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Common Musician Injuries and How to Avoid Them

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By Edited Jun 26, 2015 1 5

Musicians are very prone to injury. Each instrument presents unique physical challenges, and certain afflictions are more common in particular instrumentalists. By knowing what injuries are common to your instrument and how to recognize these injuries, it is much easier to prevent or treat them.

String instrumentalists often suffer from injuries on the back, shoulders, and neck in addition to where we might expect: the fingers, hands, wrists and arms. Tension in the jaw is not uncommon. Injuries will vary depending on the particular instrument, the height at which it's played (think violin vs cello), the weight, and whether the musician sits or stands in order to play it. Repetitive strain injuries are the most common, and carpal tunnel syndrome may also occur.

Wind instrumentalists may suffer from nose, throat, mouth, and lip injuries. Arm and shoulder injuries are also common, particularly for those who have to bear the instrument's weight. Repetitive strain injuries are more common for woodwind players.

Percussionists are prone to finger, hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, and back pain. It is very common for percussionists to have excess tension in these regions. The most common injuries her tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Common Injuries

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
is caused by a pinching of the median nerve traveling through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Symptoms worsen over time and include numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Pain may also occur anywhere along the arm, up to the shoulder.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
is caused by a pinching or compressing of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. Numbness or tingling occurs towards the pinky side of the hand. Like carpal tunnel, pain may occur along the arm as well.

Tendinitis
is the inflammation of the tendons due to overuse or improper positioning. Symptoms include stiffness and burning sensations around the inflamed tendon. Swelling and aching may occur. Often confused with tendinosis.

Tendinosis
is caused by micro-tears on the tendons or ligaments. Symptoms are similar to tendinitis, but are much slower to heal, often requiring a number of months.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - caused by poor upper body posture. Symptoms include pain, tingling, or numbness in the neck and shoulders; swelling in the arms and hands; muscle weakness. Long recovery period, upwards of six months.

Obviously there are other injuries that musicians are at risk of incurring. Most of these are caused by overuse and poor posture. It is critically important for musicians to use proper technique and know their limitations. Though this information can help prevent or identify any injury, there is no replacement for a trained professional.

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Comments

Dec 4, 2010 7:49pm
classicalgeek
Many people don't realize that singers can also suffer repetitive stress injury. And even people who speak all day (call center employees, teachers, ministers, etc.) can suffer vocal cord injuries caused by poor technique. If you are worried about any of these repetitive stress injuries, seek out a teacher trained in preventing repetitive stress injuries right away -- don't wait until the damage occurs and has to be repaired!
Dec 4, 2010 9:40pm
AJWalton
I actually saw that in one of your articles - very interesting, as my voice sometimes gets raw from overdoing the speech-to-text. I'm really not sure how good my technique is.
Dec 4, 2010 10:29pm
classicalgeek
You should be able to talk all day, every day, without any stress on your voice. Otherwise you are causing damage to your vocal cords . . . I recommend that you find a teacher in your area pronto!
Dec 6, 2010 7:57pm
allpurposeguru
You have certainly touched on an area of great discussion among musicians. I appreciate the short descriptions of particular ailments.
Dec 14, 2010 4:03pm
AJWalton
Thanks allpurposeguru. It seems like about 1/5 of my peers at university have suffered an injury at some point.
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