Swollen Lips From Playing Trumpet
How To Prevent Swelling
If you get swollen lips from playing trumpet, to the point of it interfering with your playing, then this is the article for you because in this post I will share 7 tips on how I personally dealt with this, annoying issue.
A few years ago I had a lot of struggle with my lips swelling when playing trumpet. I played worse than I otherwise would have, on quite a few gigs because of this, and since you are reading this article I’m guessing you know that feeling…
…and that is a feeling that is far from being fun!
Several factors contributed to this but the two big ones were mouthpiece pressure and inflammation in my body.
I collected tools and tricks to get rid of the problem
During that time I set out to collect tools to help me, and sure enough, after a few months I did no longer need to have swollen lips after playing the trumpet…
…needless to say, that felt great!
Tip no 1: Reduce mouthpiece pressure as much as possible
Let’s get the most obvious and boring tip out of the way right from the start since this tip hardly comes as a surprise to anyone. However as boring and obvious as it may be, it is still one of the biggest contributors to our lips swelling when playing trumpet.
How do I reduce mouthpiece pressure?
There are a lot of things you can do to reduce your mouthpiece pressure. To name a few of them…
- Rest often (of course that is sometimes impossible on gigs)
- Every, day practice a few minutes with the “non pressure grip“
- Build stronger embouchure corners
- Develop efficiency and a better aperture control
- Use are very good breath support
If you would like a more detailed description on these points, I wrote a blog post how to play trumpet without too much mouthpiece pressure, where I explain the exact steps you can take to achieve this. If you feel that moutpiece pressure is something you are using a great deal of then consider reading that article.
Tip No 2:”ChopSaver” IS Really a Chop Saver!
I personally use a product called ChopSaver. 3-4 times a day I put ChopSaver on my lips. I’d say that right before bedtime is the most important time to do this, to help the body get rid of the inflammation and lip swelling overnight.
I also use it the first thing I do when I wake up to help PREVENT them from swelling during the day.
The ChopSaver was actually developed by a professional trumpeter named Dan Gosling. His goal was to create a product to help prevent the lips from swelling when playing the trumpet, and I really must say that I’m impressed with his product.
If I have a very demanding gig, with much playing, I find that ChopSaver alone helps to reduce my swelling to at least 50-60% and if I use it along with all the rest of the tips in this blog post, swelling is no longer an issue for me.
When it comes to when to apply the chopsaver, I recommend you do a little experimenting with the timing, as in what time during the day works best for you. That said I’m pretty confident that at least using it before bedtime (to help heal overnight) and in the morning, to prevent swelling during the day, would benefit most trumpet players.
Anti inflammatory ingredients
The reason ChopSaver works so well is because of the mix of soothing and anti inflammatory ingredients that gets into the soft lip tissue after applying it.
The anti inflammaorty and soothing ingredients include
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
- Avocado oil
- Citrus oils
- Grape seed oil
These are ingredients that are proven to reduce inflammation and are known for their soothing qualities. In my opinion the product is also priced well compared to similar items especially if you buy more than one at a time (click here to check current pricing on Amazon)
Personally I get mine in form a 6,8 or 12 pack and I would recommend you order a few of them at once, not only because it’s cheaper that way, but also becasue they run out pretty quickly.
Tip No 3: Eat more anti inflammatory foods!
The ChopSaver helps to combat the swelling and inflammation from outside but it is also wise to combat the inflammation from within the body itself, by reducing the the bodies inflammation response.
This is best done by eating more of certain powerful anti inflammatory foods, while at the same time reducing foods that cause inflammation.
Let’s start with what we should reduce the intake of
Foods to avoid
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Vegetable oils (Sunflower oils, Canola oils, Corn oils, Soybean oils, Sesame oils etc.)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Glutenous grains
Now, I’m not saying we can never again eat any of these but the fact is that the more we can reduce our intake of the above mentioned foods, the less problems we will have with inflammation and swelling.
Eat more of these foods
- Green leafy vegetables (has very powerful anti inflammatory properties)
- Blueberries (also filled with antioxidants and are very good for the brain as well)
- Fatty fish (particularly salmon)
- Broccoli (also very powerful)
- Turmeric (highly anti inflammatory particularly if you mix it with black pepper to help with the absorption)
- Green tea (numerous points to its anti inflammatory effects)
- Dark chocolate
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grapes (also very powerful)
If you make sure to eat at least a few of these foods while you at the same time avoid the highly inflammatory foods you are well on your way to combat the “swollen lips from playing trumpet issue”. ChopSaver works from the outside in and these food items on the list from the inside out…
…a double whammy!
Tip No 4: Elevate your head while sleeping
Put a few old books, or something similar, under the legs on your bed to elevate the head side or you can also put something under the mattress to elevate the head side…
…this will help prevent the lips from fluid buildup and swelling!
While it might sound a bit funny I have found that doing this really does help. The only problem I personally experienced was that it took me a couple of weeks to get used to sleeping with my head elevated. But once I did, everything was fine and my chops felt fresher when I woke up in the mornings.
Tip No 5: Give yourself a gentle “lip massage” at night
It should come as no surprise that a good massage can help heal and recover tired and sore muscles. Well, your lips are surrounded by small muscles and the same goes for them.
Giving yourself a gentle lips massage and stretching your lips and facial muscles, for example while watching movie in front of the television at night, can be very beneficial for the chops.
