In recent decades some focus has gathered around health and wellbeing needs of musicians. Associations such as Performing Arts Medicine Association pay attention to these specific health concerns that matter to musicians. Generally speaking, much of the preliminary research evidence into performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) hails the benefits of daily exercise.
Yes, daily exercise!
The repetitive motions and seemingly static positions that are involved with music study, practice and sometimes performance have a lot to answer for when it comes to how the injuries come about, but daily exercise is at least a starting point for dealing with injury prevention/mitigation (if at all possible) and recovery planning.
I personally think that exercise is extremely beneficial for improving movement awareness, joint and cardiovascular health as well as being beneficial for overall mood and general wellbeing. I see its benefits in my clients and also when it comes to keeping myself healthy and fit; fit enough for a 45 year old mother at least.
Recently I spoke with Ben Whybrow who is a physiotherapist with a special interest in the PRMD and especially those concerning musicians. Ben who is a guitarist and bassist, is very passionate about the subject and writes fantastic articles in Bass Guitar Magazine.
In our interview, his main suggestions for healthy music making are also centred around daily or at least regular, or at least some exercise. This plus enough sleep (can be difficult when performances finish after midnight…) and all the basic common sense tactics such as plenty of water, healthy eating habits and yes…here it comes again: some sort of regular exercise!
What about posture?
Well, Ben and I both agree that the whole notion of ‘good posture’ is making its final curtain call! Out the door it goes, and perhaps no encores for this little pesky and difficult to describe concept. Knowing that I have alluded to it here and there (yes, I can’t erase my whole internet history on this), and society is fully fixated on ‘good posture’, but I still maintain that what can truly benefit music making in this area is intelligent movement patterns and not the ‘p’ word.
If you are a person who thinks that their posture is causing their pain problems, try doing this simple experiment as an initial step to let this concept be:
Have a few ways for holding your instrument to circle through, it doesn’t matter how subtle the changes between each position may be, perhaps it’s the way you balance weight through your legs if standing or sit-bones if you are sitting. Tinny changes can make a big difference when movement and awareness are concerned If you are finding yourself stuck in a fixed position to play your instrument, it’s perhaps not the posture that may lead to PRMD’s but the lack of efficient movement.
As always, start by seeking medical advice if you are experiencing persistent PRMD type of pain.
If you have been prescribed a rest cure and exercise and happen to be a reluctant to get started, you may find some impetus to get yourself on track by reading Ben Whybrow’s blogs posts or his fabulous articles in Bass Guitar Magazine.
If you are preparing a good healthy meal, you could perhaps listen to some of the interview linked here:
Over the coming months, I am planning simple videos and blogs to uncover some of the not so deep mysteries of why movement matters and how to find your connection to it, for the sake of your music making if for no other reason.