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Lip Injuries & Trumpet Playing: An Unhappy Marriage

Coping with the physical demands of trumpet performance

Memo to trumpeters: Do your high notes seem flat? Not as bright as usual? Does your sound tremble or do you have trouble maintaining certain notes for a long time? Are your lips swollen and red after playing? Are they stiff and puffy after hitting those double high Cs? Do you suffer from chronic chops fatigue or pain in the lower lip? Do your lips feel rubbery or numb? Do you have a wooden-face feeling after playing? Do you have abrasions on the lip or in the mouth? Does air escape from the corners of your mouth while you play? Is your endurance shot? Do you have varicose veins, abrasions, lesions or tumors on the lips? Is your lip muscle stretched or torn?

While some of the problems inherent in trumpet playing might occur from accidental trauma (a punch in the mouth, an elbow to the chops during a pickup basketball game, a face-first fall off a bike), a large percentage of lip injuries are directly related to playing the instrument. Compressing flesh and muscle against metal for hours at a time can be a recipe for disaster. Tissue damage can occur if the mouthpiece is forced against the lips too hard or if one plays too long or with too much pressure without rest.

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