No matter what kind of music you play, all serious musicians run the risk of sustaining debilitating performance injuries. When it comes to these injuries, repetitive motion is the main culprit. This means that over-practicing and bad playing habits could end up getting you into a world of trouble as far as pain and injuries go. Here’s a few tips to help you avoid performance injuries.
You’re not invincible
Feel young, invincible, and ready to take on the world with your music? That’s great, but performance injuries should be a major concern whether you’re completely new to music or have been playing seriously for decades. According to the University of Las Vegas, 76% of orchestra musicians will experience a debilitating performance-related injury at some point in their careers. And though there’s no clear statistic when it comes to musicians in pop music, one could assume that the performance injuries are just as serious of a problem for serious musicians in other fields. As musicians, we heavily rely on our bodies when it comes to practicing and performing, but no one is invincible. The first step towards avoiding performance injuries is keeping that fact in mind.
Learn to identify patterns that cause pain
This might sound weird, but pain is a good thing that’s been specifically designed by your body to help save you from injury. Pain is your body’s way of saying, “Hey, the thing you’re doing is hurting me. Stop!” Rather than playing through pain and ignoring your body, stop what you’re doing immediately and assess the situation if you feel like something is wrong while you’re playing. Everything from improper playing technique to over-practicing can cause pain and discomfort, but you won’t be able to figure out what’s really going on unless you stop what you’re doing.
If you’re gearing up for a long practice session, one of the best things you can do to prevent injury is to warm up and ease into the more strenuous aspects of your playing slowly. Whether it’s weightlifting or drumming, our bodies are at the greatest risk for injury when we don’t transition into physically demanding tasks correctly.
The importance of taking breaks and stretching
Whether you’re a singer or a classical guitarist, taking frequent breaks is mandatory if you’re trying to prevent strain and injury. If you need to, set a timer on your phone to remind you to take a short break at least every half-hour. And depending on what your main instrument is, stretching your fingers, limbs and back during these breaks will help prevent injuries brought on by repetitive motion.
Depending on your unique musical career, this all might be easier said than done, of course. But if you’re a musician intent on staying healthy and active over the long-term, taking breaks, stretching and taking care of your body simply isn’t an option. The good habits you form now will benefit not only your body but also your musicianship over the course of your entire career.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.