Is Your Instrument Your Enemy?

Like any other physical activity, playing an instrument can take a toll on the body. Musicians face specific strains on their hands, fingers, and wrists. Many of these strains can result in injuries similar to those of professional athletes and frequent computer users. Although some strain is inevitable, education and prevention can alleviate many of the symptoms that are caused by playing an instrument.

Typical Injuries

Many of the injuries that occur to musicians involve tendons, muscles, and nerves; or a combination of all three. Repetitive motion and strain is the main cause of these pains. Diagnosing musician's injuries can range from fairly easy to difficult, because gauging the exact severity of each strain is not yet an exact science.


Luckily many injuries connected to playing a music instrument can be lessened, or even eliminated, by preventative measures. Each instrument has a specific way it is intended to be held and played. Researching the correct posture for playing the instrument and how exactly to sit, stand, and position your limbs can be key in keeping excellent form, and preventing injury.

Just like deciding what musical instrument is right for you, picking out the actual instrument that will be used to develop this skill is just as important and personal. When choosing your instrument, keep in mind that you will be performing repetitive motions for extended periods of time. Choosing an instrument that is too heavy, too tall, or too large can produce a ripple of frustration and pain in the future. Enlisting a knowledgeable and experienced musician to accompany you in the selection of your instrument is a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Warm ups are suggested to loosen the muscles and prepare the body for continuous strain. Like an athlete, stretching can relieve tension and help create a smooth muscular flow in a practiced musician. Taking at least several minutes, before and after, practice to warm up and then cool down is recommended for optimal preparation. The exact warm ups you decide to do can be catered slightly to the instrument you play. Generally they are smooth fluid stretches of the hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders.

Exercise sessions, independent of the instrument playing practice sessions, are recommended for a musician's overall well-being and strength. Creating muscle strength, a strong solid core, proper balance, and healthy habits may result in an increased stamina which is necessary in performing and playing any musical instrument at length. T'ai Chi, Yoga, and Pilates are three exercises designed to clear the mind and improve strength, stability, and stamina. 


Occasionally even when proper precautions are taken injuries still may occur. Depending on your injury a general doctor may be able to provide your diagnosis and treatment. However, if the injury is severe or persistent a specialized doctor such as a neurologist or a physical therapist may be necessary. 


Researching your specific instrument and the proper way to use it, is one of the most basic things that can be done to avoid injury. In addition to the internet, books, CDs, and DVDs can provide valuable information on how to create and sustain the health and well-being of any musician.