Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

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Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:56 am

Ok guys, my wife and duo partner, Jolene, is having some really bad times with her upper back/neck/shoulders, we think due to playing guitar. we are searching for an answer here. she currently plays with a telecaster in her lap, upright. she let go of playing standing up with a strap a few years ago due to injuries she sustained holding the guitar up and playing it.

i guess what i'm wondering is, if we got her a lap steel or dobro type guitar, and she played more slide than chording, would this allow her to keep playing and not re-injure herself? the other way to go- which would preclude street performing totally- would be a keyboard. or then again, she could concentrate on her vocals alone- great Memphis Minnie- type pipes btw! and we could put a band together around that.

this is so hard, to face the possibility of my partner not getting to play guitar any more!! and i know it's much worse on her, i'm pretty much on the sidelines.

we have a good chiropractor and a massage therapist as well. i am hoping that with the right therapy, chiropractic, and stretches before playing, she may be able to come back to guitar once she heals from this injury this time. the outlook is kind of cloudy though.

Guys, any thoughts, experience, or good wishes are appreciated here.

JB
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby maxx england » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:02 am

I'm currently dealing with restricted shoulder movement due to an old work injury. The physio should get me back to norm, but lap steel is an option for me too, if the physio fails. I think part of the success or failure of physio lies in how determined the patient is, and how much can really be done with the type of injury, there might be mechanical limits that simply can't be exceeded.

A thought just wandered across my mind. Jeff Healey. Fretting from "above" as it were, with the entire hand palm down to the neck. Is that a solution, esp for someone used to a keyboard anyway?
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby mudbelly » Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:37 am

Try some gentle exercises, shoulder shrugs, scapular squeezes, internal/external rotation along with anti inflammatory meds and ice. Also look at posture while playing. Most of this info for strengthening should be available on the net somewhere.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby OldWailer » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:34 pm

One solution for shoulder pain that worked for me was to just play an electric guitar--that also took care of my carpal/arthritis pain--unfortunately, I don't really like playing electric guitars. Since your wife already plays electric, that obviously won't work for her.

In the last year or so I have gone to playing a lot more lap steel--sometimes it's because of my shoulders--but mostly due to carpal pain in my wrists brought on by arthritis. I used to have a lot of trouble with shoulder pain several years ago--especially when playing the large acoustic guitars I like to play. It is, however, taking me a lot longer to get an extensive repertoire together on lap than I had thought it would. It just seems difficult for me to keep it interesting when I'm locked into the open tunings--so I like to alternate between steel and regular guitar--and sometimes I just play a harp solo to rest the fingers and joints. To answer your question a bit more directly--playing the lap guitar definitely (for me) relieves all shoulder pains--and it does satisfy my need to play an instrument--but there is more of a learning curve than I expected--even though I first started out on lap steel over 50 years ago.

I found that, when I use a strap (I use one even if I'm sitting) what works for my shoulder is to strap it on the old-fashioned folkie way, with the upper end of the strap going to the head of the guitar--and not down to the body of the guitar. This little change, for me, has done wonders for my shoulders--I think the more modern way of strapping a guitar pinches some nerves in my shoulder--especially the left one--and it puts more stress on my neck. If your wife is playing with the guitar on her lap without a strap--then she could be overworking some of her shoulder muscles just supporting the guitar without even realizing it. (Just a thought).

I hope this helps--I know the pain of not being able to play as I once did can be as bad as the physical pain that playing can cause. . .

BTW--for me, chiropractic treatment worked really well too--I now play acoustic guitar almost every day without pain. . .
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby leftyguitarman » Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:44 pm

A vast majority of the time you feel pain from playing, it's caused by improperly holding the guitar. There isn't one specific way to hold a guitar, but there is for each person. I've been messing with my straps a lot lately and have finally found a good spot. Even moving your strap to one inch longer or shorter can make a huge difference. Have her experiment with different ways of holding it. Has she ever had lessons? Improper fretting technique can cause pain as well.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby Buffalo_Bill » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:29 pm

jawbone60 wrote:we have a good chiropractor and a massage therapist as well. i am hoping that with the right therapy, chiropractic, and stretches before playing, she may be able to come back to guitar once she heals from this injury this time. the outlook is kind of cloudy though.
I think so, if she can't even play a guitar on her lap, without pain.
She'll have to choose another instrument. Not the end of the world.
What if she had to find another man?
Count your blessings.
:wink:
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:47 am

thanks for the responses guys. Jo has had a few lessons and a few kind souls giving her input on how to do cettain things on guitar. i know she has not played standing up for several years now since that hurt her as well. and now even sitting and playing a tele in her lap is re-injuring her.
i talked with her about the jeff healey style and about dobro and lap steel. she is not in favor of those choices. we think what may be best is for her to either concentrate on vocals exclusively or to take up keyboard in a very basic way.
ideally we will find a local cat who will back us both on guitar regardless of whether she takes on keys or not. it's like i told her and i think she knew anyway- it's not over, it's just changing!

thanks again and stay tuned.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby bobby81 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:00 pm

