Lip Injury (pain when playing)

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Benlafo
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Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Benlafo »

For about two months, I have been experiencing sharp pain in my top lip when playing. I believe it started from playing too much too hard over a few days. It has been an incredibly frustrating problem to diagnose and rehabilitate, and I feel like it hasn't gotten better at all. I can still make a good sound, and my range isn't ruined, but the pain prevents me from playing too high or long. My teacher has offered a routine for me(that unfortunately does not seem to be helping much), but he cannot figure out what is wrong either. I can freebuzz for extended periods of time without any pain, but when I begin playing on the horn, the pain starts. If any of you have similar experiences or know any valuable resources, please help! This problem has made my life a lot harder and is causing a lot of stress for me.
BurckhardtS
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by BurckhardtS »

You should take some time off and work with Doug Elliott. Likely, there's something really inefficient you have been doing with your playing that he could diagnose quickly and correct. Playing through it won't make it better, taking time off will just buy you time until it comes back and you correct whatever caused the injury in the first place.
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Wilktone
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Wilktone »

I’ve had students who had similar things happen and their doctors weren’t able to recommend more than time off, but it’s good to get a professional opinion.
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SaigonSlide
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by SaigonSlide »

If it’s painful then you really need to NOT play until it’s feeling normal. Have you done that? How long have you rested it?
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paulyg
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by paulyg »

Take time off. Then get a lesson with someone who know's what they're talking about.

I had a similar issue crop up almost a year and a half ago. It began as more of a general pain, but became localized over a couple months. I took ten weeks off in the early stages of the pandemic, and very slowly came back. A lesson with Doug was critical. I'm now back sounding pretty good, with a good range, and solid technique. I think another six months and I'll be back to "normal," though my playing has absolutely changed for the better.

In my case, I think I had been taking the wrong approach for a really long time, and REALLY leaning into it (does this sound familiar?). A few days of heavy playing shouldn't ruin you unless you're doing something wrong.

I can't stress enough the importance of getting a lesson with someone who knows EXACTLY what they're talking about. This is a very specific problem that is very distinct from what good teachers normally are experienced with. I talked to several teachers I respected, and the advice ranged from "I don't know" (the appropriate response if you really don't know) to "play through it" (f*** that noise). It sounds like your teacher is pushing you down that road- without very specific advice to actually fix the problem, you're just banging your head against the wall lips-first. You can probably count the people on one hand who are really qualified to pull you out of something like this if it doesn't get better on its own in a couple of days. Doug is one of them.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Doug Elliott »

Injuries are generally caused by doing something wrong habitually, that you get away with for a while. Lots of players get really good at playing wrong.
Benlafo
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Benlafo »

Thank you all for your responses. I needed to hear a lot of this.

When the problem first happened, I had taken about 2 weeks off, and the pain came back after a few days of playing. I decided today that I am going to take more time off the horn. When I start playing again, I am going to see if I can get a lesson with Doug Elliot and try to slowly rehabilitate the problem with my embouchure. How long do you guys think I should take off the horn? I was going to try a month but I am afraid that might not be enough.
Peacemate
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Peacemate »

I don't think taking breaks will fix this. You should find what is wrong and change that, instead of hoping for it to go away. What if it comes back in 5 years? Actively changing is way better in that situation since you already know the solution and can be preventative.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Doug Elliott »

It really depends entirely on what the cause is. I'm always in favor of fixing actual problems, not just hiding the symptoms.

Let me take a quick look at what you're doing and I'll advise what I think you should do. Skype or Zoom.
kbryson
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by kbryson »

Does it happen immediately or only after some time? I spent years combating a similar problem. The pain only came after 10 or 15 minutes of playing, and sometimes 10 or so minutes after I finished playing. Resting did not fix it. After visiting many specialists a chiropractor determined that the problem was due to a bunch of scar tissue that had formed in the embouchure muscles from overuse in thepast. It was solved by getting weekly deep tissue massages for about 2 months.
Benlafo
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Benlafo »

It seems to happen almost randomly but it definitely becomes more painful as my chops get tired. I have recently been experiencing a little bit of lip pain when not playing as well. It could definitely be scar tissue, that makes sense. I have been kind of hesitant to go to doctors, because both my general practitioner and dentist gave a quick look at it and said it looks and feels fine.
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Wilktone
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Wilktone »

Benlafo wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:50 pm I have been kind of hesitant to go to doctors, because both my general practitioner and dentist gave a quick look at it and said it looks and feels fine.
You can always ask for a referral to get a second opinion, if it's painful enough that you feel it warrants. You might also bring your mouthpiece, or even your whole instrument, during your next visit so that you can show them exactly what you're doing that's causing the pain.

