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Beginner Neck pain

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91
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Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
So, a couple of days ago, I finally worked my embouchure and lungs up to be able to practice a full solid hour. I was very proud of myself as I started with practicing only 10 minutes a mere 2 months ago. I slowly worked my way up to the full hour. That night, I went to sleep with no pain but woke up the next morning with neck pain. It is toward the right side base of my neck, exactly where my neck strap would be. I play my alto sax on the right side of my body, not in front. I’m wondering if this could be caused by me practicing for an hour. I practiced again for an hour the very next day and the pain seems to have gotten worse. I’m thinking I should stop practicing until the pain goes away. I think I might’ve injured something in my neck and it’s getting inflamed right now, hence the pain.

I have no experience with pain from sax playing. This would be my first time. Any thoughts or suggestions at this point? I’m a little bummed that should I stop playing for now that I will lose some of my hard work.
 

Jeanette

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Ouch sorry to hear you are suffering, would definitely rest it or change what you are using.

Jazzlab saxholders take the pressure off your neck.

Jx
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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What kind of strap are you using?
 

ellinas

Senior Member
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Athens, Greece
Jazzlab's saxholder has saved me! There are also other solutions out there... But I had an issue with the back of my neck .... And I almost quit playing saxophone some years ago. Now I can play the even the barin standing without stressing my neck.

Work on your posture and buy a sax holder or something comparable !!!!

Good luck!!!!!
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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I use a FreeNeck harness for my Bari sax, but it is fully adjustable, so you could play an Alto on it (I play my alto on it when I'm doubling) No pain, no pressure, I can play Bari for hours.
For my alto I use usually a Cebulla neck strap. It has padding both sides of the spine, so there is less pressure along the centre of your neck.
If you are a relatively new player,have you had lessons with a teacher? Has anyone been able to check your posture and tell you that what you are doing is correct?
 

Hammie 1982

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Ireland, Kildare Area
Honestly i dont think using those neck straps are always the best... Jazzlabs Sax Holder seems to be the best thing possible as its supported on the shoulders instead of the neck itself!

Give one of them a try and see if it improves your comfort!
 
OP
C
Messages
91
Locality
Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
If you are a relatively new player,have you had lessons with a teacher? Has anyone been able to check your posture and tell you that what you are doing is correct?
I’m a fairly new ”returner”. I had a couple of lessons with a teacher before the pandemic hit but he did not mention anything about my posture. It is very possible that as I got tired, my posture deteriorated throughout the practice session.

I think I might have to give the saxholder a try.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Hi - saxes can literally be a pain...

It's 'unusual' to play the alto to the side, but anyway, the issue with saxes is pressure on the nape of the neck. I can manage an alto on a standard Rico sling, but I cannot manage tenor on one. If I do, I get pain in my neck.

I have tried two solutions and they both work. One is the Cebulla strap. This is a leather strap which has a gap in the middle where it sits on the nape of your neck. It also has a 'wide' spreader. This does work very well.

I also have a Jazzlab Sax Holder. This sits on your shoulder and so there is no weight at all on the neck / top of the spine. This also works very well for me.

Baris are in a different league... and I use Mandy's solution of the FreeNeck.
 
OP
C
Messages
91
Locality
Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
I just purchased a saxholder pro. It should be here in a couple of days. My fingers are crossed that it solves my problem.

About playing the alto to the side...my teacher has also told me that the alto is usually played in the front but he also said “whatever is more comfortable for me.” Playing to the side is more comfortable for me maybe because I play sitting down and I’m not all that tall at 5’4”.
 

EdJ

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UK
If you haven't got one I would suggest you get a teacher someone who knows their stuff. Tell them about the pain. I have played instruments for years and recently had chronic upper back pain sorted by the combination of a great teacher and physiotherapy. My posture was terrible it transpired.

If in doubt or there is persistent pain / pain that doesn't quite fit see your GP. Explain the pain when it started where it is, what makes it worse and better and all the potential reasons including playing the saxophone. Don't say I have started playing the saxophone and have got this pain full stop. If it is something else, although it sounds likely, you may drive your GP to make the same assumption and delay reaching the right diagnosis if it is something else.
 

Pete Thomas

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Playing to the side is more comfortable for me maybe because I play sitting down and I’m not all that tall at 5’4”.
I would try more standing up, walking around and see how you get on.

but above all I second the device for teacher and GP if it persists
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
I just purchased a saxholder pro. It should be here in a couple of days. My fingers are crossed that it solves my problem.

About playing the alto to the side...my teacher has also told me that the alto is usually played in the front but he also said “whatever is more comfortable for me.” Playing to the side is more comfortable for me maybe because I play sitting down and I’m not all that tall at 5’4”.
I am 5'10" and played alto sax sitting in concert band in the center for 4 years at college. It was just the right height sitting atop my legs. You might try putting the legs apart slightly and letting the bottom of the sax rest on the chair. Sitting up straight, if that puts the tip of the mouthpiece at the curve above your chin it is perfect. You just tilt your head down slightly so the mouthpiece enters the mouth. It puts it at a perfect angle (for most folks).
 
OP
C
Messages
91
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Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
I would try more standing up, walking around and see how you get on.
I am 5'10" and played alto sax sitting in concert band in the center for 4 years at college. It was just the right height sitting atop my legs. You might try putting the legs apart slightly and letting the bottom of the sax rest on the chair. Sitting up straight, if that puts the tip of the mouthpiece at the curve above your chin it is perfect. You just tilt your head down slightly so the mouthpiece enters the mouth. It puts it at a perfect angle (for most folks).
I play in a concert band so that's why I prefer to sit. I will try to play it in the front again with legs apart, when my saxholder pro is delivered, although I remember that to be somehow uncomfortable or maybe just awkward. But I will try it again. I've tried playing the sax in front, trying to rest the bottom of the sax on the chair, but it was too high.

