Your physical body has limits, especially when playing a musical instrument. However, musicians are notorious for pushing themselves past their physical capabilities!
Multiple studies have been conducted on this subject - all show that overuse injuries are very common among musicians. This article from John Hopkins Magazine from 2016 is a a great overview of the prevalence of musician overuse injuries: https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2016/fall/peabody-doctor-for-musicians-injuries/
From this article, it states:
"In recent surveys, nearly three-fourths of professional musicians reported past injuries and pain that affected their playing....Fifty percent reported pain or injury at the time of the survey. Of those musicians who recalled at least one episode of pain or injury in the past, fewer than half reported that they had fully recovered." (Rienzi 2016)
Holy moly! That's quite a lot!
This begs the question -
Why are so many musicians injured? And why are they not recovering from their injuries?
Many factors can contribute to musician injury. They can be related to misuse, overuse, stress and anxiety, improper posture, and more. However, what is probably the biggest culprit is the lack of knowledge about injury prevention!
I have one very useful way to help prevent injury - take a break!
Do you ever play for more than a half-hour straight? Do you ever play the same passage over and over and over again relentlessly? Do you lose track of time when you practice?
All of these are issues that you need to address in your practice if you want to avoid injury. And, the easiest way to address these issues is to simply put your instrument down and take a break. So easy!
For every half-hour that you play, you should be taking at least a 5-minute break. So, if you want to play for an hour or more, your practice times should look like this:
-25 minutes - practice
-5 minutes - BREAK
-25 minutes - practice
-5 - minutes - BREAK
and so on...
I recommend taking breaks every 15 minutes, especially if you are a more inexperienced player. So, play for 15 minutes, then take a 2-3 minute break.
Breaks are not only good for your physical body, but they are also excellent for your mind. Every time you allow yourself to rest, the information you learn in your practice session is allowed to sink deeper into your long-term memory storage. It's the same process that makes interleaved practice so effective (read about that here).
While you're on break, take a minute or two to release any built-up tension with some stretches. You can also simply lie down on the floor to allow your body to completely relax! (I do this frequently XD) For stretching ideas, visit my previous post on warm-up stretches:
Ultimately, I recommend that you take one day off a week in which you do not touch your instrument or your music. Being a musician is a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting job. Take one day off each week to allow your mind and body to rest. Go for a walk in the park. Hang out with friends. Go visit a new restaurant or place you've never been. Live!
Music is a part of life and about life, so I think it is so very important for you to always take a day off to be able to enjoy yourself. Make all the great memories you can! It can only enrich your musical experiences.
Being a musician is a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting job. Take one day off each week to allow your mind and body to rest. Go for a walk in the park. Hang out with friends. Go visit a new restaurant or place you've never been. Live!
In future posts, I will write more about injury prevention and overuse injuries to help all of you musicians out there lead healthy, happy lives!
Until next week, have a great practice break. :)