We often think about athletes and the strain placed on their bodies due to repetitive and strenuous practice and exercise, but we don’t always consider that same strain placed on musicians’ bodies. The fact is, however, that many musicians suffer from tendinitis due to the repetitive nature of their movements and the long hours of practicing and performing that many of them endure. Often, when a musician is working hard to master a new tune, they will repeat the same passage again and again until they perfect it, placing a lot of strain on the muscles and tendons involved.
Similar to workers who do repetitive motions throughout their work day, musicians will often develop tendinitis in particular areas that receive the most strain. For musicians who play string instruments, usually the areas where the pain will start include the base of the thumb, the wrist, the elbow, the shoulder, and the hand. This is due to the repetitive controlled movements as they draw the bow back and forth across the instrument. Usually the pain will start in one spot, however if left untreated, it can become chronic and spread to other areas that are involved.
Not to worry though, this is not a reason to put away the instrument and give up playing. There are things that one can do to prevent tendinitis and other overuse injuries. In fact, prevention is the best thing you can do to take care of your body and keep it healthy, nimble, and ready to play your instrument. Here are some important tips to help prevent overuse injuries.
- Warm up your body, just as you would your instrument.
Your body is an extension of your instrument, and it requires just as much, if not more, warming up ahead of playing. Flex your fingers and contract them, to loosen the joints and make them more flexible. Gently pull your wrist back and forth, stretching the muscles and tendons. Continue stretching any muscles that are involved in playing your instrument, be it your arms, shoulders, neck, or back. Take your time when stretching, and never over-stretch. Pull gently on the muscles, hold for a few seconds, and release.
- Take breaks during practice, to give your body time to relax.
Musicians often practice for hours at a time, just as athletes do when mastering a new skill. While this is important to maintain skill level and learn new music, it is equally important to give your body time to rest in between. Take breaks during your practice, and let your body rest, gently stretching out the muscles and areas that tend to become stiff and sore.
- Strengthen the muscles used in playing your instrument.
As with any activity, strengthening the muscles involved in that activity can do wonders to prevent injury to the muscles and tendons in that area. Lifting light weights every day can help to strengthen the muscles in those overused areas, thus protecting the tendons and ligaments around the joints. Do not add additional strain on the muscles by lifting anything too heavy, just a light weight of 3-4 pounds every day will do.
- Increase circulation in the fingers and arms.
Another way to help prevent overuse injuries is to soak your fingers and arms in warm water to increase circulation, both before and after playing your instrument. By increasing blood flow to those areas, they will be less prone to injury. In the winter months especially, take time to warm them up with either warm water or a warm compress before and after playing.
- Study and incorporate the Feldenkrais Method or Alexander Technique in your practice.
Both the Feldenkrais Method and Alexander Technique are studies in movement that teach you how to move your body in ways that are less damaging to the muscles and tendons, helping you to play your instrument with less overuse injuries. The Feldenkrais Method teaches specific patterns of movement that help you to move more efficiently, while the Alexander Technique focuses on the alignment of the head and neck. Both of these strategies are now being taught in music classes, to help musicians move in ways that are less likely to develop overuse injuries or chronic pain.
- Rub a pain relief salve on your hands before and after playing.
Try incorporating a pain relief salve into your practice regime, such as Verima’s CBD oil-infused pain relief salve. With the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD mixed with soothing high-quality essential oils like sandalwood, you will be protecting your hands and arms when playing your instrument. Rub some of the salve on to any areas that are worked hard during practice, and again when you are finished playing. The CBD oil will help to reduce inflammation in those areas and decrease pain levels.