DJing with a bad back
How to prevent back pain when DJing
Whether you’re short or tall one thing almost all DJs complain about is a bad back!
Its all too easy to hunch yourself over the decks or be forced to work at a DJ setup that isn’t right for your height.
I’ve got plenty of tips and tricks for you to help prevent you getting back pains when DJing and ease any pains you may already have.
So if you’re like me and suffer from DJing with a bad back, or you want to make sure you prevent it from ever happening, read on!
There’s some great discussions on this all over the internet. The common consensus is “whatever feels comfortable for you” but this isn’t necessarily the correct answer. What may feel comfortable now may actually be causing long term damage.
Of course personal preference still plays an important part in choosing the right height for your turntables and mixer but this at least gives you an idea of where it should be.
Its important to remember this is likely to be the height of your decks at home. In a DJ booth this could be different and likely to be fixed too. Most DJ booths have a table around 90cm (35.4 inches) tall. Add the height of your decks and we’re up to around 100 cm.
This is a little short for most people but its easier to work on decks that are too low than decks that are too high! The downside being decks and mixers that are too low will inevitably make you bend over, hurting your back!
So if you can raise the decks with a case lid or some other means I recommend you do. There are plenty of other options to help your back too. So read on!
Wearing the wrong shoes while standing for extended periods of time can do a surprising amount of damage to your back. They can also drastically affect your posture, forcing your back in to an unnatural position.
You can easily eliminate this problem by finding comfortable shoes to wear while DJing. I would recommend something with a extra padded insole offering better support to you while you stand. Running or walking shoes are good for this. Sketchers are good for this or for something more formal maybe look at Geox.
Ladies, avoid high heels! You may look great but nobody can see them behind the DJ booth and they’re only doing your back more damage than good.
If you want to keep the shoes you do wear you could look at getting some cheap Orthotic insoles which cushion your feed and help. They’re inexpensive, cheap to replace and might be just what you need to alleviate your back pains while DJ-ing.
A simple piece of advice but one that many overlook. While you’re getting in to the vibe and “at one” with your DJ gear its all too easy to hunch over them and forget what you may be doing to your back. Its often not the position that hurts but returning to a normal position that causes the pain to kick in. So you may not even notice you’re doing it.
So remember when you’re in the mix, stand up straight. Reach out with your arms rather than extending your body over the DJ equipment.
Stand directly over the deck or turntable you’re working on. There’s no need to stand centrally over your mixer and stretching to reach the decks. Try and work with the DJ gear below your arms so you’re extending them downwards to control.
It all seems so obvious when you stop to think about it. But do you stop to think about it when you’re totally lost in the music? Probably not. So take a moment every so often to check exactly how you’re standing.
If you’re tall like me there is another trick to get your hands closer to the decks. Instead of bending your back try standing with your legs further apart. I usually do this with one leg in front of the other, bending my knees slightly.
I tend to rock back and forth as I mix. This not only lowers my body to reach the DJ booth equipment but also makes me dance! Admittedly in an unusual style but it works if you’re tall and need to lose a few centimetres (or inches!).
Do you spend a lot of time sat down? Or maybe you have another job during the day that requires you to stand or move in certain repetitive motions?
Whatever you’re doing when you’re not DJing it undoubtedly will have an effect on your back and could be causing more damage.
So it’s important to remember this could be impacting your DJ-ing too.
If you spend a lot of time sat down then make sure your chair has enough support for your back. Rather than slouching in your chair try to sit with bottom of your back pressed against the back of the chair. This will help you to keep your back straight and supported by the chair too.
If the chair is adjustable it is worth testing to see which height works best for you. Generally this would be a height that does not make you raise your arms at your elbows to reach the desk, but also not lowering them too much to reach it either.
Take regular breaks and move around when you do. A lot of damage is done just by remaining in one position for too long. A simple way to do this is to set a calendar reminder on your computer to ping you every 30 minutes or so.
If your days are generally more active and involve standing up a lot then its worth taking regular time out to give your back a break. Constantly stretching for things or bending over can stress your back out.
Wait what? I thought we were talking about preventing bad backs when DJ-ing?! Well you’d be surprised what a difference the right mattress can make not only to your back. When I bought a new mattress specifically designed to help with a bad back it was a real light-bulb moment that showed me just how much damage my old mattress had been making.
Here’s a few things to think about.
- Does your mattress support your back in multiple places?
- How old is your mattress?
- Have you turned your mattress recently?
- Is your mattress too soft or too hard?
