Back Pain In the Classical Guitarist


by by Dwayne Osbaldeston

A fair number of classical guitarists experience back pain at some point during their career. After talking with a number of guitar players, teachers and physicians, I have come up with a list of things that may help to ease the problem:

  1. Check the height of your chair. Some players use a chair that is too high. If this is the case, your right leg (or left leg if you play left) might be in a position that does not fully support the guitar. Check yourself in a mirror.
  2. Make sure your chair is comfortable! Use a chair that has a cushion, avoid using a hard plastic seat. A hard chair will only cause muscle tension in your back (and backside!).
  3. Make sure your music stand is at a comfortable height. Adjust your music stand so that you minimize neck strain. Make sure you are looking straight (or just slightly down) at your music.
  4. Do stretching exercises before, after and during your practice. Bend yourself at the waist (left and right) and touch your toes a few times. Do exercises for your neck as well. The back and shoulder muscles are closely related to the neck muscles. If you have muscle fatigue in any of these areas, it may affect the other areas of your body. This is especially important if you are practicing every day or for long periods of time. It will help you to avoid the onset of chronic muscle fatigue.
  5. Check your posture and make a conscious effort to force your back to stay straight! If you slouch or "hunch over" you will be almost guaranteed back pain. You may have to sit closer to the edge of your chair.
  6. If after all this you still have back pain, massages and hot tubs work wonders! Be careful with hot tubs however. If a hot tub makes you feel good at the time but then hours later your muscles feel even more stiff and sore, this could indicate that you have an injured muscle that is inflamed. REST and possibly an anti-inflammatory (like Ibuprofen) is the way to go.
  7. Check the way you sleep. It is recommended that you do NOT sleep on your stomach, but on your back or side. Use a proper pillow that supports your head and neck. The way you sleep should promote a straight and supported spine.