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At first I thought this injury was related to golf, because it's painful to swing a golf club as well. But I'm beginning to think that playing sitting down for long stretches (4-6 hours) is pulling a muscle in my back. I have a sharp pain that is near the center of my back between my spine and my shoulder blade. It hurts to sit up, wipe a counter, or swing a golf club.

Has anyone else had this problem? If so, anyone no how to fix/prevent this? I also have a bad case of tennis elbow that I know is related to playing but that seems to be clearing up with a little ice/heat treatment.

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In "The Inner Game of Music", physical comfort is discussed at some length (as a form of "interference"/impediment to achieving your best performance). If memory serves, their suggestion is to bring your focus and attention to that body part that is hurting, and you will subconsciously adjust your technique. Sounds mystical, but I assure you the book is anything but! –  The Chaz 2.0 Feb 5 '12 at 16:56

6 Answers 6

You might have one of your shoulders rounded off and the other more squared off as it's possible that you do what I do and slouch with just your left side. It's painful and causes neck problems. I try to play left handed to try to even things out, but if you are playing guitar 4-6 hrs daily that'd probably take a lot of effort... To stop the pain maybe just hold the guitar the lefty way when you're not practicing. Kinda sucks but playing guitar's fun and kind of makes it worth it.

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For me personally, stretching solves all these problems.

You can follow a course, but the jist of it is to stretch every muscle in your arms and back, chest etc until it is completely loose.

The secret is not to overstretch, you should only take the stretch to just before the pain, and then back off. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds.

You can start with a standard Bob Anderson book but eventually you will develop your own stretches that really stretch the tense muscles.

Stretch regularly and often. Yes it takes a lot of time. And yes it is worth it.

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Another thing to consider; besides the postures you adopt while doing various things, pay some attention to your normal posture.

You mention "wiping counters". I've worked nearly 10 years in food service and wiping counters can have a cumulative adverse effect on posture. Constantly leaning forward can give you "hunchback", if you're not careful.

You have to fix this from the lumbar, up!

  • Practice sitting on the very edge of a chair to make sure your lumbar is properly curved (if you're right on the edge of the chair one of three things will happen: you'll slip off onto the floor (if you've ruled-out beginner's luck, then this is a sign of a problem); it very quickly becomes uncomfortable or painful to continue sitting (this is also the sign of a problem); you can balance properly and could sit that way indefinitely (good)).

  • Practice standing "at ease". From the hips, up, your posture should be exactly the same as the sitting exercise: you're "sitting" on your legs. Your knees should be "straight" but not "locked". You should feel pressure in both the ball and heel of each foot (for bonus points, "roll" the pressure around the four contact).

Also helpful is raising the head slightly, eyes just above the horizon, for both of these.

Then, try it with the guitar (golfclub, wiping cloth, etc.).

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Regardless of which instrument or style you are playing, playing in a relaxed position is a key to playing well and avoiding injury. With the various things you are concentrating on while playing, it can be very easy to simply not notice tension in your back, shoulders, arms, etc...

Maintain a focus on easy and free movement while playing, especially more difficult sections. In addition, it is good to take regular short breaks, such as 5 minutes half hour, to help relax the muscles and keep the mind focused.

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It absolutely, absolutely can! You need to get a set of stretches specific for your issues to try to make sure the awkward muscle balance you're developing doesn't throw your body off so much that it becomes a long term problem. Proper posture and proper activation of postural muscles is KEY to making sure you don't get pain in your back and shoulders.

As you noticed, asymmetry on one side of your body can lead to all kinds of issues. Misalignment in your shoulder often leads to pain in the elbow, and we see it at my office all the time. Working on the finishing touches of a book of stretches for guitarists to do to help keep things balanced based on observations of clients I've worked with and my own guitar-playing experience.

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Yes, stretching is the Right Answer. –  bobobobo Feb 5 '12 at 5:26

It definitely can; it really depends how you are crouching over the guitar whilst playing.

If your playing for long periods it doesn't hurt to stretch off during and after your practice; you should be taking 15 minute breaks every 60-90 minutes anyway; try some arm and back stretching during this time, and at the end of your practice.

You could also look at your posture whilst playing, you should try and keep your back pretty straight, if your leaning over the guitar then this is one of the problems. Also look at the chair your sitting on, any chair that is sat on for a long time should be well cushioned and comfortable, especially while playing an instrument. Try using a foot-stool to bring the guitar closer to you by raising your knee, this will mean that you don't have to crouch over the guitar.

As for the elbow trouble; its not unusual; I tend get that in my shoulder more than anything, not so much in my elbow, but everyone sits slightly differently. The same things apply to this, good posture and chair/stool will help, stretching the arm will never do any harm if done properly and may help.

Depending on your style of play; you might want also to try classical posture, there are plently of rock/metal/jazz men out there that also prefer this posture. In fact it is necessary if practising with a V shaped guitar.

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Thanks for the link -- I'll have to give some different sitting positions a try. I definitely hunch over which is something I need to change. –  JohnOpincar Feb 8 '11 at 14:35

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