Have you ever experienced discomfort or severe pain as a result of music making? If your answer is yes, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Unfortunately, today’s musicians are over dedicated to their music making which sooner or later leads to injuries, particularly to the hands, limbs, vocal cords, and ears. Research shows that around half of all professional musicians worldwide, at some point in their careers, endure music-related injuries that permanently sideline them. Not only performers are affected. Students too are at risk.
As a person that suffered a severe repetitive motion injury, I believe every musician should form certain habits in order to stay healthy. Here are some things I learned and started practicing after having to deal with an occupational injury.
Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
Every musician is ambitious. This is a great quality, but it doesn’t mean you should go overboard. If you are a beginner, it is impossible to learn Bach’s or Mozart’s entire collection during your first week. You will only end up hurting yourself while trying. No matter whether you sing or play an instrument, it is important to increase your time gradually. You should practice every day, but always keep in mind to take small steps and simply respect your physical limits. You have to give your body time to adjust. Over time, your muscles will build, and you will get stronger meaning you can slowly begin to increase the length and intensity of your practice sessions.
Have in mind that besides physical health, taking small steps and respecting your limits is also important for your mental health. Playing or singing too much without getting proper rest will eventually burn your creativity. Don’t forget that music is something you should take pleasure in; it is not a chore.
Properly Structure Your Workload
Properly managing the above-mentioned baby steps will help you figure out your mental and physical limits. If you don’t respect your boundaries, you won’t become better, faster or stronger, you will only become counterproductive. Structure your workload in an organized manner and in a way you can handle it. Once you find what works for you, stick with it and review it regularly. Try to identify if an aspect of your practice routine is neglected. Make this practice a priority in your next practice session. Always make sure you handle one task at a time and finish it completely before moving on. If you struggle structuring your workload or creating a practicing routine, taking professional music or voice lessons Long Island may help.
Before singing or playing music, you have to warm up properly, similarly as gearing up to go for a run. Keep in mind that our muscles are not ready to handle any kind of heightened activity. If you don’t warm up, your muscles will quickly get tired. With tired muscles, it’s much harder to get them to do what you want which will lead to increased tension. When muscles are tired and tense, you will get hurt easily. Warming up before playing or singing will help you improve your speed, strength, and overall efficiency. Cooling down is also essential because it helps to minimize tension, prevent cramping, tightening and micro injuries.
Never Self Diagnose
In case you get injured, you should never self-diagnose. Many playing and singing injuries have similar symptoms and it’s hard to determine what exactly caused it if you are not a professional. If you get hurt, seek professional treatment as soon as possible. A minor injury can quickly become a long-term problem if you don’t address it in time.
Respect the Healing Process
If you are recovering from an injury, go back to habit number one, even if you are not a beginner. Even if you managed to practice for hours intensively, after an injury you have to take things slow and gradually increase your daily practice time. As you have respected your physical limits before, now you must respect the speed of your healing process.
Eat Healthy and Exercise
In order to be a consistently good player, it is important to eat healthier and exercise regularly. A balanced diet and a moderate workout routine will ensure you have strong reserves of mental and physical energy. This doesn’t mean you should make an extreme lifestyle change, but you should definitely focus your diet more on fresh fruits, veggies, and lean protein. Healthy food and physical activity will make you feel better which means you can dedicate more energy to the things you love, like singing or making music.
Listen to the Warning Signs
If you’ve chosen a career in music, you are probably aware that you must master the art of listening. However, in this case, listening goes far beyond the music. You should also learn to listen to your body. Some signs of injuries can be very subtle, therefore it is essential to pay close attention to how you feel. Although this seems like common sense, you should never ignore the signs or play through an injury. No one wants to bail out on a performance, but, for example, playing through a gig while injured will only lead to more missed gigs in the long run. Keep in mind that if you had listened to the warning signs, you wouldn’t be in the unpleasant situation in the first place.
You might not always think about it while you’re playing or singing, but your body is directly linked to the quality of music you produce. When your body isn’t properly taken care of, concentration, energy, and technical expertise will go down the toilet. It doesn’t matter whether you are a singer, a composer or a bassist in a metal band. Neglecting and not respecting your body will have consequences. If you’ve been at the music game for a long time and you feel burned out, try practicing one of the above mentioned healthy habits for a month and you will soon realize how much a small change can improve your musicianship.