Pain and Injury in Playing

According to various studies, the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in instrumentalists is fairly high – it ranges from 70% to 85%. Reasons for this could be long hours of practising and rehearsing, incorrect body alignment resulting from lack of awareness and inefficient use of oneself. This can lead to tension in playing, and stress and anxiety in performance.

I was a musician whose career as a professional pianist and accompanist became severely compromised due to debilitating chronic pain. 

The debilitating effects of overuse

I was in my twenties when I went to study Postgraduate Piano at the Royal Academy of Music. Having come from a University background where academic studies took precedence over performance, I was suddenly catapulted into the intense environment of music college where the majority of my day consisted of some form of practical music making.

This took its toll on my physical and mental health and resulted in my having to take time out of college to recuperate. However, the minute I went back into the intensive rehearsing and practising schedule, all my symptoms re-materialised.

Fast forward another twenty years, and I found myself in my mid-forties faced with a debilitating condition which not only threatened my playing career but was making everyday living difficult.

Therapies and exercise modalities

I had tried all sorts of therapies and exercise modalities from physiotherapy and osteopathy to Yoga and Pilates, all the conventional recommended routes. Whilst these may work for a lot of people, they did not have any lasting effect on me.

In sheer desperation, I booked myself in for a Feldenkrais workshop because it had been recommended to me. Why not, I thought, I’d tried so many other things and I felt I was coming up against a brick wall.

A glimmer of hope

I didn’t expect any results – I felt that all I did was lie on the floor for 6 hours, doing rather strange movements very slowly. However, I noticed in my 20 minute walk back to the station after the workshop, something had changed. I felt no pain for the first time in a very long time – this seemed like the light at the end of a long tunnel.

I signed up for more workshops and one-to-one sessions and eventually enrolled in the Feldenkrais Professional Training the following year. Since qualifying as a practitioner, I have been totally passionate about bringing this relatively unknown work into public consciousness, and in particular to musicians.

Free Online Feldenkrais classes for musicians

The Feldenkrais Method works on a very deep level through a process of body mindfulness which enhances our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. The change happens from the inside out which means the effects are longer lasting and more permanent than just exercise and manipulation. The breadth and versatility of the work makes it totally adaptable not only to your playing but to your entire life.

As part of the International Feldenkrais Awareness Week, there will be free online classes for musicians from 6th – 13th May. Click here to register.

I will be talking about Reducing Pain and Injury in Practice and Performance on the 12th May.

I hope to see you there!

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