Musicians’ are small muscle athletes, they need to warm up and cool down in the same way as Olympic athletes would.
After doing a poll over on my instagram (go give me a follow to see what I get up to @amypianist) a shocking 90% of people said that they have either experienced pain or have developed an injury while playing their instrument. The problem is, we don’t talk about this enough. It is often frowned upon to have an injury, we are told to play through pain and ignore it. I’m very lucky that the teachers I have had while studying at RWCMD have promoted staying physically and mentally healthy. However, this isn’t always the case.
As someone who couldn’t play without pain, and now only has the occasional flare up once every 3 or 4 months, I have made a short guide on how to find help.
1. Inform yourself
Do some research, a quick Google search can often help you to understand why you’re experiencing pain or what the different types of pain can mean. (Don’t take Google’s word as an official diagnosis, it’s just a search engine not a doctor).
2. Speak to a medical professional
Whether that is through the NHS, waiting lists will be longer, a private GP or BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine) you need to speak to someone.
3. Decide what remedy/solution is right for you
There are too many for me to list, but you may be offered: hot/cold treatment, physio, Alexander Technique lessons, chiropractic treatment, sports massage, weight-training, steroid injections, surgery (risky but sometimes a last resort), etc.
4. Preventing further injury
So this could mean going for a weekly sports massage, or icing your wrists when you feel a niggle. Making sure that you warm up properly, especially away from your instrument! But most importantly, learn how to pay attention and listen to your body.
Remember: a lot of physical injuries are not purely physical, they are also caused by mental stress.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO CONSULT SOMEONE ON ANY PAIN BEFORE IT BECOMES MORE SERIOUS.
You are not alone, many musicians suffer from pain and it can be debilitating. I’ve compiled a list of the best websites (in my opinion) for help with any playing related problems:
The Bulletproof Musician https://bulletproofmusician.com/
The Musician’s Way https://www.musiciansway.com/blog/2019/01/recovering-from-injury/
Musician’s Health https://www.musicianshealth.com/repetitive-injuries-continue-to-plague-musicians
Activate You (Alexander Technique) https://activateyou.com/
Melanie Spanswick https://musiceducation.global/tips-for-healthy-piano-playing/
Penelope Roskell https://peneloperoskell.co.uk/injury-prevention/
Piano Map https://www.pianomap.com/injuries/develops.html
The Well Balanced Pianist https://wellbalancedpianist.com/playing-related-injuries/