Use your fingers to carefully stretch your lips and you can also do some opening and closing of your mouth in a way that stretches the upper and lover lip muscles as well as stretches the sides of your embouchure muscles…
I don’t have to tell you to be careful and to not be aggressive with this, do I?
A word of warning about the chop massage!
As we all know, the lips and the embouchure system is very sensitive. We build up our whole playing mechanisms with hundreds and hundreds of practice hours to develop “muscle memory” and control over our chops…
…this often means that as soon as we introduce something new, that the embouchure / lip setting are not used to, it might feel a bit strange at first and even throw our playing off a bit…
Don’t experiment with something new the day before an important gig
…with this in mind I would recommend that you never start introducing new things like this the day or night before you have an important trumpet gig.
The general rule should be that experimentation is good however, the first time we experiment with something new, should be in a period when it’s safe to do so. Not two or three days befor you perform the Haydn trumpet concerto for your first time.
Tip No 6: Finish your showers by turning the knob to the coldest setting
Wait a minute! Before you run away afrom my website, here me out on this one…
…there, are you cool now? (pun intended)
I admit that cold showers are unpleasant but are you aware of the positive effects they provide? Numerous studies are showing that cold showers have many health benefits including significantly reduced inflammation in the body…
…particularly in the upper body like the back, chest, neck, brain and face.
If cold showers are potent for reducing inflammation in the head and face area, I guess everyone can see where I’m going with this…
…by finishing your showers with cold water, instead of warm water, we can help the swollen lips we have after a hard day of playing the trumpet.
How long should the cold water torture be?
To get the most anti inflammatory effect of the shower they should be at least two minutes long (2 to 3 minutes) on the coldest setting. Yes it is very unpleasant at first and it might take a couple of tries to get used to them enough to be able to go for so long…
…I know it did for me. If I remember correctly it took me three tries before I had mustered up all the courage to go for 2 minutes. That was in the wintertime up here in the cold Finland so the showers were COLD, believe me. Not easy but…
…the feeling you get after the shower is incredible!
The feeling you get after the shower is amazing
Cold showers also raise dopamine levels and the bodies own opioids, making you super alert and filled with energy. A cold shower will lift you up way more than caffeine can ever do.
The feeling you get is something that can not really be explained and I guess the only way to know what I’m talking about is to try it out and experience it for yourself. I do, however, understand that this last tip is probably something that many people will skip and that’s fine of course but I still wanted to have it on the list because, well…
…it is effective and it works!
Besides, I never said that all of these tips would be pleasant, did I? =)
In addition to the anti inflammatory effects the cold showers have, here are some of the other health benefits that they give
- Increased alertness and concentration
- Improves skin tone
- Improves blood circulation
- Boosts immune system
- Stimulates weight loss
- Speeds up muscle recover
- Reduces muscles soreness
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases testosterone levels (I personally did an experiment with this where I took several blood tests)
- Lowers symptoms of depression
Quite a list there and, if you’re up for it…
…I highly recommend you give them a try!
Tip No 7: Take an aspirin prior to the gig or band practice
I’m not really comfortable recommending drugs, even though aspirin is a very mild drug, to the readers…
…however many trumpet players do use aspirin to prevent lips from swelling during long and demanding music gigs. This is very common especially among big band lead trumpet players, as their job is particularly demanding with a lot of high notes and, inevitable, a lot of mouthpiece pressure.
I sometimes use aspirin myself on very tough days, with a lot of playing, and I have noticed less swollen lips after playing trumpet on those days. For the most part, however, I rather get the anti inflammatory effect from the foods I listed earlier in this article rather from using drugs.
Why aspirin helps swollen and sore lips
The aspirin also known as acetylsalicylic acid works because of a molecular step where the ascetylsalicylid acid comes in and hinders one of the proteins that are involved in the destruction of the IkB. The IkB is one of the protective proteins that works against the, other, NfkB protein which, if overactive is involved with inflammatory processes in every cell of the body…
…uff, no need to know all that extra info there, I guess…
…but the point is, having a very demanding gig coming up?. ..use the ChopSaver lip balm on the outside and perhaps consider popping an asperin to fight the inflammation from the inside… if you do not want to use the anti inflammatory foods that I listed earlier in the article.
Final words about lip swelling and trumpet playing
The embouchure or our lip setting, if you will, is a sensitive mechanism that works best if kept as consistent as possible. As soon as something changes, in one way or another, our playing suffers. If the lips are swelling when playing the trumpet we run into issues like
- Intonation problems
- Difficulty with articulation
- Endurance issues
- Articulation problems
- Cracking / split notes
- Last but not least it affects our sound
Some trumpet players have to pull the tuning slide out more and more the longer the gig goes on. This is a direct result of the lips swelling because the swollen lips are filling the cup of the mouthpiece more, and thus affect things like intonation, sound and everything in between…
…so yeah, lip swelling when playing trumpet is more than just an issue with itchy and sore lips since it affects every aspect of our playing. Overcoming this will make playing long rehearsals and demanding gigs more easy and so much more fun.
Try the tips and use the ones that works best for you
Try these tips and see which of them works best for you. Some of them will probably work better for you than others and of course there is no need to be using all 7 at the same time…even though you could do that too.
So let’s get that lip swelling out of our trumpet lives for good because, as I use to say…
…trumpet playing is difficult enough without all the extra problems =)
And remember…keep practicing!
Thank you for reading this article about lip swelling and trumpet playing.
P.S. Perhpas you also would be interested in reading my article
26 trumpet playing tips to help you become a better trumpet player