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Pain in the Neck

Reed Warbler

Senior Member
Messages
618
Neck pain is a common complaint amongst sax players. Mine was alleviated by two things: a lighter sax and a shoulder sling but there's more to it than just changing tackle.
Years ago I did a course in Alexander Technique that was extremely helpful. I was in my 40s yet I grew 1/2", much to my surprise; I was already 6' 2". I also learned how to use my body in a way that reduced back pain and increased mobility. AT is a kind of postural system now taught at some music colleges. Try Googling it.
Recently I wrote to my old AT teacher, Colin Tully, who is also a saxophonist of many years experience, asking for advice specific to playing. Here's some of his reply:"It's all down to awareness and self study. I would suggest that when you're putting the sax on your sling try to be conscious of the weight you are bearing. Since some of the weight is bearing down on the neck you have to gently energise your neck to oppose the weight by sending a direction for your neck to go back and up. Without this thought sax players necks tend to sag forward, increasing the curve of the cervical spine, leading to disc compression and nerve squashing etc.
All sax players will have their own unique 'use' so I can't guarantee that this advice will help. Have a look in the mirror when you are playing...even better if you can bring in a second mirror and watch yourself in profile.
Then there is the conundrum; the more you get lost in the music the less awareness you will have of your physical self. The answer is to establish better habits which will serve you well even when you're thinking of other things.....like what notes to play next!"
His next response was to a remark I made about faster fingering:"Regarding finger speed keep on asking the hands and arms to release any excess tension as this would definitely slow things down. Hold the sax with minimum effort......with the thought of the neck going back and up".
Good advice indeed. I hope this helps anyone suffering for their music. A course in Alexander Technique could be invaluable.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Good advice Mr Warbler. I have slight arthritis in one of my upper verterbrae and if I strain it it puts pressure on a nerve and causes extreme pain down my face and neck. It was partially caused by a football injury years ago. I go to a chiropractor every three months who manipulates it all and also gives me advice and exercises, specifically about posture being a sax player. So I am always trying to be aware of posture when I'm playing and I always take a sax stand so I can unhook the instrument and give my neck a rest whenever there's time.
 

Kath

Member
Messages
119
Good advice - I thought I was getting hypnotically lost in the music when really I was getting light headed due to my strap cutting off the blood supply to my head!!!!! With a harness instead of a strap - life's so much more enjoyable - and less worrying! Seriously though - posture - it's so worth paying attention to.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Second half of last year I hada sax teacher who was an Alexander Technique nut. He seemed to want to do more AT than teach sax.... He was the one with neck problems, not me. But reckoned AT helped a lot. Now with the Bari I'm getting neck problems which are transferring to tenor, so time I looked at it again. Cebulla strap has helped a lot, but not completely.

On the grip.... Fully agree here. And a badly set up sax can be a culprit - if you've got to squeeze hard to get the notes (especially the lower ones) to blow cleanly, then the sax needs attention. Had this on my tenor. Gave me a lot of pain in my thumbs. Getting the pads to seal with a light touch - and regulated so that all the linked keys closed exactly together sorted that (after a period of healing). From the little I've seen most saxes are less than optimally set up.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,805
I use use harnesses on all my saxes except the soprano. Much better for me. I shoulder strap is also ok but I prefer harnesses. I play better because I can move my my head. It's hard to do the duck walk with a bari hainging around your neck.;}

Thomas
 

ellinas

Senior Member
Messages
928
Hello I'm reviving an old thread.
I'm a computer programmer spending 12+ hours per day coding, +1h/day playing the sax ( mostly tenor ).

Lately I feel severe neck pain, dizziness etc. Also I feel my left 2 little fingers numb.
I tried th G-G# trill and mobility seems not to be affected but still I feel "needles" 24h hours a day.
I went to my doctors, got an MRI and they told me I have projection of the A5-A6 spinal discs that push my spinal nerve.

My doctor told me I should forget the bari, he suggested switching to alto or to play the lightest tenor possible. I recently re-bought an YTS-23 and a jazzlab saxholder. The difference is huge with the saxholder.

The doctor asked to see me how I sit on my desk when I code and asked me to play sax for him with my tenor and my alto. He thought the posture is ok and after lifting the tenor he suggested switching to alto. But on the other hand he found the sax holder brilliant.

His last comment was that I should think stopping the sax and keep playing the organ ( grrr..... )

Oh lord..... for a couple of weeks I should stop playing and focus on intense physiotherapy, and slowly slowly start exercising. I think swimming is the best mild option to exercise and I guess it's going to be good for my lungs.

There's no way I'm quitting the sax.
With all the crazy things that happen the past few years in Greece, it's my musical way to decompress my stress.

Thanks for the Alexander Technique tips I'll check it out.
+1 for the saxholder it really is magical and absolutely frees the back of the neck.
 

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
Messages
7,340
You need to sort out your posture at the computer

Oh...and get up stretch etc... regularly

Exercise... tophole idea

It's your choice of work that's giving you the trouble not the choice of sax!
 

ellinas

Senior Member
Messages
928
The truth is that my posture when coding is good. It's that all these hours in front of a PC don't help.
I could do with alto playing for a couple of months. But I can't/won't stop the sax!

Even if I play lying on bed!
 

Reed Warbler

Senior Member
Messages
618
Thanks for the Alexander Technique tips I'll check it out.
+1 for the saxholder it really is magical and absolutely frees the back of the neck.
The Alexander tip was given in Feb 2013. Glad you finally got round to it!
Totally agree about saxholders, very worthwhile.
Working 12 hours a day at almost anything not pleasurable would be a strain. Don't you have job sharing in Greece?
I hope you get well soon.
 

Vlad

Senior Member
Messages
803
Why not just play it on a stand? I've done this with a normal baritone stand and a suitable height chair beside it to sit on, ( not some posh mad-expensive 'playing stand' btw )
..a bit of imagination would modify it to use standing up if you really want to ! This was of course using a bari , but playing from a stand of some kind could easily be done with any of the others too, there's no weight at all on your back.... and certainly a better plan than just giving up !!!
 

ellinas

Senior Member
Messages
928
Working 12 hours a day at almost anything not pleasurable would be a strain. Don't you have job sharing in Greece?
Programming is really pleasurable. It's actually my hobby. BUT my body doesn't like it :)
The past few years if you're lucky to have a paying job here in greece, the last thing that annoys you is working more than 8 hrs.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I think you meant C5-C6, in the neck.

Numbness in those two fingers can point to problems in the arm as well causing pressure on a specific nerve. Could be posture when typing or pressure on the inside of the elbow or other things that need treatment. Was this checked?

But whatever else you do, listen to your doctor. Even if it's to decide to get a second opinion.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,805
My friend is running a saxophone school up in Stockholm and he designed a stand for alto and tenor players who are having problems with neck, shoulders, wrists .... . PM me for the adress if you are interested.

 

ellinas

Senior Member
Messages
928
I think you meant C5-C6, in the neck.

Numbness in those two fingers can point to problems in the arm as well causing pressure on a specific nerve. Could be posture when typing or pressure on the inside of the elbow or other things that need treatment. Was this checked?

But whatever else you do, listen to your doctor. Even if it's to decide to get a second opinion.
Ulnar nerver compression was diagnosed as well.... You were spot on mate.
A5-A6=C5-C6 it's a greek name for the same disks. Still seeing doctors and visiting hospitals about this :( ..


@thomsax THANKS for the recommendation I might need something like this
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,903
Hope you get sorted, I am sure you will find a way to keep playing :)

Jx
 
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