He just started laughing. “You could be the poster child for bad positions!” he said. “There you are sitting four feet below a stage, tense, with 40 pounds strapped around your neck, looking up for two hours. Gee—I can’t imagine why your neck hurts.”

I laughed too, but just for a moment. It hurt when I laughed.

 

 Then he adjusted my neck, and I soon felt better.

 

He also warned me to be very, very careful not to twist in any way when I lift the accordion (or anything else). According to him, I should be able to lift even heavy amounts safely, as long as I keep my hips straight under my back. I think he’s right. I have been very careful about not twisting, and I have had a lot fewer problems with my lower back. 

Here are a few ideas that also have helped me:

Yoga. I have a good friend, Pat, who gets up at 4:00 every morning, before her kids, to do yoga. She is one of the calmest, most “centered” people I have ever known—not to mention, one of the most attractive. “Hmm . . . ,” I found myself thinking one day. “Maybe if I tried yoga, I would look as good as her!”

  

That was just a fantasy, of course. However, I did decide to give yoga a try. Pat gave me a few videos, and I was in business. I started doing exercises every morning to 10 or 20 minute yoga videos. The exercises felt good. After a couple of weeks, I noticed that my back wasn’t hurting much anymore. As time went on, I noticed increased flexibility and strength. Now, I’m hooked. (My favorites are “A.M. Yoga for Beginners" with Rodney Yee, “P.M. Yoga for Beginners” with Patricia Walden, and “Beginners Yoga Zone with Yoga Master Alan Finger.”

A hot tub. Yes, a hot tub is a really big gift for your back. I confess to blowing my whole tax refund on one once. My husband thought I was nuts.

I probably was. There were certainly other more pressing needs I could have addressed with that money. However, I’d just had an incapacitating bout of back pain while at a conference, and my friend Mary said, “Get a hot tub!” She painted a lovely picture of me slipping into it after a hard day, glass of wine in hand, jets massaging my sore muscles, and, well, I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind.

I haven’t regretted my splurge for a second. I love it. I love climbing into it on a cold winter night, snow feathering down around me as steam rises up into the night and I relax into the soothing waters. Sometimes I even go out for a dip before work, and my back feels great for the rest of the day.

I have recently discovered something even more amazing: hot tub yoga! I figured out a way to do a couple of the yoga exercises while in the tub, and the results are even better.

A good office chair. I was working some very long hours on a book I was writing one summer, sitting at the computer day in and day out. One day it occurred to me that perhaps my chair just didn’t fit me very well. I went out and bought a good chair, scaled down for a small person like me. The result: I felt better right away. The new chair fits me and gives me the support I need.

A good accordion chair. I discovered some time ago that a paint-splattered folding chair I dug up somewhere is the accordion chair for me. This chair isn’t very deep, so when I play the accordion, my back is supported. My feet rest firmly on the floor.

The chair is ugly, but perfect for me, and it goes wherever I go when my accordion is involved—grabbing any old chair from a facility where I’m performing just won’t do.

Get help. I try hard to get someone to lug my case for me whenever I can't use a luggage cart. I’m pretty short, so lifting the accordion case off the ground puts my shoulder and arm at a very bad angle. When possible, I also have someone (usually my husband) put it in the trunk for me, and then I hope to find someone to help me take it out if he isn't with me. Usually, I am successful.

 

When I mentioned my back problems in the CAPA Times (when it was a printed rather than an online publication), people started writing about having similar neck and back problems, and they sent in advice and exercises. Knowing I’m not alone has helped. Read on for some of the advice people have sent.

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Dealing with Accordion-Related Back Problems

Cheri Thurston

When I visited the chiropractor because I could barely move my neck, he asked, “What have you been doing?” .

 

“Well, I’ve been playing the accordion in the orchestra pit for stage show,” I explained. “Do you think that could have anything to do with my neck and back problems?”