iStock_000001116206XSmallRepetitive Strain Injuries in Guitarists and other String Instrument Players

Research has shown that stringed instrument players have more musculo-skeletal problems than any other musicians. Between all the hours of practise and any performances, your body is put under great strain due to the repetition of small, precise movements required to play proficiently and many postural issues caused by holding your instrument and playing for prolonged periods.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an umbrella term for a group of conditions which affect the muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues of the body. Areas affected may include; wrist and arm, shoulder, neck, back and even the lower limbs. Symptoms you might experience include; sharp pain, dull ache, numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of grip and restriction of movement.

It would be preferable to avoid getting any RSI condition but for those who already suspect they may have one, the best course of action is to get a correct diagnosis from a professional medical person who specialises in musculo-skeletal disorders (osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors). You can of course approach your G.P. who will refer you to a specialist via the NHS, however this may involve waiting.

Prevention and Management

  • Be aware of the other ways you may be putting yourself at risk either in work or in your free time. Any other activity that adds to the cumulative effects on your injury (including prolonged use of keyboards, texting on your mobile, game console playing, etc)  need to be reviewed and modified.
  • General lifestyle changes will make a difference not only to your everyday health but will also improve the functioning of the body itself and improve recovery. Eating a balanced and healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise and ensuring you get enough sleep will all help with this. Reduce your alcohol consumption and try to stop smoking, both have negative effects on your circulation and the healing process.
  • Body management and postural improvement therapies such as Alexander Technique, Pilates and Tai Chi can all help you identify, improve and correct long term bad habits with your posture and increase flexibility.
  • Application of a cold pack to the affected area may be beneficial in many instances, especially after long periods of use. If you have a circulatory condition it is not advisable to ice the area and it could be made worse if you do. There are also good cooling products on the market (e.g. Biofreeze) which can help with the inflammatory process and help relieve pain.
  • A programme of stretches tailored to your individual condition will be extremely beneficial. As doing the wrong stretches could make the condition worse, it is not possible to recommend any individual stretches without assessing you. Below you will find listed a few sites which do show some stretches but remember you are strongly advise to proceed with caution and stop if you feel any discomfort or if your symptoms are made worse.

Here is a link to the national RSI website. It is a great source for information and even has a forum where sufferers can share their experiences.

Here is a link to a site where books specific to musicians and prevention of injury are listed with general advice.

Please be aware Pivotal have no control over these sites and cannot be held responsible for any advice given or followed. Again we strongly suggest you get any injuries looked at by a medical professional including manual therapists such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, etc.

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