People tend to associate injuries with sports. After all, it seems like playing football or tennis would be more likely to be physically strenuous.
However, musicians and vocalists also work hard in a physical sense. This means that they are susceptible to injuries, though they may not be the same ones that would be received on the football field.
Still, there are similarities between the injuries that athletes suffer and those that are experienced by musicians. Here are some of the most common injuries that happen to musicians:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- De Quervain's tenosynovitis
- Strained vocal cords
- Thoracic outlet syndrom
- Strains to the shoulder, back or neck.
Such injuries can happen to almost any musician, especially if they have not been taught proper techniques or have been demanding too much from their bodies.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This hand injury is caused when the median nerve becomes compressed. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the likely diagnosis when a musician experiences tingling, numbness or sensations that the hand has gone to sleep. Usually, repetitive wrist movements are responsible for causing this injury. Treatment may involve taking more frequent breaks during practice, avoiding practice for a time and applying cold packs to deal with swelling. Musicians whose symptoms are only mild to moderate may benefit from wearing a splint.
The bursae are fluid-filled sacs found throughout the body. Their job is to provide essential cushioning for muscles, bones and tendons adjacent to the joints. When a musician experiences redness, swelling and pain near a joint, then bursitis may be to blame. This condition most often arises from making repetitive motions. Physical therapy exercises may help to relieve the symptoms associated with bursitis, and some physicians may recommend an injection of a corticosteroid drug that is delivered directly to the affected bursa. Frequently, one injection is all that is required to resolve the situation.
This is one of the most common injuries that is suffered by musicians. Basically, tendinitis refers to the inflammation of one or more tendons. The top of the foot, Achilles tendon, upper arm and hand are the most likely locations for musicians to experience tendinitis. Repetitive motion or overuse may be behind tendinitis. It is always wise to closely follow the doctor's instructions when tendinitis is diagnosed. This is because tendinitis that is not treated and not allowed to heal can become tendinosis, escalating the risk of re-injury.
This is a real danger. Diagnosis of tendinosis indicates that the tendonitis is gone, but the tendon has not healed. It is now actually degenerating, and that is what is continuing to be painful.
To avoid this, the best possible thing to do is to seek early treatment whenever the musician experiences any pain. This makes it possible to catch the condition in the tendinitis stage, which is much easier to address.
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis
Repetitive motion may result in the development of this painful condition in the tendons on the wrist below the thumb. Having this condition may mean that the musician is experiencing swelling and limited range of motion of the wrist and thumb. To reduce swelling, the doctor may recommend taking an over-the-counter pain reliever or having an injection of corticosteroid medication. Physical therapy may help as well.
Strained Vocal Cords
The vocal cords are a muscle, and like other muscles, overuse can cause strain and damage. The symptoms of strained vocal cords may include pain and hoarseness. Moreover, the vocalist's ability to perform may be seriously impaired. When strained vocal cords are not treated, then the condition can become worse, and the vocal cords may develop polyps or nodules.
Treatment may involve rest, inhaling humid air, drinking plenty of fluids and perhaps a corticosteroid.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
This syndrome develops when the nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib become compressed. Radiating pain may move through the shoulders and neck, and some people with this condition also experience numbness in the fingers. Poor posture and repeated movements likely are the cause of thoracic outlet syndrome. With physical therapy and rest, this condition usually can be cleared up.
Strains to the Shoulder, Back or Neck
These injuries frequently occur as a result of holding an instrument incorrectly, using poor posture or tilting the head. This pain can become chronic unless the musician and their instructor address these issues.
Ways for Musicians to Avoid Injuries
Becoming an accomplished musician does not happen overnight. Usually, it is the result of years of sustained effort. The musician mainly focuses on playing proficiently, but there is more to musicianship than this. Part of the musician's training must include learning how to play in a manner that is safe and comfortable for the musician's body.
Learning how to play an instrument with the proper technique not only protects the musician from injuries but also enables the artist to keep up their study in the most comfortable manner possible.
Many things may lead to injuries. Here are a few examples:
- Not warming up;
- Not taking enough time to rest;
- Suffering an accident; or
- Simple overuse.
Just like athletes, it is essential for musicians to warm up. Failing to warm up means unnecessary tension in the body, and that tension frequently is responsible for causing an injury. Accordingly, it is critical for music instructors to ensure that their students always go through a warm-up routine and that they demonstrate proper warm-up techniques.
In addition to providing protection from injuries, warming up also improves musical performance.
Also like athletes, it is crucial for musicians to take appropriate rest when it's needed. This may mean taking an occasional day off, but it also can refer to taking a break in the middle of lessons or rehearsals. No one can perform for hours on end without experiencing some negative effects.
Accidents can happen to anyone, and they don't have to occur in the music studio. A musician could be injured in a car crash or while doing chores around the house. Any injury that affects the musician's hand, wrist, arm, neck or back could have consequences for their ability to play their instrument.
Overuse injuries are exceptionally common. Most frequently, they come about as a result of years of playing, usually using poor technique. It is possible for the musician to re-train themselves using the correct techniques, but this takes a great deal of time and may have to wait until the overuse injury has healed.
When to Visit the Doctor
Too many people wait until they are in excruciating pain or completely debilitated before they make an appointment to see a doctor. Unfortunately, this is not the best possible approach.
As soon as something starts to feel "off" or "wrong," then it is wise to make a doctor's appointment. That is doubly true if the musician is experiencing any pain at all. Feeling pain while playing a musical instrument is not normal. It is a sign that something is very wrong and needs to be addressed. Typically, it makes a lot more sense to address a possible injury in its early stages.
This is because diagnosing an injury in its early stages usually means that less damage is done. In fact, some injuries that musicians suffer can cause permanent damage and negatively affect their ability to play for the rest of their lives. This means that it is much better to seek treatment early.
The diagnosis of an injury may mean that the musician cannot play their instrument for a few weeks or months. It is a difficult sacrifice but is far preferable to suffering a far worse injury.
Schedule Technique Checks
If you are a music instructor, then it is sensible to regularly schedule technique checks with each of your students. This means that you may have to occasionally set aside the regular curriculum or press pause on rehearsing for a performance. However, these technique checks are critical to ensure that your students are not at risk for developing an injury.
During the technique check lesson, be certain to ask questions about how the student feels while playing. Is there any pain or discomfort? If there is, then it is wise to begin addressing such issues now before they become larger problems. Subsequent lessons can emphasize proper technique so that the pain and discomfort become a distant memory.
Get Students Started Right with Prodigies Music
Music is a universal language, and you can ensure that your children or students are fluent in it by introducing them to it at an early age. That's exactly what the programs at Prodigies Music are designed to do. Start looking at our selection of lessons to get started today.