“Guitar Shoulder”

“Guitar Shoulder”

Do any of you guitar players get "guitar shoulder", the pain from the shoulderblade up to the neck? I suffer from it greatly esp. after playing for hours on end.

I suspect the position with your right (in my case) arm up on the guitar body does this. I have started playing OMs and 000’s more often, and play only these at home. I like a dreadnaught for backing though.

Anybody have any remedies or ideas to avoid this? I know I am not the only one. It’s sort of like a bursitis.

Can’t play standing up either, though that could fix things!

Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

Iris - you should bring any instrument that feels comfortable to our session. I’m sure it will sound just fine. Pain is a way of your body telling you something. Is it really worth insisting on that guitar?

Avi

Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

First step: Don’t play for “hours on end”. Take a short break after 30-45 minutes, stand up, stretch and walkaround. Just three or four minutes will help a lot, five to ten, even better.

So the pain is on the right side and you think it’s from the arm position? I’m gonna boldly guess that you rest the guitar on your right thigh. Have you tried the standard classical position – resting on the left thigh? This is a more ergonomic posture for the arms, shoulders and neck. It also holds the guitar more steadily, since it props on three points instead of two. For some reason, there’s a lot of silly bias against playing in this position. If you give it a fair trial, you’ll find it frees up the right arm considerably. It also reduces tension in the left hand and arm.

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As I recall the pain is from the right shoulder being jammed up into the neck, from the big dread body. Trapezius muscle.
I used to have it all the time. First it was on the other side from hoisting Les Pauls on straps and trying to keep my left shoulder up by pulling hard on the trapezius and neck muscles.

When I stopped playing A) dreads and B) on my right knee (I’m right handed), and switched to OMs and zouk and began playing on my right knee, as Bob Himself mentions, the classical position, my life became -much- easier and playing time a whole lot more fun. I find it easier to reach some chord voicings, too.

I use a strap even when I’m seated, it allows me to move the weight from left knee to left shoulder, or to my right arm, esp. if I’m in a tight session. I use a John Pearse armrest and that helps me to hold the guitar almost vertical on occaision.

It’s really fun to have the guitar or zouk in place without having to hold it up with my left hand, just fret that puppy.

So I have all these different weight distributions that let me move among useful positions.

HTH,

stv

http://cdbaby.com/Culchies

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I disagree with some of the advice given above. The "Classical" position may be great for playing fingerstyle, but it is totally useless for playing rhythm guitar with a flatpick. It Puts your hand into totaly the wrong position, and any attempt at right hand damping is a contortionists nightmare.
I suffered from exactly the same problem and solved the problem by learning to relax. Take note of your breathing. Are you tensing up, and taking shallow breaths? Or are you taking huge breaths and holding them. Either will course you major problems. Try noticing your breathing and tell youself to relax. Breath normaly and think about tention in your arms, back, wrist, etc. Try it. It works.

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Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

I have a neck problem that guitar playing for great lengths of time can exacerbate. In addition to the neck hurting, I get pain down my shoulder and arm, and sometimes the arm feels dead and sluggish. I am told that it is a nerve being pinched. My doctor says it is not anything serious, but recommends I pay more attention to my posture. Slouching around seems to be the root cause, not playing guitar.

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Iris, There’s a really good Yoga exercise that helps me trememdously when I get that.

Stand straight up and put your left hand on your right shoulder and your right hand on your left shoulder. Raise your elbows so that they are straight out in front of you then pull slightly out and up. Hold that position for a few seconds.

I do it three of four times a couple times a day. It may take
a few days to feel some relief. Hope it works for you.

Mary

Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

gee I wonder where my last post went! Anyway to make a short story long…..Avi….if you note the new guitar I am bringing around is a smaller one, OM size, the one I just made ( with a great teacher…..Franck Finocchio in Easton PA if anyone wants to take the course!) . It’s as loud as any dreadnaught, but I fear bringing it into real crowded places. We’re going to make the next one an ergonomic model where your right arm slopes down the body a bit instead of getting pinched on the sharp edge of the body.
I just sold my jumbo this summer, it’s a model I will never play again.
Bob…..thanks for the advice. I tried it last night, on the left knee, it will take a bit of getting used to, but works for fingerstyle, though the left arm is a little more out there. I never play with a flatpick, even for backing, that too is fingerstyle, so this may work, it’ll have a good test this coming weekend. It did lower the shoulder enough.

