The position of the flutist’s head is closely related to the neck position. If your head is properly balanced on your neck, then you will be able to bring your arms effortlessly up to your flute without pain. If your neck tenses, your spine will tense up as well. In particular, playing softly tends to cause tension in the neck, because it takes more concentration to play with food tone softly(12).
A flutist who performs with her head slightly to the left and bent down, similar to a violinist, will have neck tension because the head is not resting effortlessly on the A.O. joint(13). Prevent this by keeping the head and neck properly aligned with the spine.
If your neck tightens up when you play, or if your entire arm becomes numb, it is most likely that you are cutting off circulation to your arm through the shoulders. Consider a few simple exercises for the neck and shoulders before you play. First, turn your head all the way to the right and hold it for ten seconds; now to the left. Repeat a few times. Second, move your head down so your chin touches your chest; then move your head back so that you are looking up towards the sky. Hold these positions for ten seconds each. Third, move your head from to the sides, as if your ear could touch your shoulder. Be careful not to raise your shoulders. Hold each position for a few seconds on each side. These exercises will strengthen your neck and shoulders.
Next Section: Arms
This section is part of an article that can be found here: Arm Pain while playing the Flute.