Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Upper right back pain

Hi guys,

I have been experiencing an awful burning upper back pain, just below the right shoulder blade after 30mins or so of banjo study.

I am convinced it must be related to my right hand/arm as banjos’ armrests in general do not seem to offer as much arm support as a guitar. I have no pain playing guitar. When my back hurts, a 30min break usually resets my back to normal.

I have tried changing the strap height, hand position, banjo positions, to lean against the wall, put the banjo on my lap, over the thigh, watched various posts regarding ergonomics, nothing seems to work. I do not have any kind of pain throughout the day so it must have something to do with the posture

has anyone experienced anything similar? any tips that may help me solve the issue? This has been a huge spanner in the works for me, pls help

I haven’t felt pain like that, but I have wooden armrests on my banjos. Have you tried one of those? The General store has the Dr Arm wooden armrests. You could ask Ben his opinion on those. Just an idea. Good luck figuring this out.


@frankb_be, maybe a 1-min plank (exercise) twice a day to help straighten the back??

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I bet you are on the right track. I’d get in front of a mirror in your normal practice position. Play for a bit then pause (without changing position) to look at your posture. Is your right shoulder dropped relative to your left (or vice versa)? Are you sitting with good posture? Full disclosure, I have terrible posture.

From where the pain is, I would guess you might have your right shoulder pulled down and back (but that’s purely a guess).

When I first started banjo, it took a while to get my seated position similar to my standing position and that helped a bunch. In other words, when seated, my lap and the strap are both loaded a bit. That said, it sounds like you have eliminated this as the culprit.


Go have a checkout with your doctor.


@frankb_be Have you considered a deep tissue massage?

I experience the opposite. I can’t play acoustic guitar for more than about 30 minutes due to pain in my shoulder but I can play banjo no problem (well, most of the time) and electric guitar is ok for a long time. Mainly because of the size of the body of the acoustic and how your arm has to kind of go around it (much less so on electric) but also because the strumming pattern aggravates it. Sorry, I don’t have any good advice and sounds like you’ve tried a lot of things. As someone suggested, maybe see a doctor, but usually they give advice along the lines of “If it hurts when you do that, don’t do that”.

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Hey Frank,
Sorry for the delay. I’m not on the forum all that much. So…online diagnosis can be dicey. But you’ve provided some good information.
The area you’re referencing is at the outer edge of what is described as a cervicogenic pain pattern. It may be as simple as a subluxated posterior rib or secondary to a structural issue with your lower cervical (neck) region.
Your reference to the symptomatic changes regarding the guitar as opposed to the banjo is telling. Banjos are, quite simply, HEAVY.
You have basically two reasonable options.
From a medical perspective, it will likely be attributed to a muscle problem. Potential solution with center on changing the symptoms (drugs, physical therapy, exercise…).
From a chiropractic perspective the focus will center around bony structure and how the muscles react to changes in structure. Structure always determines function.
If you’d like to discuss the situation privately you’re welcome to contact me personally. My email is From there we can share telephone numbers and I’ll be happy to visit with your in more detail.
I am a chiropractor (40+ years ) with an extensive background in orthopedics.
I’m happy to help in any way possible. Regarding time zones, I live in Alaska. Four hours earlier that the US Eastern time zone.