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Pain in my left arm ?
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iDrayne
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December 3, 2017 - 10:34 am
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Hello everyone

I'd like to adress a problem I am encountering since weeks now, wich would be a pain at my left arm (not my bowing arm). In the beginning i had this pain once i started to do vibrato exercises and when i did vibrate during pieces (my vibrato was and still is irregular/uneven). Now, even without the bow in my right hand, when i place my fingers on the string, my arm hurts after a few seconds. Then, if i put in vibrato & other exercises, it hurts so badly that i have to stop - but all in all the pain is the worst when vibrating, thats for sure. Especially when i play on the G and the D-String the pain is really intense. I noticed that when i vibrate in the third position, the pain isnt as bad as in first position (for whatever reason..).

I would define the pain as a strong fatigue in the middle of my arm, in the spot where usually doctors take your blood out, if you get what i mean. But to be honest i dont really know where exactly it comes from. I feel the pain in the region of my middle arm, thats it. I dont know if its a muscle or a tendon or whatever it might be.

Anyways, once i stop and lay down my arm for 3-5 seconds, the pain disappears as it would not exist.

Im really afraid that i have to switch instrument because im not able to do anything without this pain. My teacher said that my posture is good. My hand-posture is good too, the fingers are in the right place, there isnt much pressure & he doesnt see any tension in my hand either, yet it hurts more and more.

 

Any suggestions on what I could do ?
Any help appreciated. Im really desperate right now..:(

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damfino
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December 3, 2017 - 11:01 am
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First, I would definitely stop vibrato for the time being, give your body time to heal. 

Which kind of vibrato are you doing, (wrist, arm)? It may be that you need to switch up the kind of vibrato you are doing. 

I am not an expert at all of this, I will leave someone with more experience like @Fiddlerman to give you more advice, but as someone with lots of repetitive motion injuries from old jobs, my first advice is to temporarily stop vibrato until you can pin down what it is about it that is causing the pain. You may just need to switch up which kind of vibrato you are doing.

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Cearbhael
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December 3, 2017 - 11:23 am
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Sounds like tendinitis to me, a doc can help, you can get a shot that will help it heal and a brace that will reduce the pain! You should never play through the pain, since pain is not supposed to be part of the journey! Yes, Fiddlerman can give you advise! I suggest also, that you go to the forum “Intoduce yourself” topic “Hello Fiddlers”. The 2nd video in that thread is on how to do vibrato! It is dry and long but he really is good at explaining the motions of vibrato. It will help you learn vibrato without future injury! And Yes, as damfino said, quit vibrato until the pain ceases completely! Then you want to carefully learn vibrato without the pain! Always quit the minute you feel stress! Never play through the pain! It is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong! Short lessons to start and increase them slowly! Or have multiple short lessons, but don’t overdo it and listen to your body!

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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iDrayne
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December 3, 2017 - 11:29 am
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Thanks for your reply.

Im using Arm-Vibrato at the moment. My teacher wanted me (and probably his other sutdents, too) to learn arm-vibrato at first.

The problem is, im not having this pain only when vibrating. This pain just gets worse when vibrating, but its still there even when not using vibrato at all. 🙁

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Cearbhael
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December 3, 2017 - 11:57 am
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As I said, go to your doc! Reduce practice time to maybe 15 minutes. If your doc recommends suspending practice for a while, do so. Allow yourself to heal! If your given a brace and if your allowed a short practice time, be sure to wear that brace! From what you told us, your pain started with the arm vibrato and got worse from there, so you hurt all the time now from working through that pain! Get a diagnosis from your doc and take his advice! Allow yourself time to heal! The pain will go away, but you need to rethink the way you practice, or you will simply end up back here again! Shorter practice sessions and definitely NEVER play through pain! Ask your teacher to teach you a different vibrato method since arm vibrato may never be something you can do without another tendinitis flair up. That is not carved in granite but if the doc says you have tendinitis, you won’t be able to even try arm vibrato until the pain is totally gone, and you will have to quit the instant you feel any future pain. Learning a different method will then definitely be the only option.

PS: I have had tendinitis, I know the kind of pain you’re experiencing. It hurts A LOT! It will get better! Don’t dispair!

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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iDrayne
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December 3, 2017 - 2:53 pm
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Yes i will definitely go to a doctor.

Im going to also look forward to not overdo exercises and everything else. Thank you for the help!

