The cello and the computer (and driving, and knitting, and reading…) seem to promote two dangerous postures: a chin that juts forward, and shoulders that curve inwards, towards each other. Held for short periods, no harm done. Done for hours at a time, the body starts making Faustian deals to shift the strain somewhere else, or avoid pain and preserve function. It’s too late to know for sure, but my most trusted medical advisors think that both of these habits likely compounded the nerve issues I’m coping with today.
These are tricky habits to correct, because bad posture feels good after a while, and many well intentioned students overcorrect (especially the curved shoulders) and end up injuring themselves going the other direction! This brings me to one of my favorite tools that serves as a gentle reminder to keep the shoulder blades juuuuuust a little more neutral when you’re playing: KT Tape, also known as kinesiotape.
In case you’re not familiar, KT tape is strong and stretchy, and the adhesive is heat activated, so you’re going to need to rub a bunch to make sure it doesn’t come off. It works by applying a subtle pressure to the skin, which in turn gently suggests the muscles underneath should follow suit. It’s not something you can just put on wherever and however. It’s not a bandage. It’s not athletic tape. You can absolutely give yourself tendinitis if you put it on the wrong way.
That said, the application I’m advocating today is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t cause any problems.
You’ll need an accomplice to get taped up right:
- Cut a length of KT tape about 1.5-2 inches shorter than the distance between your shoulder blades when they are relaxed, arms at your sides.
- Peel the backing off a 2-inch section of tape and affix it to the left shoulder blade with no stretch applied. This part is called the anchor. Really rub a bunch (horizontally) to get the adhesive activated.
- Take the backing off of the rest of the tape, except for the anchor section on the other side.
- Holding it by the left anchor piece, pull the tape gently across the back- you’ll want about 1/2 the maximum stretch, and it’s better to be conservative at first.
- When you get to the right shoulder blade, press and rub the edge of the section to glue it to the skin, unpeel the last remaining tape, and affix it to the right shoulder blade with no stretch applied. This is the other anchor.
- Rub the entire length of tape with quick horizontal strokes to generate heat, taking care to smooth the ends into the skin.
It’s really important not to put any stretch at the anchor points. You’re trying to gently pull the shoulders back evenly.
The effect should be subtle but noticeable just a minute or two after applying the tape, and it can stay on (depending on your skin) for several days, through bathing. Blot it with a towel to dry. If you’re fuzzy and concerned that the tape will hurt as you remove it, get the tape wet before you take it off. You can also clip or shave the area beforehand. Sensitive skin benefits from a light application of Maalox (allowed to fully dry) before taping up. Without intervention, most people will find the tape loses its will to stay attached after 2-3 days or 2-3 showers. I usually leave mine on for about 36 hours.
Of course, if you hate it, don’t use it. Experiment. More stretch, less stretch, longer or shorter tape. There are endless YouTube tutorials on the stuff, and although it’s not a cure for anything, it’s a useful tool to supplement the work you’re already doing.