Effective Physical Therapy for Musicians
Chances are you’ve felt the pain. That stiffness in the joints of your fingers. The ache in your neck or back. Maybe even both.
It’s uncomfortable, annoying and distracting. Worst of all, it’s turning something you love into a physical and mental struggle instead of an outlet for your creativity and an expression of yourself.
Whether it’s recognized by people outside of music — or even by those inside the community — playing an instrument and performing is a physical task, which takes a toll on a musician’s body. While the show must go on, staying on top of your physical fitness as a musician might not always take top priority.
Professionals and amateurs alike suffer from troubles stemming from performing music, and if not addressed and treated, can lead to long-term problems and possibly having to give up music altogether.
We here at Colorado Motion don’t want you or anyone else to give up something they love, especially because they didn’t know how they were hurting themselves and not seeking proper treatment on top of that.
So let’s take a quick dive into the common causes, injuries and effective physical therapy for musicians so you can keep pursuing your passion for music in a healthy, sustainable manner!
What Causes Pain for Musicians?
Hours of repetitive practice, exposure to adverse conditions like loud noises and dim light and prolonged, awkward postures can all contribute to the physical ailments a musician experiences over their career. These behaviors most commonly contribute to pain for musicians:
- Muscle tension
- Not warming up properly
- Quick, repetitive movements
- Using strong force like thumb grip
- Awkward, prolonged posture
- Playing too long without taking breaks
- Fatigue and emotional or psychological stress
By nature of the shape and proper techniques for playing most all instruments, they place your hands and body in unnatural positions, creating discomfort. Over time and repeated holding of those postures, chronic conditions develop and won’t just go away on their own, certainly not if the same behaviors that caused them in the first place persist.
Dedication and practice are part of becoming a great musician, just make sure you’re acknowledging these habits and doing what you can to lessen their effects on your body and seek treatment!
Injuries and Conditions in Musicians
Stiffness, aches and pains or any other number of baseline indicators that your body is unwell shouldn’t be ignored. These symptoms can be the first indication of further, or worsening, problems down the line. Common injuries and conditions, which should require effective physical therapy for musicians, generally include:
- Overuse syndrome: When tendons and muscles are inflamed from repeated use
- Carpal tunnel
- Migraines and chronic headaches caused by poor posture
- Shoulder pain
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: When nerves and blood vessels in the neck get compressed and cause tingling or numbness
- Focal dystonia: Involuntary contractions of muscle groups, which may distort posture
If you experience one or any of these conditions, treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Musicians often suffer from a complex mixture of several conditions, requiring rehabilitative care.
Treatment Through Physical Therapy for Musicians
Waiting is never a good idea. While it may seem logical to allow your body time to try and heal on its own, it simply isn’t an adequate solution for your problems. Unless you’re planning on giving up music and performing (and we certainly don’t want you to do that!), then seeking effective physical therapy for musicians is the only answer.
Throwing out a blanket treatment for any patient, musicians included, just won’t work. It’s important to meet with a physical therapist in order to establish what your ailments are and developing an effective plan of action tailored to you. Common treatments, however, may include:
- Heat therapy
- Cold compression therapy
- Soft tissue treatment
- Ultrasound therapy
- Low-level laser therapy
It’s important to remember that there are no quick fixes in physical therapy. You need to have patience, consistency and take an active role in your treatment and recovery. Not one individual treatment is enough. A combination of treatments, exercises and habits is the only effective physical therapy for musicians or any other person looking to make their bodies whole again!
Good Habits for Musicians
As we mentioned earlier, truly competent treatment requires a commitment on your part to seeing your body recover, strengthen and maintain fitness so that playing music and performing can be the joy it’s intended to be!
This means you should be mindful of the things you’re doing on a daily basis, especially when practicing or performing. Here are a few good habits to employ each day:
- Evaluate your posture and technique. How are you sitting or standing? Make sure to remain upright and balanced. Never slouch!
- Always warm up. Maybe it doesn’t seem physical at first thought, but playing an instrument demands performance from your body, so give it the best chance at success by stretching and easing your way into playing.
- Examine your instrument and ensure it’s the correct size for you. Playing an instrument that’s either too big or too small could contribute to the pain you’re feeling as your body compensates for the difference.
- Take frequent breaks. Whether to stretch, relax the active muscles or just get up and move around some, try to break your practices up into shorter sections throughout the day or time allotted.
Playing an instrument and performing music is supposed to be enjoyable. That’s the whole reason you picked it up and continue with music to this day. Don’t let correctable issues interfere with your passion. Before, during and after, there is always something you can be doing to lessen the toll playing takes on your body.
Colorado in Motion wants to be your ally in that pursuit, so contact us today about effective physical therapy for musicians and never let those pain and aches sidetrack you again!