A Musician's Resolution: Listen to Your Body

The 2015 Holiday Season has come to a close and I am in the midst of getting back to school with luggage filled with memories, a belly stuffed with great food, and an unrelenting shooting pain in my neck.


We have all be there: hands that are painful when opening/closing, lower back issues, a never ceasing tension in shoulder muscles, tennis elbow... Although some aches come from just living life, most people don't realize that musicians suffer from our own "job-related" health issues.  Like athletes, it is crucial that we are acutely aware of our bodies and the signals it sends.

Recently I found an educational website geared towards musician wellness - Musician's Way (based on the book The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness), and created by Gerald Klickstein, Director of Music Entrepreneurship and Career Development at the Peabody School of Music.  


The site offers articles, resources and downloadable materials on Practice, Performance, Creativity, Careers, Workshops, and Wellness.  Two articles in the wellness section, both written by Mr. Klickstein, caught my attention:  5 Causes of Musician's Injury and The 12 Habits of Healthy Musicians.


Although these articles refrain from detailed medical explanations of body issues and common illnesses, they do summarize the top reasons why musicians get hurt and further provide quick tips to keep in mind. 


5 Causes begins by reminding us that, "High-level music making brings immeasurable rewards and also comes with risks of injury. But if we understand the risks, we can minimize them and position ourselves to keep performing for life. This post spotlights the 5 main causes of musicians’ injuries (aside from those that affect hearing) along with ways in which we can sidestep common mishaps.”  


The 5 Causes Include:

1.) Overuse - Repetitious motion that comes with hours of practice and rehearsals

2.)  Misuse - Having incorrect body positions and ignoring signs of potential issues

3.) Accidents - Not taking into consideration hauling instruments and gear around stages and up and down steps

4.) Anatomical Differences - Not adjusting to individual needs such as having smaller hands or longer torso's

5.) Individual Sensitivities - Personal issues that can get worse,  such as allergies, weak eyesight, or hearing loss


Acknowledging that wellness issues can and do occur frequently, The 12 Habits of Healthy Musicians goes on to list healthy tips to consider applying to our everyday practice habits:


1.)  Increase playing or singing time gradually

2.)  Limit repetition 3.)  Regulate hand- or voice-intensive tasks 4.)  Manage your workload 5.)  Warm up and cool down 6.)  Minimize tension 7.)  Take breaks 8.)  Heed warning signs 9.) Take charge of anxiety 10.) Keep fit and strong 11.) Conserve your hearing 12.) Care for your voice


The info is both useful and applicable, but what really made an impression on me was the summation, “If we notice an odd twinge when playing or singing, we should stop, rest, and get help, and never push through the persistent pain.” With this in mind, I'm taking extra care of my neck to ensure no further damage occurs!

While many New Year's resolutions focus on hitting the gym in order to get in shape, I’ve resolved to be more aware of what my body is telling me to ensure I stay in shape and enjoy a long-lasting musical career.  How about you?

Blaire K.S. Koerner, DMA

Bassoonist, Teacher, Entrepreneur

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Blaire K.S. Koerner