Arm Pain and Playing the Flute

Pain in the arms can be a serious problem for flutists. If the flutist can play effortlessly and painlessly then they will be able to perform at a much higher level than someone with pain. “No pain, no gain,” is a preposterous way of looking at music making. If a flutist to continues to play while experiencing physical distress, permanent damage could ensue.

If you are a flute player experiencing pain in your arms when you perform, read through this document to analyze how you perform, and to find bad techniques you may be exhibiting. If you find a remedy a problem that is causing pain, make sure you are not just creating a new problem(1). Be sure to consult many resources before coming to a final decision; if your pain is severe, contact a professional doctor who specializes in physical therapy for musicians.

If you do see a doctor, make sure that he doesn’t offer drugs to help mask the pain. These drugs may temporarily make your arms feel better, but will not provide a lasting solution to your problem; instead, it will most likely create further damage.

Pain in the wrists can be a common complaint of many flute placers. Many people will jump to the conclusion that is carpal-tunnel syndrome. Carpal-tunnel is a possible diagnosis, and will be addressed later in the paper. However, wrist pain is most likely caused by improper posture.

Correct posture is essential for a flute player to breathe easily. If flutists do not have enough air to support a phrase, they often adjust their embouchure to a position that could cause pain in the arms. Flutists who hunch over when they play are shifting their weight to the front part of their body. When the body’s weight is shifted to the front part of the body, the head, neck, chest, and upper body absorb the entire weight of the flute(2). This is particularly a problem for flutists with bad eyesight, or those who have their music stands at an improper height; these musicians lean or hunch forward(3). Hunching over while performing causes the spine to compress and tighten. When a flutist performs, there should be no pressure or tension in the spine(4). In general, slouching in a chair causes pain in the neck and shoulders; this pain intensifies when playing the flute. By keeping their backs against the back of the chair, flutists can prevent spine pain(5). On the other hand, standing or sitting too straight will also create pain because this position too, is unnatural(6).

There are three major areas for the flutists to focus on to avoid arm pain: the upper body, the arms, and the lower body.

Next Section: Upper Body

This section is part of an article that can be found here: Arm Pain while playing the Flute.