Strain to the neck, shoulders, forearms, wrist and hand is not uncommon for musicians who play for prolonged periods of time each week. This usually results from awkward arm or body positioning in handling the instrument or sitting to play. Or overuse of different muscles or tendons from playing for long periods. And can result in aches, pain & swelling in the wrists, forearms and shoulders. In some cases compression on a nerve can cause pins & needles or tingling in the hands can be experienced during or after play.
To help prevent upper limb strain from prolonged play there are some simple and effective things you can do.
1. Warm up before you play
Before picking up your instrument or sitting down to play, stretch the muscles of your fingers, wrists, forearms, shoulders & back. By gently stretching the muscles we increase blood flow, this will warm & lengthen the muscles & joints- and help prevent strain. Always move into stretches slowly, and try to hold them for at least 10 seconds each.
TIP It can help to start by playing familiar & easier pieces before leading into complex ones.
2. Set a timer, check your posture
Getting into the routine of regularly checking your posture can help to prevent strain. Consider setting a timer as a regular reminder. As a general rule it is beneficial to engage your core, relax shoulders, keep neck upright, and relax tight muscle groups.
3. Take a break
Factor in regular short rest breaks throughout practice. It is easy to get caught up and concentrate on playing and loose track of time. Taking regular breaks, pause, move, stretch, drink water and take note of any built up tensions. Resting and changing position will help prevent nerve compression & tendinitis.
4. Strengthen up
It is beneficial to strengthen particular muscles which work to position the arm and hold the instrument with aim to preventing injury. Bring your instrument into clinic (if possible), and we can customise a strengthening program to suit you and how you play.
Author Jo Marsh
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