While musicians often suffer from a flurry of various injuries, they don’t necessarily need a flurry of solutions. A regular Pilates program can come to the rescue for injury prevention and treatment while it enhances performance and overall well-being.
Rebalancing the Whole Body
Despite their wide scope, most injuries can be traced back to a common cause: poor posture while playing their instruments.¹ That’s because when you constantly and consistently twist, elongate or otherwise mangle your body into an unnatural position, your body actually starts to think that’s the position it’s supposed to be in.
The muscles then begin to act accordingly, becoming chronically shortened or lengthened in a bid to accommodate the unnatural posture. Pilates can bring muscles back to their original state with movements that counteract the shortening or lengthening, restoring optimum balance to affected muscles.
Strong and stable core muscles are a must for proper posture while playing an instrument, or even going through daily life. Pilates puts a heavy focus on the core muscles to ensure they are strong, stable and providing proper stabilization for the trunk and shoulders.
Hold your shoulder blades up for an extended period and you’ll soon see why trunk and shoulder stabilization is vital. It may first become tougher to breathe, since your minor pectoral muscles are too busy holding up your shoulder blades to do its other job of helping you with your breathing. You may eventually find your upper body becoming numb or weak, thanks to the hindered circulation and nerve issues the position produces.¹ Stabilize your trunk and shoulders and those issues no longer exist.
Treating Targeted Muscles
Another way Pilates ensures optimum performance and prevents injuries is by strengthening specific muscles needed to play specific instruments. Most musicians could use a little extra oomph in their upper body muscles.
Using Pilates to strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles required for playing the violin, for instance, can help ensure such muscles can handle the load. Not only can Pilates ensure you’ll be able to hold the position for extended periods, but it can also make sure the muscles are up for the sudden changes in playing intensity without falling prey to injury.¹
It does this by addressing the static muscles, or those used to hold the pose, as well as the muscles in motion, or those used to move the bow. The static muscles are actually under more strain than the mobile muscles. They’re also at a higher risk of fatigue and injury thanks to the decreased blood flow that prevents adequate oxygen from cleansing and refreshing the muscle tissue.
Pilates helps muscles restore balance and good health by counteracting the negative effects of all that immobility. Many Pilates exercises are performed while lying down, which is an ideal position for oxygen to enter the muscles and refresh, revitalize and kick out built-up waste products in the tissues.
Providing Overall Optimum Health
Pilates is not done enhancing musicians’ health just yet. Pilates engages in the strengthening, stretching and movement that has traditionally worked to help heal musicians.² It also provides an acute mindfulness that allows musicians to instantly recognize when something in their environment is not up to par. That “something” may be an uncomfortable and unsupportive chair, poor positioning of the music stand or any other environmental factor they may not have previously realized are having a negative impact on their performance, comfort and health.³
Rietveld ABM. Dancers’ and musicians’ injuries. Clin Rheumatol. 2013; 32:425-434.
Chong J, Lynden M, Harvey D, Peebles M. Occupational Health Problems of Musicians. Can. Fam. Physician. 1989; 35: 2341-2348.
Hansen PA, Reed K. Common Musculoskeletal Problems in the Performing Artist. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2006; 17: 789-801.
Part 2 of 2: How Pilates Can Help Musicians