Violin playing shouldn’t hurt, right?

I’ve suffered from playing problems since I was a teenager.  I tend to overdo things, and I tend to practice until I can’t anymore.  I don’t do things halfway, and violin is no different.  But…I am incredibly prone to injury.  Sometimes I deal with it.  Sometimes I take time off.  About a year ago I think I gave up. 


I’m not ready to give up for good though.  I needed my year without really practicing (to MISS it) but at Suzuki Institute I started thinking about it again, and how I love playing, and I want to play for a long time, and I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong.  Other than playing out of tune 😉

This morning I woke up with severe shoulder pain.  Hmm.  First problem:  don’t go from NOT practicing to practicing 2 or 3 hours a day for a couple days in a row.  It seems I am truly an idiot.

Maybe it was from the gym.  Maybe not.  Who knows.


What I do know is that I’m ready to do something about it.  Mike stretched my shoulder at the beginning and end of the workout.  He gave me some advice on stretches to do at home (which I actually have done several times today, so this is so far promising.)  I want to get more advice from him, since a) I actually do listen to him and take his advice which I am really bad at doing from doctors/physical therapists in the past and b) I’m paying him for something anyway.  He thinks for sure I need to strengthen the muscles opposite my shoulder, that the problem is my shoulder is weak.

My thinking is that overall I’m not using my back/arms/shoulders properly.  I might be all out of whack.  My teachers in the past have never really helped me with this, for whatever reason.  I’m not blaming anyone here, just myself.  I also know I have awful tension issues. 


I’ve improved my health immensely over the past two years.  I’ve improved my mental health too.  My confidence is through the roof.  I’ve worked hard on becoming a better violin teacher.

But I need to play well, and I want to attempt to play without pain.  I have never REALLY worked on this.  I’ve always just skated from one injury to the next and relied on high pain tolerance and talent to make it through.  But there are things I want here, and I need to be injury free to practice.  I am tired of making excuses.  I don’t let myself have excuses at the gym—I sure as hell shouldn’t allow excuses in violin.


I’ve got a couple days of traveling ahead, but when I return I am going to do this properly.  I want to figure out what in my posture is screwing me up and go from there. 

How many of you suffer from playing problems or other overuse issues?  Any good advice for me? 


3 thoughts on “Violin playing shouldn’t hurt, right?”

  1. Try stopping, stretching, walking out of the studio and back after every 15 minutes of your practice. See what happens. I had to do it a few months ago to get back in shape for a week of playing chamber music 6 hours a day. Sometimes I hated it but gradually I felt less pain, was able to extend my practice and love playing again. I was able to get through that chamber music week pain free. Good luck, Vivian

  2. Have I suffered from playing injuries? Yes. Do I have any good advice for you? No. Sorry 😉 I get right shoulder issues and have done since I was about 12….it seems that no matter how much my brain tells me not to raise it as I play my shoulder just has a mind of its own and does it anyway! I rely on our subsidised massages at work to keep me in some sort of playing condition. Also a general level of fitness does seem to help….but I reckon that’s not something that you need to be told….you’re an inspiration lol! In terms of getting things back to where they should be though, I swear by a rolled up small towel….roll it as tight as you can and lay it along your spine and gently lie down on it. Then sort of circle your arms around to encourage your spine to re-align itself. That’s a really gentle way to do what a chiropractor will do violently haha! Good luck 🙂

    1. Hi! I’ve recently started reading your blog and really enjoy it! I’m a flute player, and have had a lot of trouble with pain and practicing for roughly the last five years. I’ve seen a ton of doctors and physical therapists, but the only person who’s really helped me (and didn’t ask me silly questions like, “Can’t you just switch to the clarinet?”) was Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener at the Rehab Institute of Chicago. She specializes in performing arts medicine and was really great. She gave me some strength training exercises that were specifically aimed at the troubles I was having, and she also didn’t cost a ton, which was great when I was paying out of pocket for medical expenses. 🙂 If you’re interested in her, this is the link to her practice:
      Best of luck! And thanks for the great blog!

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