Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

When a Musician Needs a Physician

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

When a Musician Needs a Physician

Article excerpt

When the Musician Needs a Physician

Three out of four musicians surveyed said they had experienced at least one playing-related medical problem severe enough to affect their performance, according to a report from the University of Texas Medical School and Hermann Hospital in Houston.

Dr. Alan Lockwood surveyed 2,112 members of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and found that their playing-related problems fell into four basic categories: (1) overuse syndrome, (2) neural impingement, (3) focal dystonias, and (4) psychological stress.

The most frequently cited problem, overuse syndrome, was reported by 64% of the musicians, and was defined as "injuries caused by the cumulative effects on tissues of repetitive physical stress that exceeds physiologic limits." Overuse syndrome most frequently involves the muscles and tendons of the hands, Dr. Lockwood said, and the symptoms can range from "mild pain while the musician is playing to pain severe enough to preclude use of the hand." The greatest risk factor for overuse syndrome is "the use of repetitive movements during long hours of practice," he said, "but awkward body positions mandated by the shape and weight of the instrument, the technical difficulty of the repertoire, and unfamiliar instruments may also play a part."

In the survey, string players were most likely to experience this condition, and women were more commonly affected than men. The cornerstone of therapy for overuse syndrome, he said, is rest. Neural impingement involves the swelling of the tissues surrounding nerves, and most commonly takes the form of carpal tunnel syndrome (compression of the nerves leading to the hand), although it can also involve the entire arm. …

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