Oh, I'm female and grew up in an era where we were told not to sit with our legs apart. That's probably why I didn't prefer playing sax that way. LOL. :blush: I wish I was a couple of inches taller.

I'll try the saxholder first before I head off to the GP. We're kind of still in semi-lockdown (although we're opening up). I have a teacher but haven't seen him in a couple of months due to lockdown.
 

Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
At a push a terry towel folded and placed under the sling round the neck will help spread the weight.
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
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Breda
@ChampagneBears, All great advice so far!

There are just two things I would add to this.
1. See your MD and/or a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist should be able to explain things like why you're feeling pain there, which muscles/tendons have been over-fatigued and why. He/she should also be able to recommend a 'recovery schedule
2. Before reaching the conclusion that 'different gear is the solution'(which it very well might be!), I recommend slowing things down and trying to figure out what actually happened (see below).

Every sportsperson knows that skipping 'warm-ups' and 'loosen-ups' causes injuries. So before practicing, note any tension or stiffness in your neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, etc. You could do some 'loosening up' exercises before practice if necessary. I've played sax (not very well) for many years but I still loosen up my shoulders, arms, hands and fingers before every practice/rehearsals because I know from experience that I'm going to have more 'tension' in them than I'd like. posture, breath deeply, etc. I'm not scared of injury. I just play (slightly) better when I'm 'looser.

Try to figure out what's the underlying problem is:
  • is it the the sustained weight of the sax on your neck (in which case other straps/holders will work fine)
  • or to sustained turning of your mouth/neck to the mpc causing muscle strain?
  • a combination of the above + increased tension as a result of a desire to practice for an hour despite tiredness

This is my last sports metaphor ;) but runners don't build up condition in a straight line. That leads at best to a plateau and at worst to injuries. Instead, they build up in gradual zig-zag increases leading to ever higher 'peaks'. So one week's training would gradually build up to a peak. The next week's training would start at a slightly higher level than the previous week and build up to a slightly higher peak than the previous week. runners I have no idea whether this 'runners model' has anything to do wIth sax practice. My only intention is to try and reduce the pressure that 'every practice session must be longer'.
 
OP
C
Messages
91
Locality
Greater Toronto Area (Canada)
Try to figure out what's the underlying problem is:
  • is it the the sustained weight of the sax on your neck (in which case other straps/holders will work fine)
  • or to sustained turning of your mouth/neck to the mpc causing muscle strain?
  • a combination of the above + increased tension as a result of a desire to practice for an hour despite tiredness
I think it is a combination of both. I had to rest it for a couple of days for it to get better.

I’ve tried my saxholder pro (which arrived so quickly) and am still getting used to it. Boy, they do make everything for taller people! I had to adjust the string part to the shortest possible level. Thank goodness it was just short enough for me. I’m a pretty average height female so wasn’t expecting that. And they say it’s good for kids too? I hope the string length can be further adjusted; otherwise I’m not sure how shorter kids can use it.

Anyway, I tried all the positions that were suggested by previous posters.

I tried playing standing up with sax in front. This resolved most issues. No pain. Best position for home practice but not for concert band. Best position for the saxholder pro.

I tried sitting down, playing the sax in front, with legs open. I think this is the 2nd most comfortable. I could rest my sax a tiny bit on/against my chair but not all the way because it would then be too high to fit the mpc in my mouth. This is also rather awkward too, as the sax is resting against both legs and is kind of muffled. I’m also scared of scratching my sax on the chair if the chair is not cushioned. Home chair is, concert band practice is not.

I think I won’t play to the side anymore because (1) the saxholder feels really awkward to the side; and (2) I do think the constant twisting of the neck is not good for me. I actually had similar pain happen when I had 2 computer monitors where I was constantly turning my head to the left or right. My neck didn’t like that so I had to go back to only 1 monitor straight in front.

One thing I noticed about playing in front is that the right arm needs to exert some pressure to push the sax away from me. In fact, I woke up with my right arm muscle aching like it had a good workout. Now I wonder if this is normal or not.

How about a tenor? Are tenors played in front or to the side? If to the side, do people also experience the aching neck (to one side) also? Just curious should I pick up the tenor in the future.

I played sax as a kid and did not notice any of these things!!! Is it age? Lol.
 
Last edited:

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
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Many tenor sax players (sitting) in bands play to the side. At least in my case, I l have to adjust my saxophone neck and mpc position to minimize 'skewing my neck and mouth'. Tenor sax soloists (standing) have more freedom.
 

EdJ

Member
Messages
107
Locality
UK
Watch that posture. A physiotherapist I know who plays saxophone sticks his neck forwards to reach his sax rather than bringing it to his lips.

To be upright I know I have to feel like I am learning backwards especially if standing.
 

Zugzwang

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601
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United Kingdom
… wot they said, plus lie on the floor (without the sax) for 5 or 10 minutes before and after practicing, to stretch and straighten yourself out. Check yourself in a full-length mirror when playing to see what wierderies are going on.
Saxholder pad moves to the right when playing seated (thank you @Targa ) and yes, I’m short and use the one for Alto on my tenor (but hardly ever play seated unless no option)
 
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