by Diana Khoury
Professional and aspiring musicians are athletes of their own kind. They practice often and prepare extensively for performances, exerting a physical toll on their bodies. Pain and repetitive stress injuries are common. Since musicians lack the built-in support system that sports athletes have (coaches, trainers, medical staff), most are on their own when it comes to caring for their primary instrument – their bodies. This, and the stigma of injury, keeps many musicians from dealing with the problem until they are physically unable to play.
Musculoskeletal pain in musicians results from a combination of poor body mechanics, lack of stretching, muscle overuse, repetitive movement, or reactivation of old injuries.
The most common issues encountered among musicians are: tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle spasm/ cramping, repetitive stress injury, nerve entrapment, and neck, shoulder and back pain. Each of these conditions may involve inflammation, hypertonic (overly tense) muscles, and pain. Pain occurs when a muscle ‘locks up’ and no longer has the ability to expand or contract naturally. Medication is often prescribed to alleviate symptoms, but it does not address the underlying cause(s) of pain and often has unwanted side effects.
After many years in the business, musicians become accustomed to playing through their pain rather than seeking help. Or, they might not know what they can do about it. Massage can be a beneficial course of treatment. A therapeutic massage helps ‘unlock’ and release the offending muscle group(s), thus reducing pain, increasing circulation and oxygenation, removing toxins and improving range of motion.
“The good news is that muscle pain is treatable. As doctors Janet G. Travell and David G. Simons say in Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, ‘When patients mistakenly believe that they must “live with”…pain because they think it is due to arthritis or a pinched nerve that is inoperable, they restrict activity in order to avoid pain. Such patients must learn that the pain comes from muscles, not from nerve damage, and not from permanent arthritic changes in the bones. Most important, they must know it is responsive to treatment. This gives the pain a new meaning. When these patients realize the twin facts that their pain is myofascial and is treatable, their lives take on new meaning and they are started on the road to recovery of function.’”1
The most important aspect of a musician’s injury recovery is self-care. A comprehensive wellness plan may include exercise, body awareness, improved ergonomics, regular stretching and rest breaks from practice. In addition, partnering with a massage therapist to receive ongoing treatment is preventive care against further injury.
This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc. Dreamclinic is a Health and Wellness company committed to sharing information about commonly experienced health conditions and how they may be impacted through the use of bodywork and other natural approaches. Dreamclinic offers massage, acupuncture, and Reiki sessions at its Greenlake and Queen Anne clinics, as well as onsite massage at workplaces around Puget Sound. Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.