Musicians' Pain- Sitting @ the Piano
Do you know that musicians are athletes of the small muscles? They are susceptible to performance or playing related musculoskeletal injuries and pain. Common issues that musicians have are overuse injuries, nerve entrapment syndromes and focal dystonia which can be prevented or minimised by modifying risk factors.
During this season of circuit breaker, some of us may have more time to practice and play our musical instruments. You may want to take note of the following areas, which are frequently reported as the most common cause of pain and injuries in musicians.
Training and Playing Load
Musicians spend long hours practicing and performing which result in excessive soft tissues tension and fatigue. Pain and injuries from the high training and playing load can be reduced by reducing high and continuous tissue loading.
Include short breaks when training sessions are long to ensure rest from continuous playing
Intersperse intensive practice with less intensive ones to minimise the stress on tissues due to high repetitions and load
Use visualisation of play instead of actual playing to rest the body
‘Divide and Conquer’ a music piece and play it in sections/parts rather than always playing the whole piece to include rest intervals
Other than building in regular rests, it is recommended that musicians increase training and playing load gradually rather than suddenly to allow the body to adapt to play, especially if the individual is recovering from an injury or has not played for a while.
Poor posture or fitting while playing instruments can contribute to unnecessary tissue tension and loading due to awkward positions. Instruments should be positioned or fitted for comfort while playing whenever possible. Good fitting and posture should allow the musician to relax and adopt good playing techniques without feeling excessive strain on body.
Example of instrument fitting: Piano
Piano bench should be arranged at the start of every practice session to allow best height and distance for playing.
Recommended height: pianist’s shoulders are relaxed and forearm and wrist are parallel to the floor.
Recommended distance: pianist’s elbows are slightly in front of the midline of body with wrist in neutral position
Equipment such as stools, boxes, firm pillows or mats can be used to help add height to the bench and/or floor.
Management of Injury
Musicians are advised not to ignore injuries. Pains that do not ease after 1-2 weeks of relative rest should be addressed early to minimise worsening of conditions. Do seek medical advice from doctors or physiotherapists for management of injuries.