headaches after playing High B and above; remedy with tensed adominal muscles

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Vstern, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. Vstern

    Vstern New Friend

    Jul 25, 2010
    This does not happen often. I can't remember the circumstances around when it did (not recently) happen; I play high B or higher, got an instant headache, tense my abdominal muscles; it was gone like that.

    Must clear up some things:
    -the headaches would last 2-5 seconds after I stopped, but clear up instantly after I stopped and tensed my abdominal muscles
    -bending my knees slightly seemed to help in that range, but I get a weird feeling in my midsection like stretching a cold muscle if I held the note long, i.e. 5 s or more (like I said, hasn't happened recently)
    -the headaches happen after I stop,as if all is fine while going out (cracked note or not) but it blows up after I stop and I get the headaches
    -I don't take "chest-breaths," I breathe "naturally" (stomach goes out)
    -I always keep air moving in or out; I don't like to hold it then play
    -my lips never hurt from pressure, but I may crack (or buzz becomes whooshing air) @high C or higher after long play/practice time
    -this has only happened when I practiced at home, but not for a month now
    -I've been working on high C to at least D for a few months (long tones high A-high D; arpeggios for Bb, B, C, and D scales)

    My music instructor will connect me with a trumpet instructor soon.
  2. Vstern

    Vstern New Friend

    Jul 25, 2010
    I have no extensive headaches before or after; just the infrequent little ones.
  3. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    What does your Doc say?
    Headaches would be associated with pressure etc.

    If it was me I would go to my Doc and get a CAT scan or at least take his advice before asking on a forum. Headaches are not normal. I would like confirmation that the headaches are not brain aneurysm symptoms.

    Check with your Doc.
  4. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Nah. High note headaches are a direct result of sudden decompression of the blood vessels to the brain. Practice can help but in a pinch just use the Valsalva Maneuver.

    Valsalva maneuver - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Valsalva maneuver or Valsalva manoeuvre is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one's mouth and pinching one's nose shut. Variations of the maneuver can be used either in medical examination as a test of cardiac function and autonomic nervous control of the heart, or to "clear" the ears and sinuses (that is, to equalize pressure between them) when ambient pressure changes, as in diving, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or aviation.
    The technique is named after Antonio Maria Valsalva,[1] a 17th-century physician and anatomist from Bologna whose principal scientific interest was the human ear. He described the Eustachian tube and the maneuver to test its patency (openness). He also described the use of this maneuver to expel pus from the middle ear.
    A modified version is done by expiring against a closed This will elicit the cardiovascular responses described below but will not force air into the Eustachian tubes. Closing the glottis is also an alternative to closing the mouth in performing the Eustachian tube maneuver since this will also prevent the lung volume from escaping that way.
  5. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    The Valsalva maneuver sounds like a techniques to reduce/equalise sinus pressure - skydiving or SCUBA diving techniques to equalise pressures.

    Headaches after playing would indicate either a technique issue, e.g.restricting throat and thereby restricting blood flow to the brain for a short period, or a physical issue. Don't forget the trumpeter's head explosion ....
    Musician's head explodes trying to hit a high note ;-)

    See a Doctor first, then look at help for your technique (Breathing, relaxation etc).
  6. Branson

    Branson Piano User

    Jan 16, 2011
  7. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    I suppose the OP's question was whether headaches like this are normal. The short answer, as Local 357 pointed out, is "yes". It's true that the Valsalva effect can be a harmless cause of the OP's headaches.

    But I don't think I'd describe the Valsalva effect as as a sudden decompression of the blood vessels of the brain. When you bear down, pressure builds up in the chest, which prevents venous blood from returning to the heart, which lowers the amount of blood your heart can pump, and which causes your blood vessels to constrict in order to compensate.

    I agree with Peter that seeing a doctor may be a reasonable course of action. I couldn't say for sure without more information. But I'd especially see a doctor if the headaches are a new phenomenon (but your practice/playing routine hasn't changed), if there are other symptoms associated with the headaches, or if you have a history of neurologic problems.

  8. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    The transient increase in systolic blood pressure associated with intensive trumpet playing and the Valsalva maneuver triggers a cycle of blood vessel contraction with subsequent dilation of blood vessels that causes a stabbing, severe pain that occurs usually in the front part of the head or to one side or behind the eye. A similar kind of vascular phenomenon occurs in migraine headaches. This can be prevented by allowing your glottis to open when playing. This is a "natural" tendency to tense up when trying to "force" strong columns of air to maintain upper octave notes. Rather than using the upper airway to force air, relax. Let your center of force be at the base of the diaphragm. Let abdominal pressure push up on the diaphragm, which creates a pressure front that is created deeper. In this way, you can relax the glottis (in the neck) and sustain the same enhanced air flow through the mouth piece to maintain the force to sustain high notes, thereby avoiding the Valsalva trigger for vasoconstriction. Now if you are very sensitive to this effect, do see your physician and perhaps, a calcium channel blocker trial my minimize these episodes.

    So, I would recommend against using the Valsalva maneuver as suggested above. As for getting a CT (CAT) scan, unless you experience severe occipital headache accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and dizziness that occurred while playing the trumpet, it would be highly unlikely that large vessel disease would be found by CT scanning.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  9. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011

    Not really. It is impossible to "close your throat" while playing the trumpet. Probably the biggest misconception put into common teaching practices today on the trumpet. Second probably only to the "use a big mouthpiece" foolishness.

    What we need is a real "Mythbusters" for the trumpet.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2011
  10. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    headaches when playing high notes comes from blowing too much air with too much force. happened to me until I learned how to play high notes. and NO i'm not going to tell you how. Only a teacher should be sought out to help with this.
    Al Innella likes this.

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