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Sheltering Arms Blog

Six Tips to Avoid Injuries While Playing Instruments


Posted on: August 2, 2019 by Jenny Lankford

By: Roxanne Williams, PT, DPT

You may have begun playing an instrument as a young child, or maybe you began to build your skills later in life. Musicianship can be enjoyed quietly by oneself, or shared with others in small groups or grand ensembles.

Remember that making music is a physical pursuit and requires athleticism! It is easy to get lost in the technical aspects of perfecting your music and the fulfillment playing with others. Playing most instruments requires repetitive, precise physical movements, often of the hands and arms. This can be more difficult if you have a history of an injury, or if you start to experience pain when you practice or play.

The following strategies are recommended to prevent repetitive use injuries or musculoskeletal pain, minimize the impact of old injuries as you play your instrument, and maximize endurance and efficiency while building skills on your instrument. These tips can also be used for other types of activities such as typing, grasping tools, or training for sports.

Six Tips to Avoid Injuries While Playing Your Instrument:

  • Warm up and cool down before and after playing. In your warm up, you learn and become familiar with the parts of your body used to play. This time is both a mental and physical preparation for what you will do on your instrument.
  • Take a break. A five- to ten-minute break each hour of practice is recommended. Even if you’re having a lot of fun or you’re on a roll, use this time for mental training!
  • Train mentally. Read through your music moving your hands as if you were playing, watch videos of others playing your instrument, or listen to recordings.
  • Decrease the intensity of your practice. Are you changing between instruments or learning a new instrument? Gradually build up your practice time.
  • Play or practice in a warm environment. Cold environments increase the stress on the tissues in your hands and arms more than you might think. Turn up the thermostat or wear a sweater.
  • Minimize repetitive and sustained computer use. Computer use has similar physical demands to those involved in playing many musical instruments. Decrease computer use during periods of intense musical activity.

Caring for your body in these ways can maximize your endurance while playing musical instruments and reduce the risk of injury or pain.

If you’ve experienced tingling or discomfort in your fingers or arms during musical or other activities, click here to learn more about what could be causing the pain.