Do Clarinet Neck Straps Actually Work?
Updated: Jul 23
Talk to most clarinetists and they'll tell you about the pain they've experienced in their right hand and wrist. And thirty years ago, researchers sought to understand why.
While there are only two known large-scale studies on clarinetists' health problems, both studies confirm the seriousness of right hand and right wrist pain among clarinetists. In 1998, areas of the right hand/wrist were the number one pain site for clarinetists. Twenty years later, and with more updated models, researchers still found that pain in the right thumb was prevelant (it placed #2 just behind the inside of the bottom lip).
So, do neck straps help with wrist pain?
There is limited research on the topic, but among the research that exists, there is a resounding yes. Using a neck strap has been found to lessen force vectors on the right wrist. And those, who use neck straps perceive them to be more effective than those who don't use neck straps.
What is particularly interesting though, is that female clarinetists use neck straps more than male clarinetists. There may be several reasons for this including:
Female musicians have smaller hands, and those with smaller hands have increased muscle activation patterns than those with larger hands
Clarinets were standardized at a time when musicians were almost exclusively male, and therefore the clarinet may not be ergonomically appropriate for females.
Females may be more willing and open to talk about problems that they are experiencing, and therefore, more willing to find solutions.
Whatever the reason, current research is unanimous that neck straps reduce forces on right hands and wrist, and reduce pain.
If you're looking for an easy way to get a neck strap, Amazon has many options to choose from! By choosing to buy a neck strap from these links, you are helping support my small business in addition to setting yourself up for success!
Some of you may be worried about the stigma of using a neck strap, or maybe you've had a band direct that refused to let you use one. Let me reassure you that people who are of the mindset that clarinetists should not use neck straps are uninformed. Period. So the next time someone tells you that wearing a neck strap isn't cool, or it's "cheating," be assured that the research says differently! Research is clear that neck straps are a critical and helpful tool for clarinetists So, play on, use a neck strap, and reduce your chance for injury!
Behel, K., Taylor, M. S., Zuhdi, N., & Chesky, K. (2019, June -30). Health problems of clarinetists: An epidemiologic survey [Poster Presentation]. Performing Arts Medical Association. Los Angeles, CA
Chesky, K. S., Kondraske, G., & Rubin, B. (2000). Effect of Elastic Neck Strap on Right Thumb Force and Force Angle During Clarinet Performance. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,42(8), 775-776. https://doi:10.1097/00043764-200008000-00001
Harger, S. (2011). An investigation of finger motion and hand posture during clarinet performance. [Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University].ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Smyth, C., & Mirka, G. A. (2021). Impact of a neck strap intervention on perceived effort, thumb force, and muscle activity of Clarinetists. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 36(4), 225–232. https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2021.4025
Young, K. E., & Winges, S. A. (2017). Thumb-rest position and its role in neuromuscular control of the Clarinet Task. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 32(2), 71–77. https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2017.2013