Of the two dentists at the office where I go one played trumpet in high school and the other still plays trumpet as an amateur. That's been helpful when I recently needed to get some caps put on my front lower teeth since they understood my concerns and were quite willing to work with me to get them as close to how the teeth were originally.
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Basbasun
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Basbasun »

Go to the doctor!
I had a problem in my mouth, my dentist said it looked fine.
I went to a doctor who said it really was not fine at all. Also the problem was not easy for a dentist to see.
My dentist is a very good dentist.
madelynstoklosa
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by madelynstoklosa »

Did you ever figure out this issue? I’m going through something similar right now.
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tbdana
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by tbdana »

BurckhardtS wrote: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:25 pm You should take some time off and work with Doug Elliott.
I'm sorry, but I had to chuckle that it took only one post for someone to chime in with the universal solution to every problem ever encountered on this forum, lessons with Doug! :D

But to be serious, what you describe is a particular embouchure injury that can be quite serious if not treated properly. It's not quite dystonia, but it's related, and is a neurological issue. Rest, while necessary, won't fix it by itself. You need some expert guidance. I have a friend who has recently battled with this, and it began with exactly your symptoms.

I'm going to refer you to Lucinda Lewis. She's a French horn player who has become quite an expert in this area, and has helped many musicians, including a good friend of mine. Ms. Lewis has written a couple of books that I found fascinating and quite helpful. I had the beginnings of such injury, but managed to avoid it by using methods she shared with my friend. These are the books my friend lent me.

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My friend also had Zoom sessions with Ms. Lewis which helped diagnose and treat the condition. Perhaps the books alone will help you. But just know that she's available for in-person/Zoom help, too. You can find her website at http://www.embouchures.com/index.html.

Be patient. Recovery takes a long time.
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baileyman
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by baileyman »

Pains inside muscles are often adhesions from a little scar tissue. Athletes work that stuff out all the time with different kinds of massage and stretches. I myself on my way back expanded my upper lip, which had apparently gotten bound up by internal adhesions the previous twenty years. The horn started to work at that point.
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Wilktone
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Re: Lip Injury (pain when playing)

Post by Wilktone »

First, notice the original post went up Mon Feb 22, 2021. The OP posted 3 times on the forum, all in this topic. I don't know if he consulted with a medical professional or another teacher for help and what the results were, but after all that time something has happened, we just don't know.
tbdana wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 9:22 am I'm sorry, but I had to chuckle that it took only one post for someone to chime in with the universal solution to every problem ever encountered on this forum, lessons with Doug!
That speaks very highly of Doug's teaching that so many of us who have taken lessons with him have found them so helpful. And I guarantee that this "universal solution" is anything but universal - everything Doug has taught me about working with brass embouchures is all about finding out what works correctly for the individual. I think if you learned more about it your own opinions might change too.
tbdana wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 9:22 am But to be serious, what you describe is a particular embouchure injury that can be quite serious if not treated properly. It's not quite dystonia, but it's related, and is a neurological issue.
Where'd you get your medical degree?

But seriously, no matter how knowledgable one is, you can't diagnose something like this using text back and forth. We have no idea if the pain is neurological, an injury to the muscle, an ingrown hair, or whatever. It is likely to be something caused by playing incorrectly for your anatomy, but even that is just a guess that needs confirmation by seeing the student play. I'm not as confident as you about what the OP's difficulties are.
tbdana wrote: Tue Nov 28, 2023 9:22 am I'm going to refer you to Lucinda Lewis.
I have her two books and have had some communication with her in the past. She is very cagey about her research methodology and some of the claims she makes about it doesn't pass the sniff test. If Lewis's advice works for you, great. Personally, Doug is a better resource.

Dave
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