Swollen lips

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by just, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. just

    just Pianissimo User

    Dec 26, 2013
    Hi everyone,

    This is mi issue: I'm lately practising harder in my trumpet and I'm noticing that my lips, especially the upper one are quite a bit swollen, which is concerning me. I think I have always had this problem but lately with this extra playing they are almost permantly swollen... any ideas? I though that I was making too much pressure but I have been looking at this carefully and I don't think it's because of that. Please some advise...
  2. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Swollen lips are almost always caused by too much pressure. Been there done that but not anymore. How much pressure to use is determined through sensible practice. If your lips swell, YOU'RE USING TOO MUCH PRESSURE, SO USE LESS!! No one ever ever ever ever wants to admit they use too much pressure. I know a player whose lips turn purple from too much pressure then he can't play! He doesn't know what the problem is! DUH!!!!! Unless you have a medical issue and your lips just swell up when you're talking or breathing, you're using too much pressure.
    "Hello everybody, my name is Just and I use too much pressure". See how easy that was!
  3. Rune E

    Rune E New Friend

    Mar 16, 2014
    Hello Just! :play:
  4. Honkie

    Honkie Pianissimo User

    Feb 22, 2013
    You might also consider thinking about how you use air. If your breathing / posture / throat / neck / shoulders are tense, you may be compensating for a poor air flow...by using too much pressure. (I think simply trying to "use less pressure" is difficult , unless you look at the underlying cause.)
  5. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    Lots of good suggestions being made.

    Let me also add the possibility that you are playing correctly, but as you said, you're just playing too much.

  6. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    OK just... The REAL Doctor is in:

    Swelling of lips can be a badge of courage. What separates wearing courage versus wearing out your lips? You have to answer these basic questions: Is your tone suffering? Are you finding it difficult slotting notes? Is it harder to slur with less accuracy? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it's time to back away from the horn, as all of these situations if answering yes, are signs of strain and eventual damage.

    Now if you are just having swelling of the lips AND your significant other finds you a better kisser as a result, well then, Don't Change a Thing. Swelling is a reaction to muscles being taken to a full workout. Athletes will feel the tightness in their muscles the day after an excellent work out. So what do they do? The WARM UP WELL with stretching exercises, and go after it again the NEXT DAY. Why should a good work out with lip muscles be and feel any different? The answer: THE SHOULD FEEL THE SAME.

    BUT if you want to minimize the swelling, you can try what I do. [I learned and used this technique while working as a sports physician for football, basketball and wrestling teams I worked with through the years). After a good work out, massage the lips, with the thumb inside and behind the lip. With the inner side of the index finger, massage the lip tissue between the outer finger and inner thumb. After a minute or so move to the next part of the lip. When you are finished move to the other lip. What this does is gets the fluid out of the lymphatics that accumulated over the time your lips were demanding increased blood flow from a good work out. So I am not so sure you can blame this on pressure. Pressure only TEMPORALLY decreases blood flow. A great work out puts more demand on GETTING blood flow in. ALSO massaging the lips periodically (not just at the end of the work out) helps move the lactic acid out of the area (this is a metabolic acid developing from NORMAL increased muscle demand).

    Finally, if you still notice swelling, ice massage AFTER THE FINGER MASSAGE AND AT THE END of practicing can also serve to minimize swelling. Just tuck a sliver of chipped ice between the gums and the lip and let it sit there for about a half minute or so, then do this again at another area of the lip and repeat as often as needed (until the swelling sensation is numbed). NEVER suck on ice long enough to feel a burn sensation, if you do this you sucked too long, which for a better lack of terms, really sucks!

    So ask people when they see me on stage playing a 4 hour gig with my kick a$$ quintet, if they notice I always have a glass of ICED water on the stage with me. So after 4 hours of playing I can still end the night playing a double high E; yep two notes above the dubba hi-C, and not feel the pain in the morning. This is one doctor that practices what he preaches.

