They are rock stars that have been sidelined in recent years with severe back pain. Back problems have caused them to cancel lucrative performing opportunities. Jimmy Page had to cancel the second half of his tour with the Black Crows a few years back. Toni Iommi had to cancel a number of shows with Heaven and Hell and Mark Knopfler was recently seen performing with an ergonomically designed swivel stool in response to his back pain.
Due to the asymmetrical nature of guitar playing, many guitarists will have a habitual rotation in their torso. A right-handed player will have a left rotated torso and a left handed player will have a right rotation. These rotations can lead to problems such as persistent back pain.
Physical therapy is often the most effective way to address habitual postural issues that cause low back pain. There are many therapeutic stretches and exercise that can be used to counter bad postural habits. One of the stretches commonly taught to patients by physical therapists for self-treatment of such conditions is:
For a right handed guitarist (left rotated torso):
– Lie on your back with your arms straight out to the side
– Keep your feet on the ground with your knees bent
– Cross your left knee over your right thigh
– Let both knees and hips roll to the left keeping your upper back flat on the floor
– Your low back should twist to the left with your hips
– Hold for 1-2 minutes
This rotation stretch creates a relative right torso rotation that counters the habitual left rotation that is acquired from years of guitar playing.
This is just one of many effective stretches and exercises used by physical therapists to reverse the effects of postural muscles imbalances. In addition to stretches for postural correction there are numerous core-strengthening exercises that are important for correcting postural problems.
Most of us don’t get paid like rock stars, but nobody likes to miss a gig because of a bad back. If you are a musician with back pain, finding a licensed physical therapist to evaluate your condition and prescribe a stretching and exercise routine is a good first step.
Addressing back problems when they are mild to moderate before they get out of hand is always a good idea. Just ask U2.