“Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion.
It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date.
It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can.
It can get us dancing to its beat.”
~From the book jacket Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
BUT WHAT OF the musician? Whether you toot, bow, drum or strum, if you do enough of it you will probably experience muscle pain. Muscle pain is determined by the way muscles are used or misused throughout life.
Occupation – any occupation – limits normal muscle function. In the case of the musician, unrelieved limitation of normal muscle function puts a ceiling on performance. A ceiling on performance frustrates the artist.
“Musicians are a very special breed. They are artists, with all the discontent of the artist: They seek perfection, like the accountant: they are the athletes of the art world, and they are sinned against by ignorant teachers from the very start. There is no physical education provided for the musician in the American school system. Music schools are no better.” Myotherapy: Bonnie Prudden’s Complete Guide to Pain-Free Living
Serious musicians begin at a very early age to practice long hours holding their bodies to a very small range of motion. As the years progress and ability improves, the range is lessened even further as the performer finds exactly the right way to sit, stand and address the instrument to produce the best sound. In time, the muscles maintaining this “exactly right” position tend to shorten and become less flexible causing discomfort, especially when the artist is under the stress of performing in public.
While conducting Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy and Fitness workshops during the summers at Alfred University in NY, we met students from the Julliard School. It is reported that 75% of music students have a cap on their careers before they even graduate. The musician, like everyone else in America is a victim of insufficient physical outlet to balance the emotional stress produced by day to day living. While the average person and the musician both suffer from stress, the musician’s stress can be heard through the fingers.
Muscles have the ability to relax and contract. Strength plus flexibility in the proper timing and intensity give you coordination.
When muscles are used over and over in the same pattern of movement they accumulate trigger points, irritable spots in the muscle which cause the muscle to tense and shorten. As the muscle shortens it not only begins to ache, but it begins to lose its flexibility and its strength…. and there goes your coordination and finesse.
The musician’s pattern of trigger points and pattern of muscle pain is determined by the instrument: how it is held, how much it weighs and whether it a wind, percussion, string, or keyboard.
Once you recognize the habitual use patterns of your instrument you will be better able to change them. The French horn player will most likely have trigger points in the abdominals, intercostals and jaw… the violin player will experience problems in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arm, wrist and low back… for the pianist, it will be in the neck, shoulders and back.
If you have been following the blogs you already know a little about Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy. In a nutshell, it is pressure to trigger points plus re-educating muscles with corrective exercise. Pressure to the trigger points by means of fingers, knuckles, elbows or therapy tools helps the muscle to relax. The corrective exercise helps the muscle learn the new habit of relaxing. It is a little like straightening out the rope after you’ve taken the knot out.
Once you have “taken out” the trigger points, done the corrective exercise and reduced or erased the muscle pain, it is incumbent on the musician to establish a series of exercises to be done throughout the day. These corrective exercises – which of course should be done to music – do three things:
- They teach the muscle a new habit, and help keep the pain from returning;
- They get rid of tension BEFORE it has time to accumulate in the muscle; and
- They give the muscle a variety of movement.
To get your body in tune, use Myotherapy: Bonnie Prudden’s Complete Guide to Pain Free Living.
If you need help getting started, please contact me via www.bonnieprudden.com.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy