Lower Back issues

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
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Lower Back issues

Post by MorneZaayman » Mon May 01, 2017 2:35 pm

Hi all,

I recently had to see a chiropractor for my lower back. He said the alignment was so bad due to an old injury I had in Korea which was never corrected.
He has sorted it now but cautioned me on playing guitar because of the sitting position. I don't know what to do...
I have tried looking for those supports in South Africa but I haven't found any.

Anyone else have to stop playing due to back pain?


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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by eno » Mon May 01, 2017 6:53 pm

Yes, I had imilar issues in the past but they are solved now. You may want to check this thread

Cristopher Parkening had 4 back surgeries and eventually quit performing publicly due to back issues and in one of the interviews he said "When you sit in that crooked position for thousands of hours (and he demonstrated that position with elevated leg and twisted body) you are destined to have back problems"

Also,Douglas Niedt has a really good writeup on the back issues for gutar players but you need to subscribe to read it.
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by Cincy2 » Tue May 02, 2017 1:28 pm

Strings By Mail in the US carries all the well known guitar supports and will ship internationally. I've used a couple and found relief from back pain once I got both feet on the floor. Most of these supports are relatively inexpensive so you can experiment and see if one will help. Good luck.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by soltirefa » Tue May 02, 2017 2:12 pm

I bought an "Adjustrite Musician's Chair." It has several choices of height and also allows you to tilt the seat a bit if you want. I put it at the lowest setting, which I believe is 15 inches (very low - I have short legs). I am able to sit with my thighs straight, not sloping, so my Dynarette cushion feels very solid on my leg. I think when you feel solid and square sitting with your guitar, you aren't contracting muscles in your back and legs to keep stable, which over a long period can cause ache.

Do a search for that chair. Lots of reviews on Amazon.

I had previously bought (and still have) The Guitar Chair. It's also nice, but I prefer the Musician's Chair.
Last edited by soltirefa on Tue May 02, 2017 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by MorneZaayman » Tue May 02, 2017 6:58 pm

Thank you all for your advice and tips. I will definitely be investigating some options for guitar support so that I can play/learn again.

@Soltirefa - I like that chair idea too.

@Cincy - thank you for the pointer to Strings by Mail - will check it out.

@eno - thank you for the links to the threads.

Last edited by MorneZaayman on Tue May 16, 2017 6:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by guit-box » Tue May 02, 2017 8:04 pm

I have many supports and sadly none of them really help me. Putting a strap on the guitar and standing is probably the last resort solution if your sciatic nerve is getting compressed from sitting, because even with a leg support you're still sitting.
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by Francisco » Tue May 02, 2017 10:08 pm

A leg cushoin like the Dynarette or the Flanger (they are almost the same) are in my experince the simplest solution to avoid sitting with an elevated leg. All the other inventions seem cumbersome to me because they have to be installed and uninstalled everytime you bring the guitar somewhere. I was starting to have lower back pains when practicing for a long period and these cushions solved the problem almost right away. The fact that you can sit with both feet at the same level and your entire back straight is so much better than keeping one leg higher than the other...
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by robin loops » Tue May 02, 2017 11:38 pm

There's a member here that plays in a Lazy Boy due to back problems. While traditional posture may be preferable (although many debate that point) it certainly isn't the only posture that will work. Try searching Andrew Krylov. He has many posts about using a strap to stand while playing. There are many guitar supports too. Perhaps you could order online?
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by MorneZaayman » Tue May 16, 2017 6:57 am

@guit-box: My sciatic nerve seems to have recovered and I have no pain while I sit... it just feels now as if the bottom part of my back feels stiff after playing.

@Francisco: I am keen on the cushion type support. I have to track it down here in Cape Town. :)

@robin loops: Yeah I will mostly likely have to order online if I can't track a support/cushion here in SA. At the moment I sit on a simple wooden chair with no backrest. I keep my back pretty straight and it seems to be holding...for now.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by BugDog » Sat May 20, 2017 2:58 pm

I've had some sciatic nerve problems on both sides. Not debilitating, but I had the discomfort.

Oddly a foot stool sometimes relieves the discomfort.

What helps (me) a lot is stretching and exercise. The effect isn't instant. It can be overdone. But the effect is real and significant. You have to stay with it. Now days it mostly only bothers me it when I sleep too long.
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by guit-box » Mon May 22, 2017 5:07 pm

If you're having trouble with sitting and guitar playing young, it's likely to only get worse with age. Sitting in general and certainly sitting in one position for long hours are just plain bad for the body. Many people have problems with the way the sciatic nerve pierces the glut muscle, in some bodies it goes around the nerve and they have less trouble. Check out piriformis stretches on google.
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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 5:53 pm

Another idea that works similar to the guitar strap (play standing up) but without a strap is resting the guitar on a table with a custom made guitar support made out of a cardboard box + non slip material. Cut an appropriate sized card board box into a triangle shape and duct tape or hot glue it together to be stiff enough and glue on the non slip material.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by LesC » Mon May 22, 2017 10:47 pm

I have had back problems for years. With the encouragement of Andre Krylov, I put a strap on my guitar and the problem is solved. I mostly sit, but sitting or standing, with the strap the guitar is always in the correct position.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by spinality » Tue May 23, 2017 5:01 pm

As the other commenters have noted, there are definitely things you can do. I had to give up playing for ten years due to back issues, including two surgeries, and thought I'd never play again. You need to work on the problem actively, in other words try different approaches and see what works for you. In my case, the following has been effective and has allowed me to resume full-time playing.

1) I use a "Dynarette" cushion plus a low footstool, and sit on a relatively high stool with a back. The back has a lumbar support cushion so that I sit far forward on the stool but the cushion supports my lower back.

2) I am careful to break after every 45 minutes or so of playing for at least 10 minutes. You can use the "Pomodoro" technique to help this during practice. If performing, be sure to take a break each hour.

3) I experimented with many guitar supports. I won't use suction cups on a good guitar, and am reluctant to install magnets. The other options all have various pros and cons, but eventually I have settled on the simple system I'm currently using, i.e. primarily relying on a cushion.

4) I experimented with many different instrument positions, and currently play with a very neck-up cello-like posture.

5) I monitored my own position and kept adjusting when I found any strain, numbness, tingling, etc.

6) I sometimes find a strap to be useful, in addition to the other posture aids. When playing an archtop for non-classical playing this is what I prefer. I use a conventional strap with endpin and heel buttons (this requires modifying your guitar, of course, which in my case I was will to do). The "around the neck into the soundhole" strap was not useful for me.

I went through most of this analysis several years ago as I was rediscovering the instrument, so I may have forgotten some steps; if so I'll update this post. The key points are: Don't ignore your back problems because they will eventually force you to stop playing, as they did with me. But with some experimentation, you will probably be able to come up with a system that works. It will require retraining yourself, and that won't be trivial. For me it's been like climbing Mt. Everest, especially after a ten-year hiatus. But it has been worth it.

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Re: Lower Back issues

Post by Luis_Br » Thu May 25, 2017 1:01 pm

I think 45 minutes without a break is too much. I would do a short break every 20 minutes. Playing in standing up position is very good and you can switch between standing up and sitting to learn how to sit well. Otherwise just play standing up.
Besides stretches, exercises for increasing internal muscles that holds the back are nice, specially the lower abdomen part. So I think Pilates exercises are a good idea, with assistance from a professional that would address them according to your problem.

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