I love watching musicians play music and enjoy watching them “mother” their instruments even more. They minister oils, dutifully dust, insulate and protect the instruments that bring so much to their lives. I have also witnessed their struggles with their body limitations when playing their instrument. Musicians can get pained, sore, tired, injured, repetitive strain, TMJ, carpal tunnel, numbness, headaches and other issues as a result of strain of over use and misuse for years. Some of these problems are unique to musicians but many can be seen in the general population.
Your body is doing amazing things as you play an instrument. Your brain is translating sheet music, syncing with other instruments, contracting muscles, and coordinating millions of signals throughout your body to allow you to achieve great timing and cohesion. If there is pressure on the intricate system of nerves running through you, it can make it harder for your body to orchestrate (pun intended) the complexity of tasks it is attempting.
The TONE of the sound emitted changes when a string holds to much or too little tension. If there is too much or too little tension on the wires or nerves in your body, the TONE or FUNCTION of your nervous system changes. This can result in disharmony or dysfunction in the body. Tuning your spine can help your body to function better. A better functioning body can make the world of difference in learning and performing.
Over the years, my husband, Dr. Steve Jarboe, and I have cared for many musicians in our practice. For some, we have helped their bodies to heal from specific pains of the moment through our specific gentle chiropractic care. We have also helped some musicians to understand how position can stress the body and how to offset this stress and prevent further problems from developing. Some musicians include chiropractic care as part of their overall wellness program.
It is easier to stay well than to get well. For most musicians, once a problem comes to your awareness, it has been “brewing” for some time. Like heart disease and cancer, spinal problems usually grow quietly, getting worse and worse over time. Many of the issues we have discussed in this article are EASILY preventable. When you care for your instrument well, you get a better sound over a longer period of time. Your body needs you in order to be able to play, “sound” and feel good, for a long period of time
Children can get their spines checked early. You have most likely heard the old adage, “As the twig is bent so grows the tree.” As children’s spines, ligaments, tendons and muscles are growing they are exposed to different strains. Bad posture or repeated strain that goes uncorrected can cause these structures to grow crookedly and with significant pressure on the nerve system. Our office takes care of many children with the gentleness and excellence that we expect for our own little ones.
Love your body as much as you love your instrument. We ask our bodies to bear many burdens, physically, mentally and chemically without always supporting them to go the distance. Perhaps if we could see our bodies in the same light we see the instruments we lovingly give pet names, snuggle and adore, then it would be easier to support ourselves.
Tips for Healthy Practice and Performance
- Take breaks. Changing positions every 20 minutes is one the most helpful ergonomic tools. Even if it is slight, it can help your muscles. .
- Stretch. You warm up your voice, lips or fingers so remember the rest of your body. A simple stretching routine of your back, shoulders, arms, and fingers can help ensure safer and more long lasting practice and performance.
- Maintain good posture. Proper posture will allow easier breathing and more relaxed playing. Poor posture, such as slouching or lifted shoulders, can lead to long-term spinal problems.
- Aim for a positive outlook. Remember to enjoy the music you make. A positive attitude can affect your muscle tension, save your body’s energy and possibly improve your performance.
- Don’t ignore pain. Pain is not normal. Your body is telling you that something is wrong. Don’t ignore what your body is trying to tell you or you may just make the problem worse and make recovery longer and more difficult. Try to discover what may be causing any discomfort and work to correct it. There are many ways to care for our bodies, good nutrition, exercise, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture are some of my personal favorites.