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Massage Therapy and the Musician

As a therapist who has worked with professional athletes for 20 years, I recognize how each sport has many different needs in the massage and trauma therapy regimen I use. I know that musculoskeletal pain can be as varied as the sports the athletes play.

Musicians are small-muscle athletes. Like stick and ball athletes, they require precision, but also endurance and strength, and expect that when they perform, their muscles will respond accordingly. If that movement is inhibited from muscles being tight, painful trigger points, or a repetitive injury, then their playing is diminished. So, like professional athletes, massage and trauma therapy can be tailored to maintaining a full range of motion, while eliminating pain.

Many articles about musculoskeletal pain among professional musicians have been written. Surveys have revealed, among thousands of professional musicians, that nearly 80-percent of them suffer from chronic or intermittent pain directly related to their profession.The highest incidence was reported among the violinists, which is not surprising since they often spend more overall time playing than any other instrument in the orchestra, holding their violin in a position that is challenging to the muscles. But every musician, regardless of what they play, has reported some form of pain related to their profession.

As someone who has worked with musicians — professional, college, and high school — for more than 10 years, I see them every bit an athlete as someone who plays football or basketball. Musicians, like athletes, require endurance, strength, and precision. The right kind of massage can help them play with less pain and more agility.

When muscles are tight, movement is inhibited. When muscles are in pain, they become tense and there is less control. Maintaining maximum range of motion and eliminating pain allows a musician to play in comfort and can improve performance.

Each instrument has their own challenges. A massage therapist who understands these problems can go quickly to the source of the pain and begin to dissipate the tension and discomfort. They cannot only help to relieve the acute pain, they can help a musician continue to play without pain in the future. Regular massage therapy, neuromuscular therapy, trigger-point therapy, or other related therapy, should be a part of every professional musician’s life. It will improve their performance, help them to play with comfort and ease, and extend the length of their career.

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