There is no doubt that musicians suffer for their art. RSI (repetitive strain injury) is a common complaint of many people who play a musical instrument, and there is nothing more frustrating than your own body preventing you from playing. That frustration can turn to a life-affecting disaster if you earn your living from playing music. You have a duty to protect yourself from as much damage as possible, and as the old saying goes – prevention is better than cure.
There are various things you can do to keep your body in tip-top condition so that those aches and pains don’t turn into something more dramatic. Read our guide – are you doing all you can to look after the tools of your trade?
Musicians can practice and perform for hours on end, but like any regular work you need to make sure you have plenty of regular rest. Put your instrument down for at least fifteen minutes of every hour, have a stretch and a walk around and let your body relax. Rest is as good for your mind as it is your body – you will go back to your playing with renewed energy and vigor. It has been proved that regular rests significantly reduce the risk of damage due to RSI.
We’re not talking about an hour on the shrink’s couch (though you may need this as well!). We’re talking about a deep tissue massage, acupuncture and physiotherapy. You are asking a lot of your body so you need to make sure you are looking after it.
Massage is great for loosening up wonky muscles and ridding your body of toxins. There is nothing like acupuncture to release blocked energy and ease your body. Many musicians have monthly acupuncture sessions both to relieve existing ailments and to prevent new ones from occurring.
Looking after your body is as important as looking after your instrument. Acupuncture is particularly effective as it targets not just affected areas but also other body parts that are linked on the same nerve path (often you will find that pain is sited at a different spot to where the actual injury is).
Yoga and Stretching
Stretching is a really vital part of warming up and warming down, and a regular yoga session can do wonders by straightening out your body. Often when you play an instrument such as the violin you are using different muscles on different sides of your body, so it’s sensible to realign every now and again. Stretching helps muscles relax and not get too strained. A few stretching exercises before you start playing are brilliant, as are a few when you stop.
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you will be fine – as you get older your body gets less resistant to damage so it’s vital to do all you can to keep yourself in prime condition. This also includes limiting your alcohol intake and trying to maintain a healthy diet. There’s no point having a gorgeous instrument to play if your body is not in as good condition – it will just hold you back!