My career as a violinist was almost ended by repetitive strain injuries.
Back when I was studying violin performance at Carnegie Mellon University chronic pain developed in my arms and spread through my neck and back. No matter what I tried - chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, etc. - the pain lingered and kept me from learning new repertoire, participating in chamber music, and playing in the orchestra.
My career as a violinist seemed like it was over before it had started.
Now, over a dozen years later, I’m totally pain-free. I can play as much as I want, as long as I want, and I have a successful career as a freelance violinist.
What accounted for that radical change, you might ask? I learned several lessons critical to my overcoming repetitive strain injuries.
First of all, I learned that 99% of what I knew about repetitive strain injuries was wrong.
The first place many of us look is to outward circumstances: our instrument, our set-up, our chair, the fact that we sit or stand for long periods of time, the amount we practice, the amount of stretching or strength-training we do.
If you are currently suffering from pain related to playing music and you are changing these kinds of things in order to relieve your pain, i have some bad news for you: you are bound to fail.
The second place most of us look when trying to overcome repetitive strain injuries is to healthcare and wellness professionals. And while it is always a good idea to consult your doctor when you’re in pain, the methods all the doctors I ever met recommended only lead to temporary results.
Ask yourself: has any method you’ve used to overcome your pain made a permanent, lasting difference, even well after you stopped using that method?
Well - I learned a method that DOES make a permanent, lasting difference, even years after you stop using it: the Alexander Technique.
The Alexander Technique stopped my pain, and stopped it for good. I am now an Alexander Technique teacher and I’m committed to helping other musicians avoid ending their own careers in music due to pain.
So here’s what every musician needs to know in order to overcome repetitive strain injuries:
You have habits of unconsciously holding your body too tight when you play music.
Over time, this excess tension has worn down your muscles to the point of overuse and pain.
It is only when you address these habits of excess tension you will be able to overcome the pain you now experience in a lasting way.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 showed that a course of lessons in the Alexander Technique reduced the number of days people who had hitherto experienced chronic back pain by 86% - even a year after the lessons had ended!
If you’re a musician and you’re experiencing pain that interferes with - or even threatens to end - your career in music, please know that there is a lasting solution to your dilemma.
Through my Pain-Free Music programs, I teach professional musicians how to overcome repetitive strain injuries, once and for all, so that you’ll never have to suffer through rehearsals and performances as I did. Plus, you will never have to even consider giving up playing music because of pain.
Here’s my parting advice: don’t look to any outward circumstance in order to overcome your pain.
The cause lies in your habits of how you use your body. If you change the way you use your body when you play music you will surely be able to overcome the repetitive strain injuries which now plague you, once and for all.
For more information on how you can overcome repetitive strain injuries, visit www.painfreemusic.com.
Alexander Technique Teacher, Violinist, and Founder of Pain-Free Music