Hey guys, Dr. Lell here. The cold months are rolling through Portland and it’s usually this time of year that I like to go out and see live music. Especially the symphony. I’ve met a few musicians while hanging out in Sellwood and at shows and I was surprised to learn that many of their colleagues often play through moderate amounts of pain. I had the opportunity to treat some violinists and I noticed that the patterns were the same. I learned that pain takes a big toll on their musical careers. Sometimes they skip practices and sometimes even postpone a performance. There’s not a name for it, but we could call it Violin Syndrome until someone thinks of a more clever and punnier name. I did some digging around and came up with some great information on the common injuries faced by violinists. And what’s knowledge best used for if not for sharing? So this blog goes out to my musicians – especially the violinists and violists.
Training to become a great musician is not unlike training to become a great athlete. They both require countless of hours of rigorous practice, the development of new muscle memories, and the need for special muscle development. Just like athletes, musicians are susceptible to the same kinds of injuries – albeit less traumatic. Some may even surprise you. Did you know that many professional wind instrumentalists can suffer from dental stress and increased intraocular (behind the eye) pressure?
Common Injuries Facing Violinists
What are the most common problems facing violinists? Let’s take a look…
- 69% of professional violinists deal with musculoskeletal injuries. These are usually overuse injuries, sprains, and strain from holding a heavy instrument for long periods of time in a fixed posture. Some of your body is forced to be stable and strong while other parts need to move very quickly. This sets a body up for mobility issues and wonky movement patterns. Specifically, most of these injuries occur in the right shoulder, the left forearm, head, and neck. Less common sights are the elbows and fingers.
- 19% deal with a peripheral neuropathy. This can be anything from thoracic outlet syndrome to carpal tunnel syndrome. Usually regardless of the name, it’s an issue of a trapped nerve that leads to feelings of burning, tiredness, and heaviness in the arm or hand.
- 5% suffer from focal dystonia, a symptom more than a diagnosis. It’s a twitching of certain muscle groups from a various number of causes.
- 62% heave issues with their jaw due to the way they hold their instrument and from the jaw’s connective attachments to the shoulder. Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome can lead to headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, tooth pain, and a host of other symptoms.
How can Violinists Prevent these Injuries?
What can you do? Obviously the best offense is a good defense. Good strategies include decreasing the amount of time you practice in one day, taking regular breaks while practicing, and warming up your muscles and joints prior to playing. Despite the added weight, an appropriately placed chin rest can really decrease discomfort. These strategies may help to alleviate current symptoms and should definitely do a great job at preventing them. Unlike great athletes, a great musician’s career can span some 70 or more years. But not if chronic pain and suffering keeps you from what you love.
If you’re already experiencing these symptoms, you should consider seeing a chiropractor given the complex nature of these structures and their interrelatedness with one another.
I hope all of you music makers have found this information to be beneficial Keep filling the Portland air with those great sounds!
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or would like to suggest a topic – drop a line. Like me on facebook for regular health tips and updates. Until next time, eat well and move often.
In good health,