The newly emerging specialist field, Performing Arts Medicine, has few top specialist practitioners who are qualified to meet the needs of performers – and, to date, there has only been a small amount of research in this area. Despite this, to those in the profession, it is clear that not addressing early problems with incorrect playing technique and unnecessary bodily stress can result in long-term problems with pain for our young musicians.
The many hours spent practicing, coupled with the high levels of physical exertion needed to play an instrument to performance standards have recently drawn comparisons between these young musicians and professional athletes although, it seems that healthcare specialists and performing arts communities have been quite slow to recognize the similarities.
Until recently, this has meant that young performers have developed postural and musculoskeletal problems because their developmental needs are not addressed. By comparison, Australia’s top athletes may have the support of a number of healthcare professionals in order to help them achieve optimum performance while minimizing the physical stresses of practice and competition. Our young musicians do not receive the same levels of care.
Things are improving, though. At the University of Western Australia, for example, a project has been running, developed with the aim of reducing any injury risk or pain for our young musicians. This study involves those in tertiary education – but for teenagers and younger children there is a care gap that needs to be filled while these young people are learning their art and laying foundations for the future.
A recent article in a leading healthcare journal highlights a direct link between children who report incidences of pain during their childhood years and those who go on to report a greater number of incidences as they move into their adult years.
It is evident that where early intervention for episodes of pain in childhood is not available, the consequences can have an impact in every aspect of young lives, physically, mentally and emotionally – and result in their being at increased risk of pain once they become adults.
A recent research study looked at the frequency pain affecting muscles and/or joints during the month prior, in a group of young players of stringed musical instruments. The results demonstrated that nearly 75% of them had experienced pain that they could directly relate to playing their instruments.
Both teenagers and younger children will often hide their pain from adults and their caregivers and not seek help. This makes it so much more important to implement plan for the care of our young musicians at an early stage of their development.
- 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.