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Headaches and muscle tension

JodieUJodieU -
edited January 2013 in General Discussion
Is it just me?
When I paint I often get horrendous muscle tension headaches from the position of my arm and shoulder (Neck, head, back.........).
I sit at an easel with an adjustable height chair.
Does anyone else have this issue? I am trying to improve my posture (and keep my shoulder down), but when I get carried away with concentration I notice (too late!) that I have slipped back into a bad position again.
Does anyone else experience this, or is it just me?
For those of you who sit, could you share your tips for how you make sure that you don't put strain on your muscles?
Thankyou !!

Oh I should add that I am prone to this type of thing - I often get headaches when I do something that taxes my neck and shoulders (sometimes from gardening or dancing (ballet), pilates, or sleeping..... *sigh*)


  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 2013

    Yes! You may be using fine control and minimal brush movement for sustained periods.
    Along with concentration and perhaps bad seating posture you are experiencing these problems.

    Solution: Stand at the easel, use a larger brush and paint with varied strokes use your arms (both) and shoulders. It will be a different painterly style of art. Walk away from the easel from time to time and view from a distance. Make an effort to breath deeply.

    This does not mean you cannot do the more fine control techniques, but your body is telling you that you can't do it all the time. Shrug and stretch often. Take ten minutes off every hour. Make sure your seating offers back support and does not restrict blood flow at your thighs. Keep your shoulders square to the easel. Canvas middle at eye level.
    Don't slump.

    So many do's and dont's but it is important if you want to enjoy your art and keep your health.

  • JodieUJodieU -
    edited January 2013
    Thankyou Denis,
    This is hard for me to hear as I only just had my epiphany as an artist by creating these detailed works. Prior to this pretty much everything I painted ended up in the garbage (15 years of failure -not. much. fun.)
    I will think some more on how I can apply your advice to my work in the hope that I may still be able to do it.
    I appreciate your time and obviously correct advice.
  • Great advise Denis. Stretching is what helps those stiff muscles loosen up. There must be some yoga stretches which can help. Doing those every hour for a few minutes will be sure to help.
  • JodieU

    Apply this advice with some good music to move by and a glass of wine in the ten minute breaks,

  • Jodie, you said 'get carried away with concentration I notice (too late!) that I have slipped back' - Perhaps you could set a cooking timer so at regular intervals it would force you to put your brush down and stretch. I have one of those pitch back net thingys and I love to play catch with the ball and mitt.
  • Yes. The last few paintings I've worked on were small and I've been having pain between my shoulder blades. I don't really remember having it in the past. I'm sure it's because I've been lifting my shoulders and leaning forward to see better. I probably wasn't painting at eye level on these last few as Denis suggested. Standing up isn't going to work for me. I'm getting ready to start a large painting so I'll see if I still have this problem.
  • I second the timer. I have the same issue but set a timer and get up every 20 minutes even if just to stretch and start again. It make a world of difference
  • Similar problems that I mostly solved by not painting on an easel anymore...or very seldom anyway. I use an art (drafting) table so I can tilt it to an angle that greatly reduces muscle strain and awkward positions. I'm not the only one on the forum that paints this way or by leaning the canvas against the edge of a table...again to change angle so its less stressful on the muscles and eyes. Works for me! :)
  • Thanks so much everyone I will give all of your advice a shot (everything except the wine Denis -I don't drink!) I do have a drafting table but it is at a fixed angle. I will let you know how I go. Kitchen timer is a great idea too. Thanks all!
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