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Discussion Starter #1
This is a problem that I have dealt with playing several instruments. What happens is that I will be playing along and all of sudden there is a burning pain from some small muscle in the back or on the shoulder. The tough part of this problem is that you rarely can feel it begin to tense and you don't know it is happening until the muscle starts burning. I would like to toss out a few remedies that have worked for me.

First, stand up ram rod straight (most players, including myself, don't do this) . Don't throw you shoulders back, but let them hang naturally. This by itself will put all the muscle groups in a different position and they may forget (so to speak) that they are supposed to tense up when you play. Also, this is a better position then the one you had.

Another thing about this involuntary tension is that if something is physically touching the problem area, you can consciously control the tense muscle, i.e. stop it. The trick is that if you can play for a certain length of time without the tension, the muscles will unlearn the bad habit. The best thing to have touching the area is you own hand. However, that is not always possible. I had sharp pain in my left shoulder blade that I could not control- I mean I could literally not play! So what I did was to lean up against the edge of a door frame so that this edge was pressing gently against the offending muscle. Then I would play scales and pieces and there was no pain. I can play pretty much pain free now but I still do a little bit of work everyday against the door frame. BTW, you can PM me if you are having these problems, and maybe I can help.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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See a chiropractor or physical therapist to figure out your problems and learn how to play relaxed. There should be no tension anywhere. at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
See a chiropractor or physical therapist to figure out your problems and learn how to play relaxed. There should be no tension anywhere. at all.
Playing any instrument requires the use of muscles which means tension. You have to hold your arms up which requires tension, and the arms must counter act the the pressure the fingers and thumbs place upon the horn. I think what you mean above is that there should be no excess tension. I don't think there is any need for for professional help in these matters. As far as learning to relax, one can't just say "I'm going to relax" and that's it. You need to find some way to know that the tension is beginning so that you can bring your attention to it.
 

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I've had a problem in that same area of the back for many years now. I went through extensive testing last year only to find out I have some arthritis in that area. Mine wakes me in the middle of the night when I lie in a certain position. Sometimes it comes on when playing music. I bought a Saxlab Saxholder a few weeks ago and it's helped. It takes the weight off that sore spot and redistributes it more evenly across the shoulders and abdomen.

When I have so much pain I can't sleep I have my wife apply a Salonpas Lidocaine patch over the sore spot. Miracle product. (I have no financial or other type of interest in Salonpas. Just a good product.)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I would like to say that I have made a lot of progress on my back tension problem. Now during playing, all I have to do is think about relaxing the back muscle and it seems to happen. In other words, I can consciously control what I couldn't control before. Now when I finish practicing there is almost no residual pain in the back.
 

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As far as learning to relax, one can't just say "I'm going to relax" and that's it. You need to find some way to know that the tension is beginning so that you can bring your attention to it.
One can say to oneself "Am I tense in my shoulders?", and then, after mentally performing that self check, make adjustments.

Awareness is the first step.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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One can say to oneself "Am I tense in my shoulders?", and then, after mentally performing that self check, make adjustments.

Awareness is the first step.
Exactly. Bad habits are learned and body awareness of the things that lead to your pain is up to you. Relax, play loose, and yeah...when you neglect your problems that are easy to fix for long enough, they become real problems like arthritis and muscle tension. I have a degree in physical therapy and practiced for a lot of years, but this stuff is common sense and should be easy to self remedy until it isn't.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Exactly. Bad habits are learned and body awareness of the things that lead to your pain is up to you. Relax, play loose, and yeah...when you neglect your problems that are easy to fix for long enough, they become real problems like arthritis and muscle tension. I have a degree in physical therapy and practiced for a lot of years, but this stuff is common sense and should be easy to self remedy until it isn't.
I don't think you have ever experienced what I am talking about. Sometimes the real problem occurs when you correct a slightly hunched shoulder. Part of a larger muscle does not relax and it is almost impossible to consciously control this kind of painful tension. Someone will post eventually and explain it.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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I don't think you have ever experienced what I am talking about. Sometimes the real problem occurs when you correct a slightly hunched shoulder. Part of a larger muscle does not relax and it is almost impossible to consciously control this kind of painful tension. Someone will post eventually and explain it.
Yeah, You’re probably right, in ten years of practicing physical therapy I never encountered an overuse injury creating trigger points and unexplained muscle pain...seriously? You’re on it. Reduce use, use ice/ heat and massage, and change the habits that caused the situation. A PT will bill you $200 for that info plus a home exercise and stretching routine. You’re welcome.
 

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I would like to say that I have made a lot of progress on my back tension problem. Now during playing, all I have to do is think about relaxing the back muscle and it seems to happen. In other words, I can consciously control what I couldn't control before. Now when I finish practicing there is almost no residual pain in the back.
That's great news. I've tried everything including meditation/mindfulness. No luck. The meditation can help with low back pain and especially headaches but I've found nothing aside from a prescription of a muscle relaxer called Baclofen that helps. Great news for you. What kind of meditation or mind-focusing approach do you use, luteman?

Replying to swperry above: Yeah, trigger points. I used to see a massage therapist for deep tissue work once a week when I was tied to a desk working. He could find the trigger points and work them out using pressure points. When he found them they felt like they were the size of a marble, some bigger than others. Sometimes more like a golf ball when I had a bad one. They were always in the trapezius or the muscles under the scapula. Now since I don't work anymore the ones under the scapulae remain. The trapezius spasms were just work stress. I don't miss them.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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That's great news. I've tried everything including meditation/mindfulness. No luck. The meditation can help with low back pain and especially headaches but I've found nothing aside from a prescription of a muscle relaxer called Baclofen that helps. Great news for you. What kind of meditation or mind-focusing approach do you use, luteman?

Replying to swperry above: Yeah, trigger points. I used to see a massage therapist for deep tissue work once a week when I was tied to a desk working. He could find the trigger points and work them out using pressure points. When he found them they felt like they were the size of a marble, some bigger than others. Sometimes more like a golf ball when I had a bad one. They were always in the trapezius or the muscles under the scapula. Now since I don't work anymore the ones under the scapulae remain. The trapezius spasms were just work stress. I don't miss them.
Yup, The upper back where there's all kinds of layers of muscles and moving parts is the prime spot. Those golf ball sized ones are a killer, and as you know, that trigger point massage can be pretty rough but very helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm glad that some sufferers have replied. When I played classical guitar (40 years ago) I had a marble sized pain in my right shoulder. I built a clamp from a coat hanger that put a small amount pressure on the spot which allowed me to consciously control the tension. Even so, what finally allowed me to beat the problem was using my left hand to grip the shoulder while I did right hand exercises. I could work on this while watching a movie.

As I have said, I think I have beat this shoulder blade tension with the saxophone by leaning into a door frame and working on scales and arpeggios. At least I can say that I am no longer in pain.
 
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