Instrument injuries: Fixing musicians' mouths


MUSICIANS AND INJURIES: Although the extent of the problem has not been fully appreciated until recently, musicians are at risk of injury from playing their instruments. In fact, some orchestra studies estimated that between 40% and 76% of players have suffered at least one medical problem that was severe enough to affect their performance. It is also thought that many times musicians do not mention the symptoms of injuries such as pain in the upper limbs, shoulders, and back, loss of control, tingling, or weakness. The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine found that out of the number affected musicians; about 52% have musculoskeletal problems while the remaining 48% have concrete diagnoses including tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, various neuropathies and over-use syndrome. These problems are thought to be to due to, at least in part, the body/instrument interface, which is essentially the use of the body in relation to the instrument. (Source: www.abrsm.org)

COMMON INJURIES: Certain injuries are seen more often in musicians. Some common injuries amongst musicians are strained or torn muscles, over-use syndrome from repetitive motions, joint pains, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is important that if someone continues to experience pain or the pain is severe, they need to see a doctor.

HOW TO AVOID INJURY:  There are some things musicians can do in order to prevent experiencing these injuries. These tips will help people keep on playing with less risk of injury:

  • When playing the instrument try to identify, avoid, and release inappropriate tensions. For some instruments mobilizing the shoulders, like with arm swings, can also be helpful to prevent tension.
  • Warm up with light playing before jumping into a complicated or vigorous musical piece. Warming up the whole body, not just with the instrument, may also help.
  • Adjust the instrument as needed to fit your body better. For example, the mouth-pieces on flutes can be changed to better fit the musician.
  • Try to maintain good posture and alignment while playing, and for those who play guitar, keyboard, or anything with a bow string, make sure the hand and forearm are aligned properly.

(Source: www.abrsm.org)

* For More Information, Contact:

Craig A. VanderKolk, M. D.

Professor of Plastic Surgery - Johns Hopkins

Associate Director - Plastic Surgery, Mercy Medical Center

(410) 332-9700