Musicians and Injuries

PLEASE READ THIS NOTE about out-of-date information on this website.

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Maybe it's a nagging ache in your thumbs, every time you practice at the piano. Perhaps there have been long rehearsals for that crucial recital, and now you notice stabbing pains in your forearms. Or you find yourself struggling with hands that have become increasingly clumsy, or numb. It may be that you are even waking up at night with pain in your arms, or your back, or your neck. Well, it's just a part of being a serious musician, right? And after all, you can't stop practicing - there's too much at stake, and music is your very life!

Does this sound familiar?

Instrumental musicians are a special risk group for repetitive motion injuries. Sizable percentages of them develop physical problems related to playing their instruments; and if they are also computer users, their risks are compounded and complicated. My own computer-induced tendinitis was very much aggravated by my guitar and violin playing and did not begin to improve until I stopped all playing for several months.

Instrumental injuries often include the same conditions experienced from computer overuse : Carpal Tunnel Syndrome , Tendinitis, Bursitis , Tenosynovitis / DeQuervain's Syndrome , Tendinosis , Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, and Trigger Finger/Thumb are particularly common among keyboardists, fretboardists, flute, and string players. But the particular demands of different instruments produce other problems as well, including hearing loss or TemporoMandibular Joints Disorder . (Note this new site from the TMJ Association ). Incorrect posture, non-ergonomic technique, excessive force, overuse, stress, and insufficient rest contribute to chronic injuries that can cause great pain, disability, and the end of careers.

But while these problems are unfortunately common, it's NOT an unavoidable part of being a musician. If we're willing to listen to what's being learned in the field of arts medicine, we may be able to escape the bullet of occupational injury and recover our ability to play.

What Can You Do?

I'll be putting more information here as I am able, but for now I highly recommend looking at some of the resources listed below. If you have pointers to similar literature, especially ergonomically oriented instrumental methods, or just have a tip or two of your own on safer techniques and injury prevention/recovery, drop a line so it can be added here. Please note that authorities in this area of study have differences of opinion about points of technique, treatment, or prevention: read as much as you can for the balanced view. Please note that several of the "reviews" below are written by persons other than myself: these have quotation marks and attributions to distinguish them. -Paul Marxhausen

[Books][Tapes/DVDs] [Links & On-Line Articles]

Books . . .

Books contain far more useful information than can be easily presented on-line. I strongly encourage you to read some of the following titles. The publishing information and Web links to the publisher or distributor are included where they are known. In addition, in association with Books you can purchase many of these titles on-line by clicking the Order from Amazon ... link after each listing, which will take you directly to that particular catalogue item. If you buy from Amazon, they will handle all billing, shipping, etc. and inquiries should be directed to them.

Too Many Titles?... I know it is an very long list of resources. One reason I just keep adding new titles as they are brought to my attention is that it increases the odds that you will be able to find some of these in your local public or institutional libraries, where you can read them for free. Always check there first!

Tapes and DVDs

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