    I am sure TrumpetMD does the same, which of course makes both of us REAL doctors.
  7. Branson

    Branson Piano User

    Jan 16, 2011
  8. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi just,
    You asked:
    "I have always had the problem of my upper lip swelling but lately I've been practicing harder and the upper lip is quite swollen, which is concerning me because now it's almost perminently swollen. I thought it was a matter of too much mouthpiece pressure but I looked and that does not seem to be the case... any ideas?"
    Hi just,
    Gman is correct in that the lips should swell a little because they are being used. It's just like any other muscle that's being used.
    Unfortunately, your particular situation sounds like a specialized type of mouthpiece pressure.
    *You're using the same mouthpiece so it isn't an allergy
    *If it was an allergy, the upper "AND" lower lip sould be swollen.
    *Swelling of the upper lip when you play is not a new condiiton, it's happened in the past.
    *The condition got worse when you increased your playing time.
    Something to try:
    Take your horn and play the C major scale starting on low C and go as high as you comfortablly can and then come back down the scale.
    What did you see?
    Chances are you should notice one of three things:
    *Your head is visibally tilted "down" as you play.
    *Your horn is visibally pointed up when you play.
    *You can see that it's a combination of a head tilted down and a horn that's pointed up.
    Why this is a problem:
    When a person uses this method, instead of a having a circle of metal (the mouthpiece rim) that has a fairly "even" displacement of pressure against the lips, the pressure is focused to a point on the upper lip. One way to tell is that sometimes it physically hurts to play.
    How to possibly take care of this:
    *Imitate!! Watch Alison Balsom and watch her closely. Watch every nuance and do your absolute best to pretend that you are her. This is not a dumb stupid idea, it's called observational learning and is a very powerful way to learn.
    *Play "soft" What is soft? I need to be able to stand next to you as you play and have a conversation with someone and not raise my voice or strain to hear the other person. The trumpet is the most beautiful when it's played softly.
    *Play soft long tones and while doing this, slowly pull the trumpet from the face while maintaining a good sound. In time, you'll feel that the lip is a muscle that's almost like a cushion that the mouthpiece sits on but that will take time. Give it a month or two and you'll see what I mean.
    *Unfortunately, things often get worse before they get better when we try to get rid of a bad habit and replace it with a healthy alternative so don't get discouaged, it will get better.
    Hope this helps.
  9. redintheface

    redintheface Pianissimo User

    Nov 8, 2010
    Bath, UK
    ^^What he said^^

    The body is extremely interesting in how it reacts to different situations. Last week I moved from NZ (sea level, +68F/20C, humid) to Canada (1200ft, +20F/-5C, dry). My lungs felt like they were being torn apart when I went for my daily run, and my lips have become sore, chapped, and swollen. They did the same last year when I made the same trip. It can take several weeks for my lips to settle down again.

    So my advice is to take your house down from those 1200ft stilts. ROFL

    Seriously though, ^^what Dr. Gary said^^.
  10. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Welcome to TM, just!

    Some great advice in the thread so far! I'll suggest that you add endurance training to what sounds like strength training. Endurance is gained through low impact training over a long period of time. For the trumpet that means a bunch of low, mp playing. This means things like playing the Clarke studies as he suggests.

    Now for some miscellaneous stuff I posted in the past.

    "A good exercise from John Glasel for reducing pressure:

    Play a long tone, and while doing so reduce pressure; it will start to sound "bad." With this same pressure, do whatever it takes with the chops to make it sound "better" (not perfect or normal). In a short time you should notice some muscles being worked (a big ring or circle around the mouth.)

    This will allow us to train some muscles that don't normally get worked; when somewhat in shape it should require somewhat less pressure to play.

    As to mouthpieces, the biggest killer for those of us who use pressure is the bite of the rim. Many Bach mouthpieces have a sharp bite, which can help the cleanliness of our attack, but act like a cookie-cutter on our lips when we press. A flatter yet rounder rim will allow more pressure with less pain."

    "The finicky thing about air is that, yeah, we must learn the mechanics but then forget about them, because under the stress of performance, as tension sets in, our bodies will lie to us, and it will feel like we're moving huge amounts of air, breathing deeply and supporting when in fact, we are not!

    For this reason, I rely on some Vulgano Voodoo and the RAY OF POWER. It involves the Root Chakra, which is located directly at the base of the spine, also known as the coccyx. The chakras have their own mystic qualities, I guess. I don't know for sure, but they do seem to be located in parts of the body where bunches of nerves meet. (The Vulgano version is situated half way between the places we do our number one and number two in the restroom.)

    In practice and in theory, imagine (and feel) a ray of some sort (red is the most common mystic color associated with the root chakra) shooting down into the ground while playing. For high notes, imagine (and feel) a more intense ray. If we practice this sitting in a chair, we can notice all kinds of muscles come into play, which happen to be the same muscles used to "support" the air stream. By taking attention off of the mechanics and experiencing the mysterious, magical and not yet patented RAY OF POWER we can avoid some of the tension involved in "trying hard."

    Nothing mysterious and magical here really, but the RAY OF POWER does permit me to play with a relaxed but working body."

    Perhaps you can let us know what your practice consists of.

    Have fun!

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