Any future guitars….heaven help me, I certainly think 15 is enough! will be small OMs or 000s.

Mary…..I tried that and it feels good, maybe numerous stretch breaks will help. I have a shiatsu massage chair I get into after a long stretch playing and it seems to pop things back in place.

thanks….

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PS….Al…yeah, I think it is a pinched nerve…sometimes it is all down my right side. Or am I getting old, LOL!

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With me, the getting old part goes without saying! Want to see pictures of my new granddaughter? ;-)

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Hey Al, I have a new granddaughter too…well 16 months! My daughter is 31…..I of course made the Enquirer because I had her at age five, LOL. Actually I’d love to see pix, want to see mine too?

Actually I love my age now, 53….yes I admit it proudly, all except for that danged guitar shoulder! I love the freedom to go play music til my fingers bleed if I want to, this seems to be the time when most obligations are over and before you start to really fall apart. I intend to have loads of fun for years to come….with any luck.

You can send the pix to:
irisnevins@verizon.net if you really want. I’ll send some back.

iris

Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

I do flatpicking as well as fingerstyle in the classical position and I haven’t had any problems with playing rhythm or damping or anything else in particular. Not that I’m a brilliant flatpicker, but I do it more competently in the classical position.

If your technique is based on years of playing in the “right-thigh” position, you would probably feel awkward changing, especially if you prop the left foot too high or angle the neck to high. There’s plenty of room for adjustment.

I’ve been using the classical position for about forty years, but I sometimes play casually on the right thigh. I can play that way, but I feel like I have less control and my right shoulder gets tired.

Actually, I do sometimes have one “problem” with my classical position – bluegrass players rolling their eyes. :-)

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luckly no, but (in the main) i’ve always stood up _and that’s what i’d advise you to try

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I have to totally disagree with the Don. I always play guitar on the left knee when sitting, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s classical, steel acoustic or even electric, though some solid body electrics (eg Strat) are much easier to play on a strap standing. I raise my left foot, usually on a case or box, when playing nylon acoustic but NOT steel. This is due to the extra neck length on most steel acoustics, raising the foot puts my hand too high up.

I play both fingerstyle and with a plectrum and I have never ever had any difficulty getting my hand into the ideal position for playing rhythm with the guitar on the left knee, and of course the guitar is properly "locked" in that hold, so you can really move about the neck with the left hand and also get into lively rhythm with the right. Palm muting is no problem either, in fact I can’t think of any technique that would not be made easier with the guitar on the left knee.


I moved to the left knee after quite a few years on the right, (and the move was decades ago BTW) and I have never looked back. I occasionally try the right knee because it looks better but it plays for crap, the guitar flies about all over the place and it hurts you under the right shoulder…….

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You and I are in violent agreement, RuairidhMor. Almost all fiddlers have come around to the standard classical position because it’s gradually become common knowledge that it’s a more ergonomic approach. Guitar players – and teachers - have been more resistant to change and I think it’s mainly because of the “uncool” factor. It’s sometimes referred to as the “classical snob” position. I’ve always encouraged students to give it a try, but at about half – mainly males – declined to even consider it.

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Make that "but about half…"

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I just recently took up steel-string guitar—with a dreadnought—and after a couple of weeks of quite a bit of practice daily, I’m getting used to the casual position. I’ve played classical guitar on and off for forty years, and am at home with the classical posture—but it always results in pain. I’m finding the casual posture is more comfortable for me, at least with the steel-string, and I’m also playing Celtic tunes on the classical guitar in the casual posture.

I have chronic lower back pain and I get some shoulder discomfort that I wouldn’t call real pain, in any posture. The thing that causes it for me is (1) slouching too much; and (2) tensing—especially tensing. I’m getting better at signaling myself when tension builds, and consciously relaxing, and I can hear my playing improve right away.

I find the dreadnought works far better on my left knee than on the right. I read a book by violinist Yehudi Menuhin once in which he pointed out that playing violin is stressful because both arms are above the heart. Well, with the dreadnought on the right thigh, my right elbow is above my heart; on the left thigh, it’s not. I offer this for what it’s worth. I enjoyed all the posts in this discussion, too. Thanks.

