SHIFNAL CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC

Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic

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Chiropractic for Musicians

28/09/2015

This week, I thought I would focus on a very special group of people.  Musicians.  Unlike playing a lot of sport, playing music is not generally associated with pain and injury.  Similarly, it is not as commonly thought of as those who spend extended periods at the desk or in manual work and end up with job-related problems.

But it is actually not that uncommon for musicians to experience a variety of problems, whether they play just for fun occasionally or more seriously.  Most of my lovely patients are well aware that I have a horse, I’m interested in vintage cars and I spend a lot of time at the gym, but it may be a little less well-known that I am also a keen musician.  From a very young age, I have played a variety of instruments, and I was a member of the local church choir when I was young enough to need  a box to stand on so I could see over the pew! All of this has given me a rather special insight in to the problems that can be associated with tinkering around – or practicing for that virtuoso concert.

Just this week, I had a patient in who enjoys playing classical guitar. The position required for classical guitar playing is very different from other forms of guitar, and it was making this patient’s shoulder ache after just a few minutes.  Similarly, I myself have experienced the burning pain between the shoulder blades whenever I played in the Bournemouth University Orchestra.

Why should this be? And is it worse to be a professional who continually plays, or an amateur who messes around a couple of times a week?

The answer is, of course, that while it is not a sport playing music requires a huge amount of muscle control and often a fair degree of cardiovascular fitness.  Whether you play violin, guitar, piano, flute or simply sing, you need to be 100% in control of your whole body at all times, otherwise the music will be less than perfect.

One major factor is posture.  It is a widely accepted fact that modern posture has become rather sloppy – we tend to slouch, whether sitting on a sofa, at the desk, or standing in a queue at Tesco.  But this posture simply doesn’t work for music.  My own burning pain while sitting playing violin in an orchestra was a simple case of the muscles which hold my back up straight and pull my shoulders back and down (basic good posture, in other words) not being used to performing that function.  Rehearsals were usually a couple of hours long, with only a 10minute break in the middle, and concerts were similarly long and usually preceded by a rehearsal.  In effect, I was asking my body to perform a similar feat as someone who suddenly asks their body to go for a 4 hour run, having done nothing more strenuous up to that point than a gentle stroll down the road.

Then there is the repetitive nature of the actions. Not such a problem for singers, but in just about every other instrument I can think of, you are required to move your hands or your arms and sometimes even your legs many times a minute.  As you read this, try drumming alternate fingers as fast as you can for one minute – so thumb, middle finger, index, ring, middle again and finally little finger.  I bet that most of you will find your hand starts to ache long before the minute is up.  So imagine the strain you put your hand through when you are determined to master a particularly tricky bit of a Beethoven Piano Sonata, or Telemann’s Recorder Concerto. Playing the same part, over and over, sometimes for hours to achieve perfection.  Tendonitis, or repetitive strain injuries, are very common in this situation.

So Music. A wonderful, relaxing pastime, and one I am extremely grateful my parents encouraged me to pursue.  If the stresses of the day become too much, and I need to just calm down and lose myself for a while it is always to one of my instruments that I turn.  Even singing can be extraordinarily beneficial – the breath control, the endorphin release as you join your voice with others to create the most beautiful and incredible music with no more technical instrument than your vocal chords.  It has been proven that those who regularly sing in a choir often have a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and lower levels of depression.  But for all that, assuming the necessary posture for even a short while when as an amateur your body isn’t used to it, or the hours of practice required to perfect your chosen medium, there are unquestionably stresses placed on your body – and who better to help you deal with those than your very own musical Chiropractor?

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