Musicians' Health Tips and Links

The most common types of health-related problems that are directly related to being a musician are hearing loss and various types of repetitive stress injuries, but performance anxiety, focal dystonia, and a variety of other conditions may also be experienced by musicians. 

The brief descriptions and links below are provided to help you find information that may be useful to you in avoiding injury or in seeking professional help for an injury.  They are not intended to provide a professional diagnosis or to qualify you for self-diagnosis.  If you are experiencing problems similar to those outlined below, you should seek professional help, either from university medical personnel or from your family doctor.

Hearing Loss can become a problem for performers and audiences alike.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published guidelines outlining limits to exposure to loud noises in the workplace.  For musicians, these limits may be reached or exceeded even in what we might think are routine musical experiences, such as practicing or performing, whether alone in a practice room or in an ensemble--or even when listening to live or recorded music.  The most commonly experienced symptom of hearing damage among musicians is tinnitus, a condition commonly described as "ringing in the ears."  It is often caused by continued exposure to loud sounds, but can be experienced as the result of a brief exposure to a very loud sound.  Loss of hearing acuity, especially in the higher frequencies, is also commonly experienced among musicians. Some types of hearing damage are irreparable, so if you want to have a long career, it is important to take dangers to your hearing seriously. Limiting your exposure to loud sounds and the use of ear plugs while practicing in loud environments can reduce your level of risk.

 American Tinnitus Association
www.ata.org

Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers
www.hearnet.com

OSHA: Hearing Conservation
http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3074.pdf

Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation, Inc.
www.sensaphonics.com

Repetitive Stress Injuries, are often experienced by musicians as a result of intensive practice or performance situations.  Several of the most common types of injury include tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder) and carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the median nerve in the wrist).  Tendonitis is characterized by pain, stiffness, or swelling near a joint, while carpal tunnel syndrome is usually associated with tingling in the thumb and first three fingers (but not in the little finger, which is served by a different nerve).

American Physical Therapy Association
http://www.apta.org/

Move Well and Avoid Injury
Movewellavoidinjury.com

OSHA:  Repetitive Stress Injuries
http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=206

Performance Anxiety and Dystonia.  So many musicians have experienced performance anxiety that personal remedies and folklore abound.  Be careful when evaluating treatment claims, and never take a medicine on the recommendation of anyone who is not a physician.  Even over-the-counter remedies can interact in harmful ways with other medications you may be taking.  Check with your doctor first!  While performance anxiety is very common, focal dystonia is a relatively rare condition.  The foundation listed below is a good source for information about this problem.

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation
www.dystonia-foundation.org

Performance Anxiety Musicans' Wellness Inc.
www.performancewellness.org

Specific Training Techniques for Avoiding Injury.  The websites below present some of the many varieties of training techniques that have been developed specifically with musicians in mind.  Some of these are relatively simple and free, while others require professional training.  It would be good to research their claims and techniques carefully before paying for any specific regimen or series of trainings.

Alexander Technique
http://www.alexandertechnique.com/

Andover Educators: What Every Musician Should Know
www.bodymap.org

Feldenkrais Method
http://www.feldenkrais.com/

Musicians Survival Manual
http://musicianssurvivalmanual.com/Exercise_for_Musicians.html

Playing Less Hurt (Janet Horvath)
http://www.playinglesshurt.com/links/

Vocal Health.  Singers, teachers, and others who use their voices for a living can be susceptible to specific voice-related injuries.  Some of these can result in permanent damage that may affect a career.  Specialized training is required to diagnose and treat these problems.  The links below provide more information.

The Voice Doctor
http://voicedoctor.net/

Singing for a Living
http://www.singingforaliving.com/articles/vocal-health-tips/

Websites Related to Specific Instruments

A brass players' resource for dental and facial problems
www.embouchures.com

Thomas Mark's Piano mapping, movement retraining for pianists
www.pianomap.com

General Musicians' Health Websites

American Federation of Musicians (AFM)
http://www.afm.org/resources/health-and-therapy

Eastman School of Music Learning Center
www.polyphonic.org

Healthy Musicians Workshop
http://www.healthymusicianworkshop.com/

The Performing Arts Medical Association (PAMA)
www.artsmed.org


 

 

 

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