I talked with my teacher about one thing: rotating the arm more underneath the violin so i can reach the G-String better, especially when vibrating with my first finger on the G-String, because if I dont rotate, i have "zero space to vibrate", thats what i would describe it. My teacher says that even when my index-finger is touching the neck i should be able to vibrate, but then i cant vibrate as wide as i would like to.

Do i have to touch the neck when vibrating or shouldnt i let it touch the neck?

All of this makes the pain stronger, but vibrating is so much easier when rotating my arm ..

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Ferenc Simon
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December 3, 2017 - 4:41 pm
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I wanted to reply earlier, but seeing as everyone sent you to the doctor and preemptively told you not to practice vibrato for the time being I figured I'd just wait and see what happens. 

Personally I don't think you have tendinitis, at least not yet (else you wouldn't be typing either... and the pain wouldn't only be present when forcing violin play), however what you're doing IS putting a lot of strain on your tendons and the attached muscles, which WILL result in tendinitis if you're not careful. 

Regarding the elbow under the violin.. yes you should do that as much as possible, even when playing normally, not just during vibrato. Try to always have you wrist as straight as possible and use your arm from the elbow as a lever to guide it above the correct string... meaning that when you have to play on the D or G strings, you move your elbow more and more under the violin... instead of just trying to reach from your wrist and fingers. Normally that shouldn't hurt as long as you're not over-stretching it.. I'm assuming it hurts now since you already forced your arm too much with the vibrato practice. Give it some time to heal and take it easy and yea you seeing a doctor doesn't hurt. 

Aside from that once you get back into practicing you need to be careful and try to eliminate as much tension as possible.. you need to be as relaxed as possible while playing violin.. and always use the lightest pressure enough to get the job done for every aspect.. like holding down notes for example.. no need to over-press, lift your fingers till the string separates from the fingerboard then press it back slightly till it makes proper contact.. figure out the least amount of pressure that sounds well.. and remember to keep it that way and don't use more force even when doing vibrato.  Another thing relating to vibrato is make sure you're not actually pressing your hand back from your finger joints when doing arm and wrist vibrato, that's another unnecessary source of tension and that's probably responsible for the uneven vibrato. Slow it down as much as possible.. concentrate on the pulling motion of your hand and let the fingers follow on their own, while being as relaxed as possible. Just because the movement is good, doesn't mean you're actually using the correct muscles, so that's what you want to focus on.. slow it down and try to do it evenly.

Regarding the index finger touching the side of the neck when reaching over to the G string (I'm assuming you're talking about that), yes you should be able to do a full range vibrato if it's just 'touching'.. since in that case your index finger is usually raised almost to the point where your knuckle is level with the fingerboard and you place the pressure on the left side of the finger to compensate for the non-parallel (with the strings) movement which means you'll have a very minimal sliding action against the side of the neck that shouldn't really affect it.. however if your knuckle is way lower and you press hard against the side, that will deadlock your finger in place causing you to lose all the range except for finger vibrato (which you don't want to do there) 

Hope this makes sense to you and helps 🙂 as a disclaimer please take note that I'm a complete beginner at violin so take everything I said with a grain of salt 😀 

Cheers and hope you get better soon so you can enjoy learning without pain!

Ferenc

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Cearbhael
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December 4, 2017 - 11:53 am
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No matter what we think, tendinitis, pre tendinitis, the most important message right now is to get to your doctor! Only he can truly diagnose and test you! Also, if he thinks you need a specialist or physical therapy, he will get you there! We want to see your pain diagnosed and treated so you can heal and get back to doing what we all like to do! Learn violin and practice pain free! All our best wishes for a speedy recovery are with you!!!

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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Fiddlerman
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December 4, 2017 - 2:26 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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To me it sounds like tension. If you can take baby steps forward from the things that do not cause pain and slowly add movement known to cause pain but not allowing the pain to come, you should be able to work your way up to these movements again.
It is extremely important that you attempt the painful movements with next to no tension. Unfortunately, when learning new techniques it's quite common that we forget to relax and only concentrate on the success of the technique.
Try playing slowly with a constant focus on relaxation. Don't be afraid to back up in order to go forward. It might be your only salvation.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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TangledUpInWriting
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December 5, 2017 - 11:40 am
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If you're having pain outside of playing violin, definitely get it checked out.   If you are not having  the issue outside of playing, you may have strained something that is aggravated by some tension in your arm during practice?  Perhaps back off from your typical routine and, as Fiddlerman said, work your way back up.  Definitely no shame in that, and it's better than hurting your arm further. I had a similar pain issue after dislocating something in my wrist at work(microcarpal bone, I think it's called?) And I had to go from practicing 2hrs a day to 15 minutes if I could stand it.  G and D strings provoked the exact same sensation you described, which went away if I put my arm down at my side for a few moments but would come back.  Granted I prolonged the issue by not properly resting my wrist and the pain wasn't exclusive to violin. So I'd get it checked if you experience as much as a twinge outside of violin.  Tendonitis is a possibility, but especially if the pain presents outside of practicing. You could have injured a muscle when practicing, which would also explain the pain and it could be anywhere from your fingers to elbow as far as injury location since everything is connected, but for now it's a good idea to back  off vibrato.  Long story short--try shortening your practice sessions, even a few minutes is better than nothing, and if you start having trouble when you are not playing violin, definitely get it checked out.  Hope you get to the bottom of it soon... definitely no fun!

