I am playing long gigs with my band (6-7 hours long, once/twice a week) and a lot of movement is involved in making a show, also I am constantly "dancing" with the rhythm while playing. Also note that I am playing an electric guitar, standing.

After each gig, I experience a sharp pain above my left blade, right next to my spine. This spot gets painful sometimes with carrying heavy loads as well, and in case of electric guitar all the weight is held just above this spot, on the shoulder, so it doesn't help.

Any of you have any experience with this? Any ideas how to not let this thing get unnecessarily worse? Any exercises that might ideally resolve the issue?

EDIT: Carrying heavy weights is not the right way to put it. It is not an acute kind of pain, it is more chronic, so for example when I carry around a backpack for extended amounts of time, then I feel it.

  • 1
    Do you play very heavy guitars? Have you tried just playing these extended sessions with lighter guitars. It may make a difference.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 7, 2016 at 9:51
  • 4
    Although this might receive some good answers from experience (or related knowledge), I'd strongly suggest you go visit a doctor. This might be something serious and should not be overlooked Feb 7, 2016 at 10:12
  • 1
    If you're talking shoulder blade, then that's a good sign that it's probably not a case of improper lifting of heavy equipment (which would more likely be in the small of the back). It could be simply tension/stress. Feb 7, 2016 at 14:22
  • NeilMeyer: I have just played the first gig with my american standard strat, which is a bit heavier than my previous ibanez rg, so that definitely makes a difference. Shevliaskovic: I'm planning to, I was just curious for how other guitarists deal with such issues. ToddWilcox: I'm quite sure that it is not that problem, because I've had this pain in my back long before started playing gigs, but they are making it a lot worse.
    – Addy
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


Obviously I'd echo Shevliaskovic's advice that seeing a doctor might be appropriate as no-one here is in the best position to give advice on an individual's medical issues.

Personally, things I have found help with these kind of issues are :

  • Lighter instruments, of course, as Neil Meyer mentions

  • Ensuring that the way you have you strap set up allows your basic playing posture to be relaxed - especially that your shoulder isn't having to work to compensate for neck dive or lift the instrument.

    • As a personal view on this, I actually don't like having an electric guitar strap secured at the top horn of the instrument - I much prefer to secure the strap at the headstock. I find this distributes the weight across my back more, and also leads to a more stable position for the instrument, meaning my left arm doesn't have to work to hold the neck up as well as finding the correct playing position. This is an unusual view, but it works for me and may be worth a try (but you may find you need to move your bottom strap button to make it work best - something to try first on a beater guitar).
  • Take advantage of breaks and changes in the program to stretch, relax, change position; maybe even play another instrument sometimes if possible?

  • keep hydrated, and have a good night's sleep before gigs

  • A generally good level of fitness helps - ensuring you're not carrying excess weight yourself, and perhaps some exercises to increase your upper body strength and stamina (this is probably not something to do without taking medical advice if you're having problems now!)

  • Massage can help with some problems, reducing tension and making you more able to recognise and avoid it. (Again the medical advice disclaimer applies - if you have a deeper issue this may not be appropriate).

  • Thank you for your input, I could try out the stretching during breaks, my strap is not unusually low, I have always found this setup annoying :). But I could give a try the other one you're talking about. About the fitness you;re right, my physique right now is not appropriate :D. Massage is the perfect thing, but unfortunately, if I would go for it, I would spend more money on the massages then I would make playing :).
    – Addy
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:21
  • @Addy if my specific strap idea doesn't work for you there are other alternative straps available - slingerstraps.com is an example. It always seems weird how a weight of a few kilos can cause problems but it really can wear you down over the length of a gig! Feb 8, 2016 at 13:08

6 or 7 hrs is a long gig! Check with your Musicians Union on the recommended length of playing time before breaks - and how long they can be. Another cause can be how low you sling your guitar. The higher the better for looking after backs, so if you have yours really low, as seems to be the current fashion, you'll be crouching to look at frets, and the position won't help balance, taking its toll on your back and shoulders.

As stated by topo morto and Shev., a visit to a doctor or specialist is the cleverest move. Apart from shorter gigs, and everything previously mentioned.

  • Yeah it is quite long, but I don't really have a choice, when it comes to the length :) there are breaks of course. I don't have my guitar very low, I have always found it very uncomfortable for playing, but I will try different heights, just to see what it does. The doctor is sure thing, anyway thank you for your advice!
    – Addy
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:16
  • 1
    Thanks for the response. Try to have the guitar as high as poss., it appears that you have previous back problems, so higher will not exacerbate them. It's probably easier to gyrate around on stage with a high slung guitar, anyway! You tagged 'bass guitar' as well. Why?
    – Tim
    Feb 7, 2016 at 17:26
  • Maybe he tagged 'bass guitar' as well to be sure not to exclude possibly useful advice from bass guitar players as well that might have similar experience?
    – awe
    Dec 19, 2016 at 8:36

Yes, see a doctor. I'm not a doctor. But:

It sounds like you may have either overuse or spasming of the muscle next to the spine. Try icing it immediately after the gig and then after a day or two applying a heat pad. Also get a theracane to gently massage the entire muscle along its length.

enter image description here

You might consider a lighter guitar, like a Steinberger: enter image description here

or a hollow-body electric guitar. enter image description here

They're much lighter than solid-body electrics.

Also, consider a dual shoulder strap for your guitar.

Slider Straps Dual Shoulder Strap Black.

In addition to going to doctor, you might want to go to a physical therapist--especially one who specializes in backs--who can manipulate the area and give you exercises and hints how to treat and prevent your injury.

  • Some of my solid body guitars are actually lighter than some of my hollow semis, but a completely hollow electric is just a bit lighter..
    – Tim
    Feb 12, 2016 at 11:18
  • I was also thinking of some kind of dual shoulder strap. I have never before seen one for guitars, but this one you show here looks like just what's needed.
    – awe
    Dec 19, 2016 at 8:29

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