Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Let me say I played the Boehm Flute as well as the Irish Flute for years
As we all know the left Arm is in a Flex Position while playing the Flute
No pain Problem at all for years
And then one Day the Outer part of my left upper Arm became painful and this would happen as soon as I picked up the Flute.
I would then put down the Flute and it went away.
I even got the Pain after having not played the Flute for several years.
I can play the Flute with a little less Pain if I prop up my left arm on a table , but playing at a session with my arm unsupported is not an option
I also got this Pain with the Fife as well as Bagpipes, but I have not played these Instruments in a long time
My Arm did not bother me at all otherwise
Fortunately my main Instrument is the Clarinet and I have no arm Issues there
I guess I could take an NSAID prior to playing the Flute, but would prefer not to do so on a regular basis.
Has anyone else had this Problem and if so what did you do?

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Is the pain coming from a muscle/tendon or the shoulder joint itself, tendinitis is possible, but I’m no expert.
if you take your finger and push it into the soft tissue and it it hurts at one very specific point then it could be tendinitis, there are ways of treating it quickly depending on the situation.

Did you do any repetitive work with the same arm lately (painting, gardening, DIY etc…)
Age is also a great catalyst for these types of problems…. you might be at that age where you are no longer young ?

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

I’m guessing Muscle or tendon as well
Ive never done anything of a repetitive nature
Someone had told me years ago that you could get this issue just by having the Arm flexed like this on a regular basis
I could try a Chiropractor I guess or even Acupuncture
Could be age, but I think I first got this in my
mid 50’s ( Haha , well that could be age)
As I sit here writing my Arm is fine, its just when playing the Flute that it rears its head :(

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

We can all make guesses from well meaning attempts to help. Problems like yours may go away by themselves but that’s much less likely than a good diagnosis and treatment plan from a Physical Therapist. Of course you’ll need the the discipline to follow the plan. It’s whole lot easier to got on the problem early than it is to get nowhere for weeks or months only to find out you didn’t have to.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Good Tips Ross!
Here are some stretching Exercises for the Upper Arm
Medi-Dyne.com
I’m going to give them a shot
And speaking of "shot", I could get a steroid Injection 🙂

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

You’re definitely at the right age for getting tendinitis for no obvious reason, but it could be anything
I would go to a sports doctor, these kind of things can linger for ages if you don’t get it seen to….
it might take a combination of things to solve it, look at what you’re eating as well, inflammatory foods etc…

I once got Mesotherapy treatment for a shoulder issue (good when the issue is close to the surface), worked wonders short term and hasn’t come back, but ever case is different.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

I’m 70 and here are all the Doctors I go to
General Practice Physician
Dermatologist
Urologist
Ophthalmologist
Sleep Specialist
Back Doctor( when needed)
Is that it? I think so
I did start doing the exercises recommended on that website

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Thanks Ben. I’ll offer a word of caution. The internet is full of advice and some of it’s very good, but before you latch on to a treatment plan from youtube get an evaluation from someone who knows what they’re talking about. That means in person and hands on. I have 5 body parts that work pretty well thanks to P.T.s. (after months of dragging my feet). One of them was a left S.I joint. So when my right S.I. started up I went the internet and got a lot of great exercises and stretches and after 25 years in health care I thought I knew a thing or two and could weed out the junk advice. Turns out I was right and selected the right advice … for the wrong problem. The SI issue is a symptom of a more serious problem. That’s what I found out when I finally saw a real PT.

So … make sure you treatment plan from the internet is a good one (as in from more than one source and repeatable and not just one that fits your bias). I’ve seen some genuine tragedy from following bad advice. Give it a good shot but if it doesn’t offer real results don’t wait to get knowledgable help. Oh, and steroid shots alone can help as long as they don’t just mask the pain without fixing the problem. That can lead to unhappy places. In the long run it’s not enough to just make the pain go away. Good luck!

