Double jointed shoulder

Joanna Pepple said: Aug 25, 2015
Joanna Pepple
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Tallahasee, FL
9 posts

Hello all,

I have an 11-year-old viola student who was complaining about pain in her left shoulder and arm recently, and we have been working in the past on releasing tension in arms and shoulders. Today when I tried to ask her exactly where the pain was, she mentioned that she was feeling on the front of her shoulder, where the shoulder rest touches her body. She also felt it when she twisted her arm to put her left hand on the viola. We experimented with a number of remedies, changing the height of her shoulder rest, trying a center chinrest, and those all seemed to help somewhat.

In the meantime, we realized that she has a double-jointed shoulder joint and can move it in and out of socket. It happens when she rotates her shoulder and moves her left hand onto the viola. She also has other joints that are double jointed. I am concerned about her shoulder moving in and out. I’m wondering if it locks into a position (like other double-jointed joints in the fingers) and might be causing some of the pain in her arm.

She is a very dedicated student, and I told her to stop playing when it hurts and to give her body some rest. In the meantime, I promised to do some research on my own. Can anyone else speak to teaching a student who is double jointed in the shoulder?

Thank you for any help,

Alice Wright said: Aug 26, 2015
Alice Wright
Suzuki Association Member
Anchorage, AK
11 posts

I read an article stating that 73% of musicians are injured by playing their instruments. Therefore I recommend that my students perform strengthening exercises before practicing their violins. We also do these “contra” exercises at each lesson, while hearing the CD of the working piece. I myself am an injured musician. These exercises relieve pain, and I believe help prevent injuries from repetitive motion of instrumental playing.

Sent from my iPhone

Irene Mitchell said: Aug 27, 2015
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

hi Joanna.
I respond to your question with concern, because as an adult violinist/violist, I am impaired by shoulder/rib/back issues. After changes to my playing posture and trying numerous shoulder & chin rests, I have resorted to other avenues: physical therapy & core exercises, spinal cord injections and pain meds; chiropractic, massage and acupuncture therapy, and finally a TENS unit & Icy-Hot roller-gel application.
I would suggest immediate orthopedic attention for your student. Ultimately, she may find that she is in less pain playing a different instrument that doesn’t require her shoulders & arms to be in the concave position necessitated by violin/viola playing.
:o( so sorry,
ps Alice, great idea! We also do ‘Brain Gym’ exercises at the beginning of lessons :o)

Irene Mitchell

Carol Gwen said: Aug 28, 2015
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
75 posts

Hi Joanna,

I agree with Irene, the student should see her family doctor and orthopedist. I can’t imagine how her shoulder joint (and other arm joints) are functioning or the long-term impact on her playing. I’m not an expert nor can anyone diagnose from a blog.

As a matter of interest you might ask if anyone else in her family is double jointed; parents, siblings, and grandparents may have similar joints.

Please write a follow up? Thanks for sharing your student’s condition. We all encounter double-jointedness.


p.s. Irene, which Brain Gym exercises do you use?

Meghan Coil said: Aug 28, 2015
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Portland, OR
16 posts

Great advice about seeing an orthopedist right away, Irene, but i would also encourage the teacher to remain optimistic with the student. When we are in pain its easy to feel hopeless about the prospect of recovery, but getting the attention early makes her chances for a full recovery quite good. You are also advising rest, too, right?
At that age, I’m wondering if her body is growing faster than her muscles, which exacerbates the double-jointedness? Obviously the orthopedist will say for sure, but she might need something as simple as physical therapy to condition the shoulder-stabilizing muscles. Keep us posted!

Erika Atchley said: Aug 28, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
Raleigh, NC
1 posts

Hi Joanna,

So I am also a hyper mobile violinist. There really is no such thing as being double jointed. My recommendation is for her to see a good physical therapists who has experience with musicians. Exercises to strengthen the appropriate muscles will fix the issue. Not to worry, it can be solved! Of course don’t play through pain. Oh and when you are hyper mobile you can have tension from trying to “hold things together.” Best of luck.


Sent from my iPhone

Erika Atchley

Heather Swanson said: Aug 29, 2015
Heather Swanson
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts

This topic is near to my heart. My grandson has recently been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos syndrome. The collagen in his skin, inside and out, is defective. The skin is not taut as it should be to hold bones/organs in their correct position. There are six types of EDS. One is Hypermobility. It turns out that his mom has it, his half brother and probably several others in the family.

EDS can be very painful. Sometimes just holding a bar of any kind hurts the hands making a trip to the playground a very frustrating and painful one. I have joined a support group facebook page about this disorder to learn how I can help my grandson.

Jake has tried to play piano, guitar and violin, all with much posture difficulty. I thought that perhaps the trombone would be the ideal instrument since there is no fingering, just grasping with the whole hand. Jake is not interested in the trombone but says he still wants to try the violin. We have tried to begin violin two times in the past but we have problems with various issues, particularly form, and now anxiety. Jake is 11 and is beginning to feel anxious about many things.

So I’m about to embark on time, number 3, for setting up and learning tunes. I’m thinking that form may have to take a different shape than it normally does. I cannot imagine growing up without an instrument to play. I am very challenged by this endeavor so I appreciate any encouragement you can give.

I have four other grandkids who are my violin students. They love it! Because of the violin I see those grandkids twice a week. I’m praying that we can find a way to hold the instrument that will not hurt Jake and give him the joy of music making before he is all grown up. I have often wondered, how would Dr. Suzuki handle the EDS student.

Thank you for listening to my ramblings on this topic.

Heather Swanson, Cape Cod, MA

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