You're right Jawbone, it's an evolutionary process isn't it? A few years back I hurt myself in an accident, had a lot of pain handling larger size acoustics, plus had trouble keeping hold of a pick (nerve damage) - played havoc on me, I used a Guild D50 and S S Stewart back then. Forced me to go small, and develop a fingerstyle. Now I mostly play a small Dobro, a Daisy Rock girl's guitar that I got for my daughter 6 or 7 years ago and appropriated, a Dano U2, and an Aria travel guitar - they are all very easy to handle, almost no weight, no long necks - best of all, no pain (other than to listeners' ears). You might want to have her try an Aria or Yamaha travel guit, you can plug them in and get some decent sounds. Sure kept me in the game. Best of luck to her and you.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:25 am

well she told me yesterday- she cannot just give up guitar. too much invested. time, money, headache, heartache, all of it. so we're going to sell the fender acoustic, a couple of amps, and she is going to try to just do the telecaster and a regal parlor for slide stuff. we also have an early 60's norma electric i have a couple of things to do on yet but will be a cool vintage box. hopefully we will come up with some good stretch regimens for her to work with.

she knows a bit about piano and we had almost got one for free but got beat to it by an hour or so. not that we have room to put a piano but we'd find a way!

meanwhile i got picked up by a hill country player i've known for a few years. this is in addition to the Jawbone and Jolene project which wife and i are currently in. Bluesboy Jag is his name and he has stuff on youtube and soundcloud as well. we had a great night last week and one coming up in a couple of weeks.

meanwhile Jo wants to busk in a couple of evenings. thursday is a good eve so we're planning to head for the downtown area for an hour or 2 and see how the regal parlor does for her. we can sit in the shade right at the street in a fairly busy place so it should be good.

i appreciate you guys lending an ear and your experiences with us.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:32 am

so a bit of an update. we talked with our chiropractor last week and she showed Jo some stretches to do before playing. along with walking every day and once i get the pool up and running, Jo should be able to play on a limited basis, say a set or so at a time. in addition we are still looking for a good free piano we can put in the back room here so she can make use of it for writing. and who knows, if she takes to it like she could, we can also focus on a more portable rig to gig with.

meanwhile i have been invited into a hill country type outfit. the core guy has added a drummer and now wants me on harp and some vocals as well. we've done one show so far and it was crazy good, the next is this coming saturday. having more than one project is nothing new for me, i thrive on the excitement and the fulfilling nature of being maybe just a bit too busy!
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby allanlummox » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:58 pm

I missed this thread. I would whole heartedly recommend a visit or two to an Alexander Technique instructor as a part of dealing with these kind of issues - bring the instrument along as well.
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:58 am

that is good counsel Allan. something else we just noticed this evening was, Santana had a guitar on a stand where he could walk over and play it, then walk away and play the guitar he had strapped on. Jo already does not use a strap, she's sat with guitar in lap for over 5 years now. but a stand like that may be the ticket! if i could find out who builds them and cost and availability.....
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby johnnie » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:59 am

I had actually more problems with my neck and shoulders when I was playing acoustic sitting, than I have now after only playing electric standing (with the Dockery Dawgs...)

But the guitars weight is important with a strap.
The anchor weight of a 70's Les Paul comparing to a SG or a thinline telecaster...
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby goldbrick » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:54 pm

first let me say I wish her the best in recovery and this rant isn't personal

But art is about what you like to do and how bad you wanna do it

Watch Cedell Davis play all twisted up, Tony iommi with no fingertips-and Django goes without saying.
The greats who chopped cotton all day or dug coal and then played
all night

Get to a certain age stuff hurts
Heck I throw 80 lb boxes in airplane cargo holds 6 hours a day and then play damn near everynight and I'm near 60 and thank the stars I can still do it even tho it hurts-not because I am good or make much doing ( i am not and don't) because it makes me feel good to play music

My buddy cramps up so bad from Hep C meds that sometimes we pry his fingers off the fret board when he locks up
I am sure I will get some flak for this post

But I guess when you have had some hard physical jobs a little carpal tunnel or stiff neck don't seem that bad
Otra vez lo siento for venting but the blues aint easy
Best medicine for any over use injury is cut back some and do what you can
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Re: Neck/Shoulder Issues and Solutions?

Postby jawbone60 » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:20 am

Goldie, you sum things up nicely. while Jo does not want to end up disabled, she does very much want to continue with music, and guitar is her first instrument.
wednesday eve found us doing a slide set on the street and she appears to have done fine with that.
what it looks like is, she can play a set here and there but no more everyday 1 hour or more practices. no more 3 and 4 set nights out.
other avenues she is looking at are a dobro guitar lap style, maybe a lap plank type guitar, and keyboards. her voice has always been an asset as well and it's just a question of focus at this point.
Jolene truly does want to continue, but hopefully with no further injury.

myself, i am close acquaintances with arthritis. being a harp player this is not as crucial except for a day or 3 after a full night's playing. but the almost surreal good feeling that comes from playing live and interacting with musicians and audience offset the muscle aches hands down.
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