Musicians and their craft are often intimately intertwined - they practice for countless hours, perform regularly, and sometimes push their bodies to their limits as they strive for perfection. Unfortunately, the physical toll of music-making can be significant, with musculoskeletal injuries among musicians being commonplace. Pain is a limiting factor, and yet too often, musicians will ignore it and simply ‘push through’ in order to keep performing or practicing.
This is an unwise approach, however, as pain is a sign that something is wrong and is trying to catch your attention. It should not be ignored, and instead should be treated early on in order to prevent further damage or injury. Therefore, it’s important that musicians take steps to identify and address the source of the pain and adopt safe practices and techniques to avoid further harm.
Here are some tips to help musicians manage pain while engaging with their craft:
1) Monitor your body. Pay close attention to any changes you experience when playing your instrument and don’t wait until the pain is unbearable to seek help. Pain isn’t just an indicator that you’ve done something wrong; it’s an alarm telling you that something needs to be done quickly to avert further damage.
2) Don’t tell people to push through the pain. It’s easy to think that just getting through practice or performance will make the pain go away, but this could lead to further aggravation. Instead, say, “Why don’t you go get that checked out?” A doctor or healthcare professional can diagnose the underlying cause of the pain and provide methods for addressing it appropriately.
3) Move your body. Muscles that are tight and sore are often the result of hours of sitting in one position. Take regular breaks, stretch, and take short walks to alleviate muscle tension.
4) Use practice aids. There is a range of adjustable practice devices available that are designed to reduce the risk of injury and keep you comfortable while playing. Investing in a practice aid can be a great way to ensure your body stays healthy while still achieving your musical goals.
5) Seek professional help. If the pain persists, consider seeing a physiotherapist. A qualified therapist can develop a personalized treatment plan and provide advice on how to properly protect yourself against future injury.
These tips are by no means exhaustive, but they serve as a reminder that pain should never be taken lightly. Too often, musicians ignore pain, and this can lead to serious long-term consequences. Remember, tight muscles seldom hurt - if you feel pain, don’t push through it, go and get it checked out.