Many people think that mattresses are about getting a comfortable nights sleep. This is a misconception because really you’re spending around 7-8 hours laying one just a few positions, compressing or stretching your spine in all sorts of shapes. So getting a mattress that supports you while you sleep is very important.
So here’s some pointers for your next mattress purchase
If you sleep on your back get a firm orthopaedic mattress with a soft top layer. This will support your body posture as you sleep while being comfortable enough to relax you.
If you sleep mostly on your side then you’ll want a softer bed to cushion your hips and your shoulders. This will relieve pressure on your joints while still supporting your spine.
If you sleep on your stomach you actually need a firmer mattress not a softer one, as your back will arch and cause damage over time. Quilt topped firm mattresses usually work best for you.
Memory foam mattresses
These are the latest mattress technology and generally offer the best support for your back. They’re not cheap though but if you suffer from regular back problems they are well worth it.
Remember how many hours of every single day you spend in bed so its not worth trying to save money buying a cheap mattress.
They are also the best solution if you tend to move around in the night in multiple positions.
Most DJs never think of this, often because they’re busy socialising or preparing for their set. But if back pain is causing you problems during your DJ set you should be thinking about this. You’re about to spend an hour or more in one position, moving your arms in repetitive ways and potentially bending over in a way you haven’t been for most of the day.
Your body won’t like that!
So warm it up a little with some ease stretches that will prepare your back for your DJ gig.
If you’ve only got room (or time) to stand then try putting your hands behind our back and gently stretching your spine in to a more up-right position. You can also do gentle twists at the waist, turning your body to the left and then the right a few times.
This will help prepare your muscles and your spine too. You can also reach down with your left arm and then your right. Remember not to be too aggressive, you’re just trying to warm up your back and its muscles.
If you have more time and more space then I recommend laying down and doing some of these exercises. They don’t take long but can help loosen up your body a little more and make you more flexible. They’re also good after a DJ set too so think about “cooling down” after a set rather than running to the bar!
Build back strength
There are plenty of work exercises you can do to help improve your back posture and strength too. Definitely worth checking this video out.
Another option is to get a product that helps support your back and give you a better posture. I actually know a few people who swear by these things partly because they take away the need to constantly think about their posture. Just strap it on under your clothes and it will support your back.
The FREETOO Stabilizing Back Brace for Lower Lumbar Support is a nice example as it’s often the lower back that takes the most strain when DJ-ing. You wrap it around your body with heavy duty velcro straps and thats it.
Thankfully its made of breathable Nylon material too so it shouldn’t get you too hot and sweaty. I’d much rather feel a little heat than feel the agony of a painful back.
If its your upper back causing you most pain when DJ-ing its worth looking at something like the Kyphosis Posture Corrector Brace which wraps over your shoulders and around your stomach. They’re a bit more cumbersome to put on and take some adjusting to get it comfortable for your body shape but once its on you do notice the difference it makes.
They are excellent for keeping your body more upright and your shoulders back. I would say this style of back support is not as “invisible” as the lower support products, but definitely worth a try to ease the pain.
Surprised by this one right? But it can make a big difference to your posture.
Its common for DJs to wear large over-ear headphones (or cans) as these used to offer the best noise cancellation for better mixing But this leads to all sorts of odd postures, squashing the headphone between your ear and your raised shoulder.
Some DJs wear them over one ear but this also tends to cause interesting postures as you lean in to the monitor speaker or sometimes support the rest of the headphones with your neck.
There’s an easy solution. Wear professional in-ear headphones instead!
Pop them in both ears rather than just one. Your mixer is likely to have a cue / master mixer control which lets you hear your master track and your preview track at the same time with an adjustable volume too. This will not only stop any silly postures but also help protect your ears which is very important.
A couple of good options are the Sennheiser CX 3.00 a brand I’ve always trusted for DJ headphones as their sound quality and build quality is awesome.
If you’re super serious about sound then consider the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones which are more expensive but have active noise-cancellation built in to them. reducing all outside noises, leaving you with just pro quality audio straight from your DJ mixer.
I’d recommend you get an extension cable too so you’re not limited by the length of the cable on the headphones. I’d also recommend you bring a backup pair of headphones! I actually recommend you bring backup gear as well.
DJing help and advice
Now you know how to improve the back pain you’ve been experiencing when you DJ and hopefully prevent it in the future too.
Adjust your deck height based on my calculator and see if it improves you back issues. Be sure to monitor your posture when you’re mixing and try not to bend over the decks. It might look cool but its not good for you! A good mattress will do you the world of good, not just for your back but for your quality of sleep!
Exercise, warm up and maybe try in-ear headphones too!
Here’s some more great DJing advice for you.