What should I do when I start having back pain every 10min after playing? I sit down and change position but the pain continues. Every player has to support the weight of the guitar if playing electric guitar right? Are there lightweight guitars? What solutions are there that don't involve medicine?
Without seeing a picture of your playing position or watching your technique, it is difficult to offer proper advice. Let me preface my answer by saying that it would be a good idea to see someone about it - a friend of yours who teaches guitar, a guitar professor at a local university, even a doctor such as a physical therapist could help you and probably give you more personalized information.
That said, after reading your question, a few things came to mind:
- When you stand, is your guitar low-hanging?
Players typically do not realize that their guitars are closer to their chests when sitting as opposed to standing. All of the weight of the guitar is on the lap and the player is usually slouched to some degree over the instrument. Standing with a low-hanging guitar like what is seen with many Metal players causes the back to support the majority of the weight of the guitar and leads to improper player position.
This can be remedied by adjusting the guitar straps so that your guitar is in the same position standing as sitting. When you stand up, it should be fairly high up on your torso. It will look a little goofy, but the weight stays off the arms and that is good.
- How wide is your guitar strap?
If you purchase a wider guitar strap, it will distribute the weight of the guitar more evenly across your shoulders, and therefore incite less back pain.
- Are your arms tense when you play?
Straining the muscles in your arms can include the shoulder muscles in your back. Tenseness when playing is a no-no. You should be relaxed all of the time.
- Do you normally have back problems?
If you have a herniated disk, then the weight of the guitar could be triggering your pain.
- Where is the pain located?
If we know where in your back the pain is, that can help narrow down the cause of the pain.
Regarding the weight of guitars, most guitars are fairly lightweight - a notable exception being the Fender Squire Stratocaster and some Jaguar models (unfortunately!) These guitars can be in the 8-10lb range. Other guitars that are made from different materials, like Basswood are very light and are more in the 5-6lb range. Acoustic guitars are obviously quite light, but the weight of those guitars is found in the neck; which requires appropriate compensation.
Hope that helps.
In addition to all the good answers already provided by our community, I would give this advice that can be applied to any activity that tends to involve sitting for long periods:
- Set frequent (15-20 minutes) breaks where at the very least, you set down the guitar, stand up, shake out your legs and arms and stretch your neck and back
- Take some cleansing breaths during this brief (1-2 minute) break also because when most people, myself included, are intensely
concentrating on a task, breathing tends to get shallow which limits
good circulation of oxygen to the muscles
Don't bend over. You don't need to see the fretboard, the marks on the neck are sufficient for orientation. And electrical guitar is rather thin, it can hang nicely close to your center of gravity. Other people told you not to have the straps too long. I'd rather recommend to have them as long as feasible without you having to pull the guitar in position for playing or bending over or stretch in order to play/reach anything. The shorter the straps are, the further out from the "falling line" the guitar hangs, meaning that it pushes/pulls on your spine rather than "just" being an additional weight on top.
The right hand should be in comfortable playing position, with no strain or contortion involved for getting past all strings down. Other than that, it can be as low as you want as long as the position does not impede the left hand. The neck is at an angle, typically more so than a classical guitar. You need to have good relaxed playing at all positions.
And accordion weighs easily three times as much as an electric guitar and has its center of weight further from the body, so you got it comparatively easy as long as you don't sabotage yourself.
If you're sitting down, the weight of the guitar should be on your lap, not your back. So I'm putting this one to posture. Like your mom said, sit up straight.
To answer some of the other questions, yeah, there exist lighter guitars. Les Pauls are solid chunks of mahogany with a maple cap, and the old school ones are notoriously heavy, while some Telecasters are swamp ash, which tends to be pretty light. Some instruments are chambered to decrease their weight (certain modern Les Pauls, for example.) You can find light instruments, but by your description, that's not the issue.
I know how you feel. Its my T6 vertebrae that likes to slip a little, which allows a rib to pop out and it can be from mild to severe pain. When it starts hurting again have a friend run 1 finger over the area till you find it dead on. Do this where the spinal column runs, and then where the ribs are. Once pinpointed, head to a chiropractor.
it could come out repeatedly an you may need multiple visits. Just don't give up. the longer the joint or bone has been misaligned, the longer the muscles have had to learn a new way to flex, and will tend to pull it out again and again. Muscle memory.
I will say this, you want to get your atlas bone checked as well. Its directly under your scull and if it is out of alignment, it can cause your entire skeleton to contort. Look for an Upper Cervical Chiropractor, and if you find one that performs Sonar adjustment, go to them. Its relatively new but they can measure exactly the twist, and x and y alignment of the atlas.
BTW, adjusting the atlas bone also cleared up my tenitis, acid reflux, and migraines, ( they were severe, vomiting, numbness in the hands, and "static" so bad I couldn't see)
It might be worth trying a shorter/longer strap (I'm assuming you mean you usually play standing up but sometimes sit down to alleviate the pain?)
I've found that my guitar strap slips down to a longer length after a while (over a period of weeks). I shorten it a bit now and then and can see the frets much more easily, get my hand around the neck more easily and generally it makes quite a difference.
I must remember to lock it with a safety pin!
One of the things i've noticed is if it's got too long, I spend time bending forward to see what I'm doing, and end up with back pain.
I have also found that I hold myself very tense while playign someting a bit tricky, and that can translate to tensed muscles = back pain. Maybe it's to do with that ?
My fix is to move about a bit, and if I do lean forward to see what I'm doing, equalise by stretching back now and then (shoulders back, arch the back backwards, head pulled back a bit). [don't do this while playing a solo otherwise people watching will think you're loving yourself too much haha]
I kinda know what you mean, but you don't have to sit leaning over the guitar. Just put a small stool or something to put your right foot on then lean back into the chair and you can still see the chords etc. If you're at that stage of practicing, only once you don't need to see the guitar when playing. You can stand or sit how ever else looks more normal for performance's and stuff
I read in New Scientist recently that looking down (they were talking about mobile devices, but the principle is the same) is equivalent to your spine supporting an extra 12kg.
It's a pay link, but conveniently the quote is in the precis:
Surgeon Kenneth Hansraj at New York Spine & Rehab Medicine claims that dropping the chin by 60 degrees is equivalent to making the spine support an extra 12 kilograms.
Looking down at the guitar is a very common playing position; try to do it as little as possible and occasionally throw your head back in a dramatic hair-rock style to give your muscles a break :)
Or, slightly more seriously, try practising with your eyes closed and only looking down when you really need to orient your hands. After a while not looking down becomes second nature for all the bits you know well.