Prevent Physical Injuries Playing Musical Instruments

ImageMusicians like athletes, can develop physical problems as a result of their practice. It doesn’t matter what musical instrument you are playing. You should make sure you prevent physical injuries, by being aware of the injury symptoms and how to deal with them. Though musicians were and still are told to “play through the pain” it can’t always be true or the best strategy. Unfortunately, performing artists have generally kept their problems and injuries to themselves throughout the time. However, education on proper playing technique is essential to avoid injuries.

Your sitting position or the way you hold your instrument is one the first things that should be checked. At the first glance, some may think that this is only for the beginners. But I’ve personally seen many professionals who still have problem with their sitting position, and they aren’t aware of it. So if you are studying with a teacher, it’s always a good idea to ask him/her to check your sitting position or/and the way you hold your instrument. Not all teachers pay enough attention to this area until you ask them to. Don’t worry if you are no longer studying with a teacher, you can always watch famous artists positions (preferably those who have an academic background) and compare it with your own. In that case, I suggest you not to limit yourself with one or two artists. This way, you make sure that you compare something that is in common with most of the performing artists.

The best way to re-check if your positions are correct is to see if you are feeling comfortable enough. Can you move your fingers easily without so much pressure and/or any pain? Do you feel any weakness, cramping or stiffness?

Moreover, most injuries are caused by practicing incorrectly or over practicing. These injuries can be long or short term. The location of the pain depends on the instrument that you play. In general, whenever you feel any sort of pain in your fingers, wrists, hands, shoulders or any other part of your body, you should stop practicing. Especially if you are a beginner, it’s a good idea to mention the pains in your class, so your teacher can resolve it. Also, there are certain warning signs about your instrument that your teacher can tell you and you should be aware of. Don’t keep your pains and problems to yourself.

Importantly, do some stretching and warm up (playing scales and arpeggios) exercises before starting your performance or practicing the actual piece/song. Additionally, cool down exercises can be quite crucial to avoid injuries.

Here are some general solutions to prevent any sort of injuries:

  • Make sure you are using the proper technique and have the correct positions.
  • Do some warm up exercises before you play the actual piece.
  • Wash your hands with warm water when you feel your tendons or/and fingers are tighten and tired.
  • Shake your hands in the air.
  • Gently massage your hands, fingers, shoulders, etc. when you feel tired there.

Always, remember that pain, cramping, stiffness and weakness are symptoms of injury and you should stop practicing as soon as you feel it. If you are using the proper technique and have the correct sitting position (if you need to sit) and hold your instrument correctly, then, you should be able to play comfortably. Injury symptoms are only signs that are telling you that there is something wrong with your technique, position, etc. and you should/better correct that before you go any further.

At the end, for some serious injuries, you need to see a physiotherapist. Before seeing a physiotherapist you may want to ask for some solutions from your teacher. But extreme pains are almost always a sign of serious injuries. And it is best that you visit a physiotherapist before it gets any worse. Stay healthy!

By Arash A.

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7 comments

  1. Great post! I suffered from tendonitis in my wrists and elbows from practicing piano years ago. Those cortisone shots are not fun! May I repost your article on my blog, piano-centric?

    1. Thanks Marijane. Sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately, almost all musicians experience these kinds of injuries at some extend. I hope this post can help musicians to be more aware and prevent any sort of injuries. I’ll be glad if you repost this!

  2. Reblogged this on Piano-Centric and commented:
    This is a re-post written by Arash A., who blogs at Pure Musician. Arash is a performer, composer and teacher. He has studied music performance, composition and teaching and studied at the University Of West London. He writes on an important topic for musicians: how to prevent injury. In 2006, I began studying piano again and was re-working the repertoire I played in my undergrad senior recital: a Beethoven sonata, Chopin ballade, Bach prelude and fugue and Debussy prelude. It wasn’t long before I developed tendonitis in my elbow and wrist. I received more than a couple of cortisone shots, which was no fun. I wanted to pass along the suggestions Arash made in his article in hopes that it will be of benefit to you.

    1. Thank you very much Marijane!

  3. This is a very good article. There are so many using improper technique or failure to warm up. Just doing those two things could help to avoid many injuries suffered by musicians!

    1. You are right. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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