The unique and specialized area of Performing Arts Medicine is a comparatively new one. At present, there are still only a few specialist healthcare practitioners in this field, and there has been little research to date, in the assessment and management of performers. However, healthcare professionals are clear that, life-long (and perhaps, career limiting) problems can arise if incorrect technique and lack of appropriate body maintenance are not addressed at an early age.
Lengthy sessions of daily practice and the physical exertion involved in the playing of a musical instrument have led to comparisons between musicians and athletes. However, it is only recently that musicians have received this recognition, from either the medical or performing arts professional communities. The results have been that young musicians have developed poor posture and that the musculoskeletal needs of their developing bodies have not been adequately met. Whereas elite athletes in Australia often have a whole team of people looking after them to ensure peak performance with minimum possible stress on their bodies, students of musical instrumental performance are not afforded the same care.
Universities, such at The University of Western Australia (that has recently introduced a project specifically aimed at reducing young musicians’ injury risk) are doing something to address the needs of tertiary level students. However, there remains a great need for the care of younger musicians while they are still laying the foundations of their playing and the way they take care of their bodies.
The European Journal of Pain published an article pointing to the connection between reported childhood pain and in those children reporting more incidences of pain as they mature into adulthood. There is no doubt that if the problem of childhood pain is not dealt with early, it can have a serious effect on wellbeing, impacting on almost every area of a child’s life, from emotional problems to performance at school and taking part in sports and out of school activities. In addition, pain during childhood can lead to greater susceptibility to pain in adult life.
A research project looking at how often, young musicians playing string instruments, had suffered from joint or muscle pain during the past month showed that almost three-quarters of the participants had had some pain, directly related to their playing.
Children and teenagers often keep their pain to themselves and do not let those responsible for caring for them, know that they experiencing pain. This makes a preventative strategy, establishing a care plan early on for vulnerable, young musicians, even more important.
- Ackermann, B. J. (2016). From Stats to Stage–Translational Research in Performing Arts Medicine. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 31(4), 246.
- Brattberg, G. (2004). Do pain problems in young school children persist into early adulthood? A 13‐year follow‐up. European Journal of Pain, 8(3), 187-199.
- Mathews, L. (2011). Pain in children: neglected, unaddressed and mismanaged. Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 17(Suppl), S70.
- Vinci, S., Smith, A., & Ranelli, S. (2015). Selected Physical Characteristics and Playing-Related Musculoskeletal Problems in Adolescent String Instrumentalists. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 30(3), 143.