summer at the Catskills, I took the workshop with June McCormack, rather young herself, and she had wrist problems. Occasionally I’ll have problems, but only when I get lazy and play with my arms resting on a chair or something. Puts added pressure on the wrists.

Basically, I wouldn’t let the potential of stuff like that stop you from doing something that you want to do. Worse things than tendonitis can happen at a moment’s notice, so don’t let stuff like that stop you from going for the flute. Just enjoy it!

Re: question for flute players

Find a hand/finger position that works for you. And be careful not to overdo it until your flute-specific muscles have a chance to develop—a few months of cautious practice (with frequent breaks) at first.

A good teacher can help you avoid bad habits and unhealthy posture

That, and don’t let yourself develop the habit of the "grip of death" on the flute—it takes almost no muscle tension to hold a flute and finger the tone holes.

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Re: question for flute players

Oh, and take a look at veteran flutists like Mike Rafferty and Mike McHale. I honestly have no clue if they have tendonitis, but if they do, they hide it well because they are lovely flute players that seem to absolutely love playing the music. Again, if you want to play flute, do it.

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the alexander technique is a posture technique developed by a singer from the late 1800’s (i believe… or was he an actor? i dont quite remember). he couldnt sing (or project when he was acting), but he coul talke fine otherwise, and through the study of posture and technique, he discovered his hoarseness was from his use of his body, and by changing it (his posture changed the way he sung, as well) got his voice back. he developed a school of instruction and a technique for analyzing posture. it is good to see so many people here using it!

usually the alexander technique is used to teach you how to sit right, stand right, nad most importantly transition you from moving between natural states, as well as getting these states to be properly balanced. there’s no back adjustment to my knowledge, it is just repetition and guidance through different movements. i had never thought of it for using flute playing.

i have never had problems holding the silver flute. i havent started playing wooden yet, but when i do i am going to take it slow so that i dont. i have had thumb problems for the last several years, but it has not affected my daily life, just some thumb pain. but that is i believe because of the shape of my thumb (hitch hiker’s) and i have not found a comfortable position for it yet. but it only bothers me every couple weeks. though my right them thumb cant quite bend as far in and as comfortbly as my left.

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Re: question for flute players

I’ve got a cold sore thingie just under my lower lip. I think it’s from playing the whistle too much as I have a Clarke with a wooden fipple. I don’t have any problems with wrists etc, but then I’m only 14.

Re: question for flute players

I played silver fute classically for about 20 years with no aches or pains whatsoever. I’ve played the whistle on and off for years with no problems either. However, it was a different story when I first started playing the wooden flute - I got very bad tendonitis that went right up into my right shoulder. Working at a keyboard/mouse during the day meant it was very difficult to rest it so it took a while to recover. The thing is, in hindsight, don’t overdo it when you first get the flute - it takes a while for your fingers to find where they are comfortable - perhaps in a way this is worse if you’re used to playing another keyed instrument. It’s not easy when you’ve got a beautiful instrument to learn and just want to crack on with it though, I know. Still, it’s better for breaking the flute in properly to play a little at first and gradually build up. So, relax, and if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong…

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Re: question for flute players

What Will says about the ‘grip of death’ is what you really have to watch out for. It can creep up on you, especially if you’re playing somewhere where you aren’t as relaxed as you might be. If I’m at all nervous, if say I’m leading a ‘new’ tune in an unfamiliar session, I sometimes find I end up with my left hand seized up like a rigid claw and my right little finger half dislocated from pressing against the side of the flute. As Will points out, it should take no pressure, just balance, to hold the flute…

Re: question for flute players

The Grip of Death is deadly no matter what instrument you play. Two nights ago I was frustrating myself, chasing tension around my body while playing. It was hilarious, I’d find it and relax in one spot only to find it had moved to another almost immediately!

Re: question for flute players

no worries for tendonitis, ive been playing for about 8+ years and ive never had any problems.

Re: question for flute players

I have had bouts of tendonitis-like symptoms and been successful (and simultaneously musically active - if careful) with home physio-therapy and homeopathic remedies.

There s a wonderful product called ‘Traumeel’ which can be bought isn a soothing (and inoffensively scented) massage cream and benefits muscle and tendon problems to no end… I found that removing (for the most part!) refined sugar/carbs from my diet was helpful as well… I also took Arnica and Chamomile homeopathics internally and, believe it or not, found great relief with magnetic bracelets…
One of the most important habits I have developed however is hydro-theraputic and simple;

Before I practice or play a demanding session/gig, I soak my hands/forearms in hot water (hot as I can stand) followed by cold and then hot again…. Nothin’ like this for warming up the digits and gettin them flying fancy-free…

Good luck!

Re: question for flute players

A reference was made to Lactic Acid. It would be pretty difficult to reach the point where Lactic Acid becomes a problem is flute playing. Lactic Acid build-up. is a by-product of Anerobic metabolism. Flute playing, even Matt Molloy’s doesn’t generate enough effort to become anerobic. Playing while climbing L’Alpe D’Huez might do it though!

Re: question for flute players

Yes, I’ve had tendonitis. Played silver flute since a kid — no problems but on open holed wooden it started after intense practise.
Advice - well, the probelm for me was the change in (left) hand position to cover the holes. Can’t be helped but relax, don’t overplay and keep shoulders and back at ease.
Stop when the tendonitis starts - it can get much worse! Use Ruta (homeopathic) ointment to relieve the pain but not as an excuse to blast away again.
Don’t wear a heavy watch on your wrist while playing.
Find the tendon and massage several times a day. on the tendon, pressing hard as if squeezing out toothpaste. The sheath around the tendon gets lumpy when damaged and you smooth away the scar tissue with firm direct pressure.

It can go away but in my humble estimation it’ll get worse if you don’t get it sorted.

Re: question for flute players

I started to get tendonitis in my left thumb-wrist after about 10 years of playing. It took a long time for me to realise that the pain was flute-related, but that’s definitely it. If I play a lot of fiddle, or I’m spending a lot of time at the computer, then it gets worse. I’ve been meaning to start Alexander Tech. lessons for a while, but cranio-sacral therapy is what seems to be working for me. After 5 or 6 sessions of that last April/May, my tendonitis disappeared and has only re-appeared in the last month or so. Not bad going, in my opinion - I haven’t had to stop playing or change anything else (although I’ve also become more aware of some of the trigger factors for my tendonitis, so I am making some small adjustments, I suppose). If you have pain when you play, you need to get it checked out. Muscle/tendon problems are only one part of repetitive strain injuries; nerve damage can also result. So rule out nerve problems, and then find some way of helping your tendonitis (or whatever).
Good luck!
Deirdre

Re: question for flute players

Ok, so thumb-wrist doesn’t make as much sense as I thought it would… :D
I have tendonitis in the tendon that runs down the left side of (the back of) my left thumb, into my wrist.

Re: question for flute players

bestcraic - i like the idea of that hot cold thing! my mom and my uncle were discussing hot / cold therapy the other day, but i had school the next day so i didnt get to hear much of it. very interesting. they were talkign about how it can actually clear up toxins in the blood because it forces the blood to the extremities and then bakc to the bones so quickly.

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