Posture and Musicians

If you’re a musician, how often do you exercise?  Specifically, how often do you exercise in ways that are specific to your needs as a musician.  You probably don’t.  It’s not all your fault.  How many instructors encourage their students to asses their posture, maintain physical strength, and exercise to improve their physical abilities?  Not many.  It’s very rarely emphasized, or acknowledged at all, from when you first start playing your instrument all the way through successful professional careers.

Musicians spend so much time playing when they’re young, that they may not be able to play when they’re old.  What I mean by this, is that with so much time spent practicing and practicing, we contort our bodies into positions they’re not designed to be in.  Over time, our bodies acclimate to these positions, and we develop musculoskeletal issues and overuse injuries.

With so much obvious emphasis on developing the technical skills required to perform at the next level, development of the physical abilities which facilitate these technical skills go by the wayside.  If musicians put in the same level of dedication to the upkeep of their bodies, they would certainly increase the length of their careers.

Sure, he may be good, but eventually he’ll look like that forever.  Is that what you want?  Didn’t think so.

If you consider the standard position that you find most musicians in, there is a general trend towards the same posture, despite specific instrumentation.  Now, players of each instrument may run into their own specific issues, but looking at musicians as a population demonstrates a few noticeable issues, including but not limited to forward head posture, internally rotated upper arms, kyphosis, elevated and abducted scapula, posterior pelvic tilt, hip internal/external rotation issues…When considering every issue, the list is infinitely long.  Many of these upper body issues, which are present in both seated and standing musicians, can be categorized as Upper Cross Syndrome. (Read about it here.)

Seated musicians run into a few more lower body issues which influence the health of their lumbar spines, hips, knees, and ankles.  The quick fix, is to play your instrument standing unless you must absolutely do so in a seated position.  (Sorry, cello and organ players.)  When you’re standing, given that you’re doing so correctly, it will cue your body into alignment, which should help to minimize some of the overuse issues inherent with playing an instrument.   The postural and musuloskeletal issues that present in this population are the same exact ones that show up in the computer based population.  Long periods spent seated, hunched over, with our hands and arms working in front of of the chest.  The same exact issues come in to play!  I highly recommend THIS article by Tony Gentilcore and Mike Robertson.  It’ll explain a number of corrective strategies to use in an exercise routine that will reduce the chances of discomfort, injury, and pain.  When attention is payed to physical performance as much as it to musical performance, far fewer musicians will end up looking like this.

It’s important that posture is assessed and corrected so that lives can be lived at a higher quality.  As musicians, this translates into people able to play longer and stronger.  Who doesn’t want that?!

There are many sources relating to the health of musicians.  HERE is a database of articles and resources that discuss the health and physical concerns of musicians.  THIS explains some of the common musculoskeletal issues that musicians suffer from.  We see that ergonomics and posture are important for the comfort and longevity of musicians.  Finally, we see that there is growing concern in the medical field about the issues encountered by musicians in their daily lives and performances.

Physical discomfort and pain are a problem for many people.  Far too many of us suffer from overuse issues and musculoskeletal injuries that lower quality of life and can be severely debilitating.  Musicians are part of a larger population that is at risk for these concerns due to long periods of time spent in positions of poor posture.  It is advantageous for musicians of all ages to address their limitations and work to restore and maximize function.

It will not only lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life, but it will also enhance one’s physical abilities, therefore increasing their abilities as a musician.

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