Chronic back/neck/chest tension

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Haste2, Feb 18, 2012.

  1. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    I'm not asking for any specific answers, as this isn't a board that deals with medical problems. If you have any good generic advice, thanks.

    A while back I posted a concern about pectus excavatum, a concave chest. Back then I was concerned solely about restricted air capacity, which you guys convinced me wasn't a big deal. So I moved on. Bu,t recently I have realized that for many years my chest, upper back, and neck (especially the first two) are chronically tense because of the P.E stretching the muscles too much. I didn't know about this problem until my teacher beat "relaxation" into me enough. I finally deciding to really focus on being relaxed, and that's when I finally found out how tense those areas of the body really were. I also read that P.E. causes tension in those areas. According to my teacher I am supposedly playing more relaxed than I used to, and I believe that is correct (I've yet to find any real improvement in my playing), but I've kept on forgetting to tell him about this problem that I mentioned here. Guess I'd better bring it up next time I see him!

    Maybe I simply to need more time and I will just start improving...nonetheless, it feels like to me the tension is really putting a toll on the whole system of efficient playing. Must I tackle the supposed root of the problem as much as I can by doing exercises to make my chest less concave, which would likely reduce that muscle tension? Or maybe I should just tackle the symptoms themselves, by doing yoga (which I've never done....) and back stretches? Or maybe I should try both? The real obstacle here is figuring out a way to do those things effectively and diligently without spending lots of money on "expert" help, since I don't have much money....or time, for that matter.

    For all I know maybe the back/chest/neck tension isn't detrimental to my playing, though. Maybe it has nothing to do with pectus excavatum. There are so many thing that could be the root of my problems.... for all I know, getting rid of my pectus excavatum effects will do absolutely nothing. Heck, maybe if I just keep doing what I'm trying, practicing as smart as I can, I will gradually overcome my issues. Man, if I could go back in time to when I was young, I would have chosen to learn a non-wind instrument like violin or viola! =p (My Dad is a decent violinst, so maybe I can still learn....hmmmmm....) I have no regrets playing trumpet, though. What gorgeous music we can make with it! [​IMG]

    However, I do have general health reasons to do yoga and partially correct my P.E., regardless... maybe I should take action on those things, and if my trumpet playing happens to improve, great. Maybe then I could continue to pursue my dream of getting regular gigs with the best musicians where I live, and maybe go beyond that, even. If my trumpet problems don't get corrected, then I can just work my best on the trumpet, graduate with my music and accounting degrees, lay my trumpet down for good, and pursue other musical activities....
  2. BustedChops

    BustedChops Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 1, 2011
    You might want to try a harness for your trumpet for the seated position. I'd rather use a support device than be deprived of my horn.
  3. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    One small thing that has drastically reduced my back tension is to work on taking the address breath on beat 3 before I come in - no sooner. I then don't get the chance to tense - it takes work and forces you to count, but it eventually locks in. I've used it with my Harrelson particularly (it's a rather heavier trumpet then my Getzen Eterna Classic - by 12 ounces). Anyhow, might be worth a try.
  4. MGTrumpet

    MGTrumpet New Friend

    Nov 18, 2004
    Maple Grove, MN
    I would HIGHLY recommend Yoga.

    For years I'd been going to a chiropractor monthly for back pain related to a car accident I had 50 years ago.

    At work, a Yoga instructor started coming in weekly. Once I started Yoga (over two years ago) I haven't been back to the chiropractor once. Come to think of it, I've basically forgotten about the pain and stiffness I used to suffer. My body feels tremendously better. I've gotten my wife into it as well. I'm sure we will be doing Yoga for the rest of our lives.

    Give it a try a couple times. The cost is minimal (a mat and some small fee for each class) - and a little time.

    Yoga is about YOUR body - not anybody else's. You work to the level that works for YOUR body. When I am in a class I am completely unaware of anybody else in the class because they don't matter.

    Our society has become very "static" - we sit or remain in one position so much of the day. Yoga really helps.

    For wind players, it is great because there is a focus on the breath in addition to the stretching and strength improvement.
  5. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    I'd recommend yoga as well. I avoid chiropractors like the plague. However, there is a physical therapist around here who works in a manner that's "somewhat similar" to chiropractors, though she is very quick to say that this is not what she does. I don't know the name of this particular therapy, but it cleared away years of chronic stiffness and tension all throughout my neck and shoulders. If my back goes out (lower back), she can fix it or I can do it with (difficulty) with guidelines she gave me. It's a method of moving things in these areas (bones, muscle, tendons, etc) so that they stay where they should be. A chiropractor can move the same things, but do it very roughly, with results that DO NOT stay in place. You have to keep going back to them.

    Yoga or the above. If the stress is more emotional than physical, then yoga helps with that too. If you can get rid of the physical knots in your neck, shoulders and back, emotional stress often goes with it.

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Almost all trumpet players have upper body issues. (Some of us have mid body issues too.......)

    As far as straightening the trumpet part out, I have posted my circle of breath. It is designed to take the excess tension out of basic playing.
    I can recommend playing after a 15 minute hot shower. Your body is generally in a very relaxed state and we CAN get used to the feeling once we have experienced the difference.
    Another recommendation is to sit as low as possible at a desk. The higher that you sit, the more you have to tilt your head down - an incredible load on the back.
    A real place for improvement (if you drive) is a more upright seating position allowing you to keep your head on the headrest. Every bump that the car goes over deals a hammer blow to the spine. The more vertical the spine, the more natural its capacity to cushion.
    It is also good to get a good physical checkup - have them measure your legs to see if they are the same length.
    Flat footedness can also change your posture.

    Practice standing up with the head, back, bottom and legs against the wall. When standing on 2 legs, we do not have the innate stability that we have when we are seated or up against the wall.

    Remember: the position of your head is the real troublemaker. Learn to walk, talk and play upright.
  7. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    Could you give a little more detail on PE (concave chest). Excessive tension is detrimental to your playing.
  8. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Caveat--these guys sell all kinds of bells and whistles, but an interesting read on stress is: HeartMath LLC

    Having fun onstage or in rehearsal can remove a ljot of stress, and the muscular tension that accompanies it.

    Have fun!
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Dr. V is in the house! Ancient Chinese Medicine--spend enough time in front of your computer at Trumpetmaster and you will get floppy Disks!
  10. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    +1 for this highly valuable tip from the Vulgano Brother Zen Philosophy Archives (V.B.Z.P.A.).


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