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5 Must-do Stretching Exercises for Cellist !!

Cellists face many challenges throughout their careers;
Dealing with an injury should NOT be one of them!

Unfortunately, studies showed up to 75% of string musicians suffer playing-related injuries, also called repetitive strain injuries (RSI). These overuse injuries can compromise their practices and performances, and eventually cost their jobs.

Fortunately, many non-invasive treatments can be used to prevent overuse injuries in cellists, including warm-up exercise, stretching, postural re-education & core muscles strengthening.


⭐ Common Injuries / Problems in Cellists

1. Lower Back Pain

2. Neck / Shoulder Pain

3. Thumb Pain / Cramping / Tendonitis

4. Nerve Compression (especially carpal tunnel syndrome)



⭐ 5 Must-do Stretching Exercises for Cellists
Make sure to stretch after your practice and performance!
Also hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds!
 Stretch to the point of muscular tension, but NOT to pain!


I. Stretching for Lower Back Pain

Cellists are required to sit away from the back support while playing,  which can easily cause lower back muscular tension or pain due to prolonged upright sitting without lumbar support

The following videos include stretches for lower back muscles and also the key muscles of your hip and torso that affect your spine.

*Please start with the exercises in the first video, it’s more gentle and appropriate for people just beginning these stretching exercises.

The second video involved more challenging stretching exercises, which may be too difficult for people are having acute back pain. Please do it slow and stop right away if pain is triggered during the stretching, also consult your therapist immediately.

II. Stretching for Neck Strain / Pain

1. Look up and tilt your head to one side, then use your hand of the same side to push you forehead back; the other hand should rest behind your back. You should feel the stretch over the front side of the neck! 

2. Simply tilt your head to one side, then use your hand of the same side to stretch even more; the other hand should rest behind your back. You should feel the stretch over the lateral side of the neck! 

3. Turn your head and look down towards your armpit, then use your hand of the same side to push you head down; the other hand should rest behind your back. You should feel the stretch over the back side of the neck! 

4. Chin Tuck. Use your index and middle finger to push your chin backwards.


III. Stretching for Shoulder Girdle

* Door Stretch (Corner Stretch)

Whenever doing this stretch, make sure to tighten your abdominal muscles, and bow-standing, then lean forward to feel the stretch over your chest muscles.

A. Stretch with your elbow lower than the shoulder level.

B. Stretch with your elbow at the same level of the shoulder .

C. Stretch with your elbow higher than the shoulder level.


* Scapular Squeeze (Shoulder Blade) Stretch 

1. Put both hands behind your back.

2. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then raise both arm up! (keep your elbow straight all the time)


IV. Stretching for Wrist Muscular & Tendon Tightness

* Keep your elbow straight all the time!

1. Palm down, stretching your wrist extensors.

2. Palm up, stretching your wrist flexors.

3. Palm down & make a full fist, stretching your wrist and finger extensor muscles.


V. Stretching for Thumb Cramp


⭐ Summary

No matter you are a professional or amateur cellist, repetitive strain injury is preventable with proper stretching exercises,

Stretching should always be part of your routine when practicing or performing! 

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Please share this article to your fellow cellists and other musicians, because no one should suffer any pain and discomfort for bringing beautiful music to this world!


*Special thanks to Annie Tsai, who learned playing cello for more than 15 years, we won’t be able to write this article without her kindly support!

*Also thanks to Vincent Wu, a senior physical therapist from Taiwan, who gave us all the great advice regarding the stretching exercises for lower back pain!



Andrew Tan, OTR/L, CHT, CKTP, CEAS
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Andrew Tan, OTR/L, CHT, CKTP, CEAS

The founder of "Rehab For A Better Life", specialized in ergonomic consultation, rehabilitation for upper extremity injuries, sports injuries and work-related injuries. Andrew believes rehab-related knowledge should be easy to learn and follow at home, because "knowledge is power only when we can share it" !