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iDrayne
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December 11, 2017 - 1:29 pm
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Thanks everyone for your answers. Im finally getting some hope again that it will get better!

 

So first thing to say: i do not have this pain outside of playing violin. I only have it when practising 1) too long, 2) practicing on my G-String and 3)vibrating.

I have to say, i just played the violin for like 10 minutes, and in cases i didnt vibrate, i had no pain. Im having a little break since a week now, i only practice like 5 minutes a day (or even nothing), and once i vibrate my arm hurts once again.

I have noticed that my vibrato is really unstable. Its really unregular and uneven. I feel like its not an even motion like "La-La-La-La-La", its more like "La-La-Lalalalala-La-La-Lalala-La" if you get what i mean. And while i vibrate, my arm gets really stiff & i feel that once the motion gets uneven, usually after 2 seconds of vibrating.

I have thought about it and i came to a possibility on why my arm hurts: Maybe im not used to vibrate, maybe i have to practice more and work myself up again with slow vibrato-exercises, because trust me when i say this: im not able to vibrate slowly. Im only getting a fast uneven vibrato. Maybe i forced myself too much into vibrating...I mean, its the thing i want the most on the violin. Its such a beautiful tone and im not a patient person :/

Also i didnt even practice vibrato everyday. I vibrate everyday, but im not exactly doing vibrato-exercises, so that might be the cause?

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Ferenc Simon
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December 11, 2017 - 2:07 pm
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Yes, I thought so..

Like I said in my previous post, you need to learn not to flex muscles that aren't needed for the job. To be able to do that.. you start by noticing it in the first place..

Here are a few tips: When playing every now and then ask yourself the question 'Am I tense?'.. Stop and go ahead and check.. put down the bow, continue what you were doing with your left hand and use your right hand to go over your left arm / forearm and pinch / massage it to feel if it's unnecessarily tense and to find where exactly. Press in hard with your thumb there and try to relax it afterwards while checking to see if it was indeed successful.

Another way to relax is by temporarily exhausting the muscle.. make a fist with your left hand and constrict it as hard as you can till you feel some shaking and your forearm tensing up... immediately release it and relax.. shake it out.. This should get rid of tension immediately. Try doing vibrato afterwards with the least amount of effort that you can still make it sound good. 

And finally, slow it down.. you need to learn the motion. Part of the uneven vibrato comes from tension, but part of it is because you may have never learned the complete motion, you just compromised so you can achieve a resembling sound. Take a metronome, set it to a relatively slow speed.. and do the FULL motion of vibrato for each click. (When playing especially depending on the song you will often times not get the full range, but that's okay as long as it's even and sounds good). Also, practicing each day helps, since part of the pain is 'natural' and coming from the fact that your muscles were never trained for endurance while doing this motion and they simply get tired, but that's okay, just stop when it hurts or play something else that doesn't hurt.

When learning the motion slowly.. do it on the A string, that doesn't require nearly as much stretch and effort as the G which means you will be able to do it longer. Then of course once it's starting to get even practice on all strings with all fingers, but leave the G for last as that is going to exhaust you really fast at first.

Hope this helps

Ferenc

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Bella86
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December 11, 2017 - 3:53 pm
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You're saying that you've been very eager to get vibrato down, which me sound like you've strained muscles and tendons too much too soon. Leaving it for a few days or even a couple of weeks to let it heal would help if that is the case. If you don't, tendonitis is definately going to show up. But to be sure that there isn't any serious damage done, you should see a doc either way. Can't be too careful. 

Vibrato is something that take time to build up, most people start with simple exercises with long slow movements and then gradually work towards the smaller, faster movements. 

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