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More Advice for Dealing with Back Problems

  • From Pat Hodges, Lake, Michigan: Being one who has to live with chronic back pain, but cannot live without the accordion, I have learned a few tricks:

  1.  I will sit only in a straight-backed chair when playing. A kitchen chair works best, but I will on occasion use my office chair. I just know it has to be a chair with good back support.

  2.  I don’t walk around with my accordion very often. I usually end up doing that when I have to answer the phone, but the way to avoid it is to grab the cordless phone and keep it near whenever I’m practicing.

  3.   I will take frequent breaks when practicing, put the accordion on the chair and walk around to keep limber.

  • From Paul Clancy, Huntington Woods, Michigan: Practice and play while seated. Dick Contino and Myron Floren ruined it for the rest of us, but they had to put on a show and move around. I have seen Russian and other European artists give concerts, and they play seated. They are no dummies.


The only time I stand up with an accordion is for pictures and to answer the phone. If you sit, not only does it help your back, but it is a lot easier on your left arm, which now does not have to bear the weight of the instrument while it is extended.

 While traveling, use an accordion case with wheels built in on one end and tow it around with the built-in handle. 

  • From Barb Truax, Napa, California: My doctor told me to sleep with a pillow under my knees if sleeping on my back, and between my knees if sleeping on my side. That did it and now, many years later, if my back hurts or aches in the least, it’s the pillow treatment. I have an old one that I fold in half for even more support. Now my chiropractic visits are “tune-ups” two or three times a year

  • From Wendy Stanford, Lancaster, Massachusetts:   Accept what you’re able to do for gentle exercise while lying on the floor or sitting comfortably. Do a deep, rib-stretching breath in various positions and enjoy the stretches as you hold them. Lying on your stomach, lift up your upper body and rest on elbows. Move ankles/feet/legs/hips while deep breathing and holding/releasing breaths. Sometimes the simplest little stretches have profound results.   I used to feel like exercising was worthless unless I could keep up with a fast, strenuous work-out. There’s a lot one can accomplish while sitting and watching TV or lying down-and it leads to greater standing strength.

  • From Henry Doktorski, Allison Park, Pennsylvania:  Please forgive my pessimism, but after years of experience I have come to the conclusion that back problems are a natural occupational hazard for accordionists, just as deformed jaws are a   natural occupational hazard for violinists and tennis elbow is a natural occupational hazard for tennis players.


I attribute accordion playing to be a major factor in the incredibly painful herniated disc I had in July, 1996. In May and June, I increased my practice time in preparation for several California recitals and soon had a sore back. Immediately, I reduced my practicing and the pain reduced, but never went away.

While in California I visited a massage therapist for muscle tension in my legs. Little did I know that my lower lumbar number three disc was slowly squeezing out of its slot in my spine and pressing against the sciatica nerve which goes into my left leg! Ha! I thought it was sore muscles from all the bicycle riding I liked to do.


 Anyway, when the disc finally popped out, I had a friend drive me to the nearest hospital emergency room, where they filled me up with Motrin. The pain was the greatest I have ever had. But the Motrin didn’t remove the pain; it just made it tolerable.

I was pretty much incapacitated for two weeks and it took six months before I could walk without a limp. I still have to be very careful .

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