“…the instrument becomes an extension of the body, for example, the bow of the violinist or the drumsticks of the drummer.” – Schlinger, 2006.
Many musicians say they “merge” with their instrument when they are playing – that they lose themselves and do not know where they stop and the instrument begins. This process leads to beautiful music; however, it can lead to less body awareness, pain and overuse injuries related to playing their instrument.
Statistics estimate more than 39,000 people are formally employed as musicians in the United States. This does not include the large numbers of children and teenagers just starting out, or devoted amateur and professional musicians playing night and weekend shows. Among this large number of musicians, studies have shown that the percentage who report having play-related pain may actually be higher than in other professions. In some groups, more than 90% of musicians surveyed reported having some type of pain.
Neck, arm and hand problems tend to be the most commonly reported for musicians. Some examples are:
The highly repetitive and sustained nature of playing an instrument is one of the most common reasons musicians develop painful problems. Many instruments require sustained neck, arm and hand positions that cause pressure on sensitive nerves and muscles. Combine this with lengthy or awkward sitting or standing postures and transporting instruments, and the risk for problems increases.
There are several things musicians can do to prevent overuse problems:
Kimberly Masker is a certified hand therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists and an affiliate member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.