Earlier research on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as occupational hazards, were mostly focused on those engaged in frequent or repetitive lifting of heavy objects, or exposed repeatedly to vibrations, as well as those constrained to maintain an awkward position for prolonged periods. It was not until the 1980s when the medical community took interest in researching about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) experienced by professional orchestral musicians.
It became evident that musculoskeletal symptoms became common complaints among orchestral musicians. The medical community therefore started conducting studies on why and how professional orchestral musicians become prone to developing MSDs.
The Whys and How Orchestral Musicians are Susceptible to MSDs?
As professionals, it is imperative for orchestral musicians to practice daily; carrying on with highly complicated actions for prolonged hours. That way, they can perform classical masterpieces in illustrious venues where the demonstration of their elite skills are appreciated by highly discerning audiences. To be able to accomplish their musical profession with success in a competitive industry, it is important for musicians to be in optimal state of psychological and physical functioning.
Studies show that musculoskeletal disorders are common among those who play string instruments. Violinists and violists, as examples, tend to suffer from painful conditions occurring in the jaw, neck, shoulder, back, and hands. Pain that may either be muscular or nerve related, are caused by repetitive actions, whilst carrying or holding musical instruments while in stressful postures in extended periods.
String instrumentalists are the most affected by MSDs because pain and injury may occur in muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and joints that support neck, back and limbs.
Treatment of Performance-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder (PRMDs)
The prevalence of MSD among orchestral musicians gave rise to the distinction of their musculoskeletal ailment as Performance-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder (PRMD). Treatment of symptoms therefore for musical instrumentalists, were outlined based on their severity.
Some PRMDs require only rest and non-prescription medicines like analgesic and anti inflammatory drugs. Some others may call for adjunct medical care such as physical therapy. Severe cases of PRMDs may include rehabilitation and pain control management. Rehabilitation involves, strengthening and stretching exercises in order to stabilize muscles in affected areas.
Surface electromyogram (EMG) is another treatment, designed to aid in relaxing muscles that contract unnecessarily while playing an instrument. Acutely severe cases may require surgery, when non-surgical treatment fails in healing degenerative conditions, or if dealing with PMRDs with nerve compression syndrome.
When seeking medical treatment for MSDs , it would be best to consult with a spine surgeon like Dr. Randall F. Dryer M.D. at the Central Texas Spine Institute in Austin.