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

I was in the Medical Field as well and aside from a few simple Medical ailments I have never been quick to treat myself and I do value an Objective Opinion.
I’m not really much of a Flute Player these days and given that this Pain seems to be episodic I’m just not as motivated to seek any Professional Medical Treatments
That said I certainly am entertaining any Opinions from other Flute Players 🙂

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Yes Ben. I guess I was “preachin’ to the choir” here! 😇. Hope your arm improves quickly.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Agree with other advice here, to get it properly assessed by a physiotherapist or sports medicine expert, so you’ll then get the correct treatment plan. It could be an “impingement syndrome “ if it only occurs when you move your left arm into that particular position.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Ben, not medical advice, but just letting you know the background story of my shoulder pain. After trying many non invasive therapies, I finally had to go see an Orthopedic Doctor. What started out as positional pain (like you’re describing), grew into pain all the time. The cause, bone spurs and degeneration of the joint. Surgical resection of the bone in my Right shoulder in 2008 was effective, though I’d estimate I only regained 80 - 85% function and mobility.
The Left shoulder surgery retired me in 2012, on disability, and there’s been only a slight reduction in pain, and function is only 40 - 50%.
Now, I’ve problems in other joints, and they diagnosed me with Degenerative Joint Disease. I’m 61, and the CT’s of the major joints look like a 90 year olds.
I’m not saying you’ve the same problem, I’m encouraging you to get checked out.

One thing. Here in the US, an ointment called Voltaren (Diclofenac) has recently become OTC. It’s a fairly strong Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) that works better than anything else over the counter I’ve tried (including the CBD Cannabis ointments). As long as it isn’t contraindicated by any other medicine you might be on, I suggest giving it a try. I’d all but given up playing all together, but this ointment has reduced the pain to a tolerable level as long as I don’t push it too much.

Good Luck, and I hope you find something that helps.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Hey Chuck, you’ve had quite a Journey with Joint Issues :(
Sorry you had to go down that road.
As I get older I realize you are going to get one or often a variety of Health Issues.
If you are lucky these things will go away or maybe just stabilize.
My Upper Arm Issue is likely tendinitis or maybe even just the Deltoid Muscle.
I am aware of Voltaren,,its a drug ingested or used topically and many People swear by it
I’m just doing some Arm Exercises currently and limiting my Flute Playing to about 20 minutes at a time, no more than twice a Day
I also keep my left flexed Arm resting on the Table…..seems to be working
It was much worse when I was playing more than that
If you look at all of these Health Issues a few we bring on ourselves, but really for most things I think its just the luck of the Draw

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Ben,
You might also consider finding a Feldenkrais Functional Integration practitioner. It’s possible there is a misuse in how your structure/musculature works in this situation. We don’t always choose the most efficient ways to move & function. I suppose a good physical therapist may also put you on the right track, and certainly the appropriate doctors could indicate whether you have other underlying issues (age, disease, or injury).

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Good Thoughts Kevin!

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Another thing to consider is… Am I playing the right Instrument currently ..Physiological speaking ?
The Answer is probably not.
My Left Arm is Flexed, but also the really big issue is its extended and I can really feel this in the Deltoid Muscle
When I play the Clarinet or Whistle the Left arm is flexed but not extended
When I play the Bagpipes , its flexed, briefly extended put rests lightly on the Bag
I’m just saying this is me, everybody else could be different
Well maybe I’ll just take up Stamp Collecting!

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Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

How are you holding your left arm and elbow? You’ll want to keep your elbow relaxed and down, and not raise it up unnecessarily. How about the curve of your forearm and wrist, should be a gentle smooth curve, if you’re having to bend your hand backwards, then change the position of the flute to allow for a relaxed smooth curve from elbow to fingers.

There are many articles on proper flute posture and ergonomics, for example:

https://freedomtoteach.collins.co.uk/how-to-teach-flute-technique-3-posture/

The principles for silver flute optimal ergonomics and posture also carry over to the wooden flute, with the addition of piper’s grip as an alternative to the classical Rockstro grip on the wooden flute.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

I got a handout for stretching exercises for musicians at workshop years ago. Then I noticed tai chi duplicates the recommended stretches.

Been doing DIY tai chi using YouTube vids. Not pain free, but doing better.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Well if you do decide to take professional advice with a Physiotherapist (= Physical Therapist?) or other orthopaedic-related specialist, this may sound obvious, but all too often people DON’T do it - take your instrument along to show the practitioner exactly what position you get into, and what causes the pain! Poor posture is indeed responsible for many aches and pains experienced by musicians, and in many cases, can be corrected easily with a bit of re-education.

Re: Flute Player with Left Upper Arm Pain

Now there are Orthotics, but any I’ve seen for Flexation or Extension (usually after surgery) make you look like a Robot out of Star Wars ! :0
Don’t get me wrong Orthotics are very important Tools in Medicine.
Just trying to be funny of Course!

Seriously though I really appreciate all the wonderful advice and suggestions from Everyone!

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