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What Makes Musicians Prone To Repetitive Strain
Dr. Timothy Jameson
Timothy Jameson is a chiropractor who specialises in
musicians health and wellness, and runs the renowned
His website is devoted to the
understanding of why musicians are susceptible to
injury, especially painful neck, shoulder, arm and hand
problems. Musicians can learn why injuries develop, how
to prevent them, and discover health enhancement options
available . Read on to hear what he has to say
about repetitive injuries in musicians.
Many musicians have heard horror-stories about
comrades who were excellent performing artists until
they developed a repetitive strain injury to the arm or
hand. Then their career either temporarily stopped or
was finished due to this debilitating injury. Why are
musicians prone to these injuries? What can be done
about them? In this article you will learn why your
hands and arms are at risk for injury, and what you can
do to help prevent problems from developing in the first
In my experience working
with hundreds of people who have suffered RSIs, there's
a common trait among them. It is the "I thought the pain
would go away" concept. Many musicians are out their
(maybe yourself) who are currently attempting to play
their instrument, even though their arms, elbows,
shoulders, or neck are killing them. You have to realize
that pain is your body's warning signal. It is like the
oil light in your car. If the oil light goes on, do you
simply say "let's see if that will turn off by itself.
It can't be that important." That would be ludicrous,
wouldn't it? Eventually, the engine would dry out, heat
up, and for all intensive purposes seize up and be
first begin to understand why the body malfunctions.
There's some basic information you need to know about
the body. I'll keep it simple and
as short as possible.
Your nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and all
the nerves that branch off the spinal cord) controls
EVERYTHING in your body. This includes muscles,
organs, glands, tissues, cells, immunity, hormones,
etc. Let's put it another way - there's nothing that
occurs in your body without the brain
nerve system is the "life force" of the body. It
literally supplies life to the muscles, tissues,
glands, and organs. Without this life-supplying
nerve input, your tissues disease and eventually
die. Ever see what a spinal cord injury does to a
person? That's a pure example of a deadened nerve
Insults to your body, in the form of physical
stresses, chemical stresses, or emotional stresses
can "blow fuses" and irritate the nervous system.
This causes abnormal signals to reach the tissues,
organs, and glands. Let's break down these types of
stresses and how they relate to musicians:
(things that physically stress your body) Bad
posture while playing your instrument, prolonged
playing times without breaks,
playing in one position (sitting for example)
for a long time, previous car or motorcycle
accidents, birth injuries (as a baby), quickly
ramping up practicing times due to an upcoming
gig or recital, being out of shape & overweight,
sitting at computers for a long time, playing
computer games hour after hour.
(things to knowingly, or unknowlingly put into
your body), drugs and alcohol, prescription
drugs, fast food, vaccines, toxic
chemicals in your environment (like chemicals
you're exposed to by work or at home), a bad
(stuff you're thinking about) getting that
recording contract, composing and finishing
songs by a deadline, record company execs being
a pain is the ***, family stresses, relationship
stressors, job stresses other than your music
career, death of loved ones, relocating, being
on tour without family or loved ones nearby, and
finally your negative thinking AKA "stinkin'
thinkin'" I bet you never thought that all these
things mentioned have a direct impact on your
Continued physical, chemical, and emotional
stressors will short-circuit your nervous system and
lead to things called "spinal subluxations". "A
spinal what?" you ask? A subluxation is a
misalignment of a spinal bone(s) that exerts stress
on your nerve system. This leads to malfunction of
tissues that affected nerves supply, in some cases
muscles, in some cases organs, and in some cases,
These continued stressors will eventually lead to
symptoms due to repeated stress on the nerve system.
Prolonged, uncared for stresses will lead to
disease, disability, and eventually a shortened
So let's summarize in a real, practical situation that
every musician can understand. You feel that you're in
pretty good health, except for the fast food (chemical
stress) that seems to be part of your lifestyle lately.
You know that you're not eating right, but hey, there's
this recording deal that you have to provide music for.
You're spending 8 to 10 hours a day composing music,
(physical stress) sitting at your guitar and piano. That
certainly doesn't give you time to fix good meals.
What's worse is that your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is
hounding you because you don't spend enough time with
them. (Emotional stress)
Your dad recently had a heart attack, and your torn
because you can't spend enough time with him right now.
(emotional stress) You're finding that one or two beers
isn't sufficing anymore. Drinking a six-pack is becoming
part of your practice sessions. (chemical stress)
To top things off, your back is beginning to hurt after
playing guitar for more than a few hours, so you begin
taking some ibuprofen every day to make it through the
sessions. (chemical stress)
Now do you see what I'm getting at? Your health is a
conglomerate of YOU. What you're eating, taking, saying,
doing, and hearing. YOU ONLY DEVELOP AN INJURY WHEN
THESE CONTINUED STRESS FACTORS BEGIN TO BREAK DOWN YOUR
NERVOUS SYSTEM AND CAUSE YOUR MUSCLES, ORGANS, AND
GLANDS TO DISEASE.
So, let's consider your injury, if you have one, at this
point in time. Look back at this list of stressors and
see which ones you've experienced lately.
And it doesn't have to be within the past month or two.
This list can go back to birth! Complicated you say?
You're right. When a person walks in my office with an
RSI, we have to investigate that entire person's life to
find out what stressors led him/her to this current
symptom. In many cases, even though the pain is in the
arm, the actual nerve stress that is leading to the
symptom can stem from the brain stem, neck, upper back,
and lower back. You have to investigate the whole body.
So what can you do now that you understand this better?
First, work at relieving stressors in your life. (That's
not easy) Second, if you think your life stressors have
taken their toll on your body, then visit a chiropractor
to determine if your nervous system is shutting down, or
is working at half-mast. Third, if you are having active
RSI-type symptoms, don't wait - run, to a chiropractic
office for a complete evaluation and treatment. For a
list of chiropractors who have experience working with
musicians, go to my web site,
Copyright © 1998-2004 Timothy
Jameson. All Rights Reserved.
About The Author: Dr.
Timothy Jameson has been in private chiropractic practice for 15
years. Dr. Jameson has spent the last six years focusing on the
care of the musician population. His practice is family-oriented
and he also specializes in the care of infants and children.
(Our musicians to be!) He is the author of “The Musicians Guide
to Health and Wellness, which is available for download at
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