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Post new topic Elbow Pain When Playing? Help!
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Author Topic:  Elbow Pain When Playing? Help!
Landon Evans

The Republic of Texas
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 3:15 pm    
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Okay, so I got a pedal steel a couple years ago but have never really been able to get very far into it - the main reason is because when I start playing for more than 10 minutes, my left elbow starts developing this throbbing pain.

I'm 26 years old. I'm very fit, active, and healthy. This is literally the only activity that causes this pain. It doesn't make sense. Am I doing something wrong? Has anyone ever encountered or heard of anything like this?

It's very disappointing that I haven't been able to dedicate more time to the instrument because of this weird pain.
I can’t play pedal steel, but I sure like to fantasize about it.
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Barry Coker

Bagley Alabama, USA
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 4:24 pm     Elbow Pain
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Try changing your position try a little more right then left. A little higher with your seat ect. When I first started My back would hurt after only a few min. I moved around and finally got a seat the right height, with a back
and my back pain went away. A small amount can make a big difference.

Good luck Barry
Zum-D-10, Webb 614-E, 65 Pro Reverb, Evans RE200, 69 Gibson Birdland, 89 Telecaster EAD Bad!!
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Georg Sørtun

Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 4:26 pm    
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Hand and/or arm tensing up holding the bar? Not able to relax muscles/tendons? Not uncommon problem when starting up or after a hiatus.
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Jeremy Threlfall

now in Western Australia
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 5:29 pm    
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no need to grip that bar as if your life depended on it

it sits there by gravity, you just need slide it around and press down on it occasionally

my first and second fingers on my left hand sometimes get sore from controlling the bar, not my wrist, elbows or shoulders
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Gene Tani

Pac NW
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 6:45 pm    
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I think it would help a lot if you had a teacher (or other serious player if you don't want to book a lesson) look at you playing your setup, it's likely somethig's (or more than one thing's) not optimal. I would encourage booking a lesson

[edit to add:] If you're using a small bar, e.g. 3/4" try a larger diameter. I started w/smaller bar cause i figuerd they were easier to hold. Actually, it was harder because i couldn't grip under the midline and i was constantly having to push it down into the strings to get tone.
- Rukavina and Sonny Jenkins laps, Carter
- The secret sauce: polyester sweatpants to buff your picks, cheapo Presonus channel strip for preamp/EQ/compress/limiter, Diet Mountain Dew

Last edited by Gene Tani on 28 Oct 2019 9:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jon Voth


Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 8:31 pm    
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Hi Landon

At your age I had a similar problem, I was a grad tuba major and took a semester in bass trombone. It caused my left hand to go numb. I wanted to double in that but I gave up-wish I hadn't.

Obviously have a pro look at how you hold the bar. This shouldn't be. Keep trying, work through the pain?-it should improve eventually?

Anyways band sounds great!
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Bob Hoffnar

Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 28 Oct 2019 9:51 pm    
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I would advise not playing through the pain. You could cause yourself some serious injury. Get in touch and we can go over basic stuff over skype.It might be something super simple. It absolutely should not hurt when you play.

I was getting pain in my elbo from playing the dobro on tour. I ignored it and came very close to needing surgery.
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Len Amaral


Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post  Posted 29 Oct 2019 3:49 pm    
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I keep a bar at my end table and while watching TV, I twirl it and manipulate it as a mindless exercise. It is very relaxing and helps to develop a feel for the bar. Joe Wright mentioned this many years ago.
I survived the sixties!
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Los Angeles
Post  Posted 30 Oct 2019 8:04 am    
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Just a guess, but it could be tendinitis.
Similar to using a computer mouse.
Even though all of the action is in the hand/fingers, the problem shows up in the elbow region.
Hand grip and arm position and whatever could be the cause.

Hold your arm out straight with the palm down.
Make a fist.
Does the elbow hurt?

I'm no doctor, but..........

Give it a break for a week or so.
Without the bar, you can do all kinds of work/study just using the open strings. (Which is something a lot of us could also benefit from.)
Chords, pedals/knees. picking, etc.

Try icing your elbow/forearm 2-3 times a day.
Take a paper/styrofoam cup and fill it with water just below the top.
Freeze it.
Cut away the top of the cup leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice exposed.
This works great as an ice applier.

Let us know what happens.
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Michael Stephens

Florence, MA
Post  Posted 31 Oct 2019 1:08 pm     Pain near elbow
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Hi there - totally agree you want someone who knows what they're doing to take a look at how you're holding the bar, etc.

But re your (possible) tendinitis -- I've had it off & on over the years, though not related to playing the pedal steel. It can be difficult to heal from it.

At some point, I found this:

... to be a very helpful aid in healing the tendinitis, and keeping the area in better shape on an ongoing basis. Check it out, and check the internet for how this is used to help with the condition.
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