Arthritis not only afflicts people of advanced ages, but can afflict people at any age. Also, you should not avoid performing physical activity with arthritis. In fact, moderate exercise is one of the therapies recommended by The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org).
Arthritis means “inflammation of joints,” and not all forms of arthritis have the same cause and symptoms. Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect joints all over the body, and it is thought to be a hereditary autoimmune disease, in which the body’s defense system attacks otherwise healthy joints. Osteoarthritis is a noninflammatory form of arthritis that usually shows up in a damaged joint, and it doesn’t become widespread.
Overuse injuries can affect musicians who perform repetitive movements in order to play their instruments. A musician’s “danger zones” for osteoarthritis are therefore the same as for other overuse injuries such as tendonitis—the neck, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers.
What typically differentiates arthritis from other aches and pains is the telltale aching when a joint moves, especially first thing in the morning. But if inflammation accompanies the pain in a joint, and you do not suspect rheumatoid arthritis, then the problem may be down to another cause.
However, your physician is in the best position to make a diagnosis and offer the correct treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs, for instance, won’t have any affect on osteoarthritis, as it is a noninflammatory condition. Your physician may refer you to a physical therapist, who can offer long-term treatment.
In the Percussionist’s Guide to Injury Treatment and Prevention, Dr. Darin Workman, an amateur jazz drummer, recommends three proactive steps a musician should take to keep playing with arthritis. First, change the ergonomics of your playing, especially if poor posture or technique contributes to arthritic pain. Second, physically warming a cold joint with a heat pack will get the joint moving. Third, Workman recommends stretching, and in particular yoga, before playing.
Workman’s recommendations are reiterated by The Arthritis Foundation, with one crucial addition—staying creative and on the move is good for your morale!
6 Tips to Help Fight Arthritis
Relieve Stress—People with chronic pain gain a lot from a hobby that boosts self-esteem, especially one such as music making that, in addition to offering a creative outlet, offers a moderate physical challenge.
Relieve Pain—Areas of acute inflammation should be treated like a sports injury. The RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is an important routine not just with osteoarthritis, but with other overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, bursitis, and sprains. After RICE has taken down initial swelling you can treat the area with heat and topical analgesics.
Work Smart—Ergonomic solutions are important for musicians, especially if protecting areas of the body suffering from osteoarthritis. Maintaining correct posture is also crucial.
Play Smart—Musicians nursing a sore wrist might consider a simple, nonintrusive wrist support. For violinists, there are ergonomic chin and shoulder rests, and there are also a host of ergonomic solutions for other instruments.
Get Moving—Research has shown that regular, moderate exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness, build strong muscles around the joints to protect and compensate, and increase the flexibility and endurance of ligaments.
Warm Up—Before you play, you should always warm up. Perform stretching exercises away from your instrument. Next, you should warm up with your instrument, performing around five to 10 minutes of basic exercises, such as scales or rudiments. Stop the minute you feel acute pain, as this is your body’s warning signal that you’ve overdone the exercise.