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i did the yoga stretch suggested and it hurt, my right shoulder (strumming arm) hurts every day after i strum for a long time especially after tremelo picking and i found that playing on my left knee is awkward and hurts my lower back
what can i do??
devvy boi

Re: “Guitar Shoulder”

The classical position allows the hand to fall slightly to the left of centre which is a comfortable one for the right shoulder. As soon as you bring the guitar back onto the right leg the hand moves toward the middle and the shoulder has to be pulled back. If you don’t get your overall posture right this can cause a lot of problems.
The trade-off is that, for larger guitars, the classical position forces the left hand further out, it can strain the lower back and if you need to look at your left hand your neck is rotated even further.
There’s really no simple solution, everyone has different needs and different bodies. The best idea is to firstly understand what’s going on, be as relaxed as possible.
Because one of the main roles of the shoulder muscles is to stabilise the joint they also tend to play up if your general fitness isn’t what it should be so they often respond better to toning exercises than they do to stretching.
Check out the shoulder section of my site.
http://www.tuneup.com.au/module-2/shoulder-and-elbow

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I am not 100% sure regarding this particular case, but I have found that most wrist, shoulder, back, etc. pain is caused by a dysfunction in the body caused by lack of motion of certain muscles.

For example, tendonitis is caused when the hsoulders are not used frequently enough and shoulder pain can be caused by hip misalignment due to sitting too long. That might explain your problem if you are sitting around a lot playing guitar.

There is a book called "Pain Free" that can describe this in greater detail and recommend stretches. It cured my tendonitis when nothing else would.

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I am having this same problem. I always thought it came from tension related to fast flat-picking. Primarily because the episodes would occur the day after a vigorous flat-picking work-out. I saw a physical therapist who gave me exercises to do and they helped for over a year, but now it seems to be getting worse. And to make matters worse, I have degenerative spinal condition and can only play the guitar sitting on stools, generally while leaning my guitar against a high table to support it…the classical position won’t work because I can’t have my knees above my hips. I have not sat in a regular chair for 9 years. I will try some of the suggestions I’ve read, and would welcome more…thank you.

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I just bought a beautiful dreadnought a couple of days ago at Steve’s Music after playing a classical guitar for years. I wanted to get into open tunings and was captivated by the rich bass and overall resonance of a handmade spruce-top dreadnaught. But after playing for a couple of days and having sore shoulders and back I now realize that I may have made a very expensive mistake not taking my size into consideration (just barely scraping 5 feet tall). I am reading these posts with great interest and wondering if I should see if I can make an exchange or try some of these techniques. Should a short woman even try playing a dreadnaught?

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Just reading all of this input and wondering…I have the pain in my left shoulder, right behind the shoulder blade and it radiates to my neck and by the end of the first set I’m hurtin pretty bad. I’ve been playing guitar almost all my life but it didn’t seem to bother me until I started playing standing up. I play an Ovation so its hard to sit with the rounded back. Thinking of trying the double strap or something. Also thinking of giving up guitar. That would be tough. I will try the exercises. I have tried accupuncture too and it helped alot. I have a lot of popping in the joint also. I thought I was weird or something and am relieved to know that its not just me, although unfortunate that alot of you have it as well.

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Ankkhsanamum:
I believe you have a similar problem I had. I know people will always tell you tension: and they are right. Try these two activities that saved and vastly improved my guitar technique and relaxation:
Reach both your arms straight up to the ceiling, pointing your wrist straight up as well. Gradually relax your wrist until you get the feeling of absolutely no tension in your wrist or arm, and flex your fingers. This is how you should be hitting strings.
Second, I am guessing that you have a slight bit of trouble hitting barre chords higher up on the neck while standing up. This is because you are pulling the guitar into your body, which causes tension to curve up your arm *and* I promise you can feel it, right next to the shoulderblade muscle. Concentrate on focusing all that relaxed finger pressure upon the guitar - and not on pulling the guitar back to your body.

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This is an old string, but, for those of you having neck and shoulder pain and the tips above aren’t working, take a look at the "Hip Strap" guitar strap I found on line. It takes the entire weight of the guitar off of your shoulders and puts in on your hips. A life saver for me and some other folks who have ordered it (according to their site). Here’s the address: www.slingerstraps.com
Good Luck!

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