Topic: Diaphragm pain/tiredness

I have a 14 year old daughter who plays bassoon - currently working on abrsm G8 - after playing for a whole morning on bassoon/contra at orchestral rehearsal she says her chest/diaphragm is painfull/tired. It seems that she cannot get past this point in terms of her stamina. I thought a tour would help - playing and rehearsing daily for almost 2 weeks - but no. She has mild asthma - but her inhaler does not help - she says it is not an asthma chest pain. Is there anything she can do to increase her stamina in this area - or are we missing something blindingly obvious! It would be great to meet her after a concert and earlier rehearsal in the same day and not find her struggling with the pain!

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Re: Diaphragm pain/tiredness

When I was a young oboist I would sometimes awaken with a "sore ribcage" the morning after an unusually heavy day of playing/practicing, or would have "achey" ribs the same day as the "over-exertion" and would feel exhausted. I'm absolutely convinced that this was because I was not supporting my air column correctly, that is, not using my abdominal muscles as the foundation of my air production. Instead, I was squeezing the air out of my lungs using the muscles which surround the rib cage. It was a whoafully inefficient and ineffective way to blow the instrument. I suffered from asthma for a (different) period of time and know that the asthma was totally unrelated to the sore chest. By the way, I felt the soreness more on the sides of my ribs that in the front of my chest.

I can't say for sure that this is what is happening to your daughter, but it happened to me. Good luck with it.

Last edited by Crispin's Creations (2006-09-19 11:29:56)

David Crispin
Crispin's Creations and Accessories
freelance oboist. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
www.CrispinsCreations.com

Re: Diaphragm pain/tiredness

Thanks for that - its good to know someone else has been there - and presumably got out the other side? Could it be related to posture, poor seating etc - how do you strengthen the ab muscles to support the diaphragm more? Have heard of musicians using Alexander Technique? Anyone out there got any ideas remembering that she is still young and growing!

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Re: Diaphragm pain/tiredness

I'm a bit surprised that a 14-year-old is playing both bassoon and contra for a full morning. As an arts-medicine physician, a number of questions and concerns come to mind:
1 - How big is she -- is her body and hand size appropriate to fit comfortably around a contra?
2 -  Any breaks in her practice/rehearsal schedule? Continuous playing is setup for overuse-related problems.
3 - Starting a youngster on a musical fitness program by playing with a tour and its associated practices is likely to produce physical problems (I won't go into the mental/emotional aspects of this).
4 - How long has she been playing both instruments, and has she played other wind instruments in the past? Respiratory practice and endurance is as importanct as any other aspect of playing, and not all instruments require the same respiratory capabilities.
5 - Posture was mentioned (correctly) -- has she had lessons on contra by a contra player, or only by a bassoonist? There's a heap of difference in the requirements and skills for the two instruments.

Answers to these questions may help you figure out her difficulties. If basic changes of practice times and intensity don't seem to solve the problem, please get help from a knowledgable physician.

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Diaphragm pain/tiredness

Lugging around a Bassoon and a contra is not going to help either.  Not only should your daughter hopefully see a music kindly physician, but she should also see an Occupational or physical therapist that is music kindly.  They are easier to find in larger cities and can usually be found through music schools etc.  The connective tissue of the muscles and ligaments are all inter-related, and a 14  year old who is lugging around these instruments and the "stuff" that goes with them needs some guidance from some professionals.  What kind of set-up does she use to hold her Bassoon and the contra.  I have arthritis and am very sensitive to this stuff.  I switched to a Full body support to hold my Bassoon, made a special crutch and measured out a special strap hanger so that I would not put undue pressure on other joints, systems and the upper body.  Does she use a neck strap or body strap tohelp stabiliize the contra?  A good analysis, step by step of manyof these systems may help.  I can help you get some of this stuff if you e-mail me.

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