Sore shoulder/deltoid

therealguyfitherealguyfi Milwaukee, WINew Barault
in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 47

I’ve been using rest stroke picking seriously for at least the last 5-6 years and just recently feel like its really starting to click, maybe because I’ve been practicing more during this pandemic. It took me a LONG time to lighten up my touch and relax but recently its gotten much more comfortable to play at faster tempos and I can actually play some of Django’s heads and solos (also Bird stuff). The double down thing is now natural. However, even as I feel like I’ve never been more physically relaxed playing guitar, I am having frequent shoulder pain, on both sides but much more on my picking side. This is new to me.

Is this just something we go through? I played upright bass seriously for 8 years and I remember my hands hurting for a long time, then the pain went away, I guess when I finally got the technique down. I am 52 and in great shape but have had a lot of wear and tear on my body due to decades of playing music and periodic trade work.



  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 470

    This can be a complicated topic. I was getting right neck/shoulder soreness, even dizziness (I'm 68). Raising the right arm and extending it across the width of the guitar, before dropping down to the face of the guitar, is problematic for guitarists. Your shoulder(s) have to be relaxed, not raised, and not rotated forward.

    Playing ever faster, we can start tensing adjacent muscles without realizing it.

    I was helped by really good physical therapy, a little bit of Alexander Technique, and a book titled "Playing with Ease: A Healthy Approach to Guitar Technique," by David Leisner.

    I ended up switching the guitar to my left leg and using a combination of the ErgoPlay guitar support and a very low footstool. The whole point of all that is to lower my right arm.

    Also, rotating the guitar neck a bit away from my body reduces the stress in the right arm (and thus the neck and shoulder), since the guitar body is less forward of the shoulder.

    It may not be practical at the moment, but a good physical therapist who treats musicians is a good place to start.

  • Posts: 4,777

    I was having left neck/shoulder pain for a long time, 4-5 years. It went from feeling some tension to having fairly sharp constant pain. I've done physical therapy and it helped but to make a long story short my therapist told me to watch my posture when I play guitar. Only then I realized I slouch when I practice. What seems to keep it away is as soon as I feel any tension in it, I exaggerate making my back straight, in addition to feeling everything else relaxed. Not only that I sit up to straighten out but I go as if someone is pushing into my lower back.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Eastman DM2v, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    edited May 2020 Posts: 337

    ThIs style, in my opinion, is very physically challenging. The rest stroke picking, the aggressive strumming, The technical nature of the style etc. couple that with the much longer scale, and the big neck of the typical instrument used for the style, it’s just a recipe for repetitive strain. I think the longer you do it the more efficient you become the less strain you experience.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320

    I've had shoulder issues from sports for years. Yes get it looked at. PT and posture really helped me to avoid surgery.

  • h24015h24015 New jean barault, mateos
    Posts: 19

    The four posters in front of me are spot on. I started using a stool (actually a mic case while practicing and a Morley volume pedal while playing live) under my right foot. This, remembering not to slouch forward so much, and back/Shoulder stretches at night while watching TV have helped me.

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 248

    Proper technique will go a long way here. One thing that helps is aligning the crook of the elbow on your picking arm with the front edge of the body, where the side meets the top. This accomplishes a few things, namely prevent slouching, holding the guitar in place, and helps control your picking and strumming.

  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    edited May 2020 Posts: 191

    I have right shoulder issues as well due to 38 years of making woodwind instruments on a lathe. I prefer to use the same position as the anonymous unknown guitar player in this picture, laying back on a couch with my feet raised. Its quite comfortable and I can support my picking arm at the elbow. I think this is the correct posture for this type of music.

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 248

    Really does embody the importance of a relaxed posture!

  • HotTinRoofHotTinRoof Florida✭✭✭
    Posts: 308

    realguyfi, How is it going with recovery and healing?

    This sounds like run of the mill RSI (repetitive strain injury). Just doing too much of the same motion/being confined to the same position too much compared to other larger range of motion movements. By all means look at proper body positioning and correct technique however don't forget to do other activities too. Your joints want to move and you do not want tendinitis to run away on you. This is your shoulder telling you that it isn't in shape to be doing what you want it to be.

  • therealguyfitherealguyfi Milwaukee, WINew Barault
    Posts: 47

    Well unfortunately I’ve been practicing less but the pain has mostly went away, so I’m probably too old for 3-4 hours a day of practice.

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