Musicians are somewhat athletes performing mostly with their upper limbs. Like any athlete, they need to take care of their bodies. These artists practice and/or perform days with little off season, play through pain, withstand in challenging environments, and risk career-threatening injury.
The Price of Making Music
Musicians are prone to overuse injuries because of some postural and muscle imbalances. Long hours of daily training and complex neuromuscular skills involved in playing an instrument at a professional level can be compared to training and performance demands of elite athletes.
While athletes acquire high-impact injuries, musicians acquire low-load overuse injuries. The training and challenges can cause dysfunctions such as inefficient compensatory movement patterns, joint hyper or hypo-mobility and nerve entrapments.
Perceived stress in the orchestral environment increases risk of injuries among musicians. These injury risks include performance stress and interpersonal relationships, work organisation, and lack of control.
Musicians make sacrifices with their own body just to perfect their craft. Injuries can have devastating, long-term consequences, with permanent conditions meaning a change in career may not be a choice, rather the only option.
Common Problems in Musicians
Overuse syndrome is when muscles, tendons, and joints are repeatedly contracted, flexed, rotated, and so on during extended periods of practice. There can be inflammation in the lining around tendons and muscles. The injury commonly occurs in the hands, wrists and forearms. However, any body part can be affected depending on the instrument being played.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition where symptoms occur due to compression of nerves or blood vessels, or both, because of an adequate passageway through an area (thoracic outlet) between the base of the neck and the armpit. Symptoms include pain, burning sensation, tingling, and numbness along arm, hand and fingers. Poor posture can be a primary factor but obesity and gender are other possible risk factors.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a hand and arm condition that causes numbness, tingling and other symptoms due to a pinched nerve in the wrist. Playing instrument for several hours per day without adequate breaks and/or stretching may find a musician afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome. Pianists and violinists are commonly affected by this problem.
Risk in Career
Freelance musicians may feel that disclosing their injuries may result in less work opportunities, and both full-time and casual musicians may feel that telling everyone else about their injury may subject them to group judgment about their technique or musicianship.
For students who got injured, it is advised to stop practice immediately and notify teachers if any discomfort and pain in particular.
How Physiotherapy Helps
During appointment, a physiotherapist will initially assess the musician. The musician may be required to bring his/her instrument and play for the physiotherapist to observe. It could be from the posture or from the instrument that may be contributing to injury.
If there is something about the instrument that needs to be modified, it might be in the minor adjustment in the thumb rest or key positioning.
To address the problem and prevent it from affecting performance, a physiotherapist will provide full body treatment, specific exercises, and regular therapy sessions.
Sessions of physiotherapy allow a musician to find the proper biomechanics which became imbalanced from the injury.
It doesn’t seem right that something so beautiful such as making music can cause persisting pain. If you’re one of the people suffering from pain, get in touch with us at (08) 9444 8729 today!