Janet Horvath  

Too Much, Too Soon?

Janet Horvath
May 4, 2019

How To Avoid Injury

Choosing the right size and weight of your instrument is critical for the musical and physical development of all players. Choose instruments carefully. Look for ease and responsiveness. Strings should be low, necks should be slender, bows should be light. Instruments must be in proper repair so that they function appropriately and easily. When in doubt, go with the lightest, smallest instrument.

There are many instrument modifications available to ensure your comfort while playing. There are many straps, splints, and devices available to help hold instruments. The Kun Company now makes shoulder rests with extra long screws to raise the shoulder rest. There are new chin rests available as well. Experiment so that you fill in the space between your chin and your shoulder to ensure comfort, that your left shoulder can stay down and in neutral, and that your head is upright. Be aware that the one-size-fits-all approach does not work on any instrument.

Chair height is also critical. There are many adjustable chairs and stools available so that you can sit with good posture. Always try to stay in neutral or a natural posture with your head upright, your shoulders down, and with a natural curve in your lower back. Sit upright with your weight forward and your feet firmly on the floor. Make sure your torso is not turned or twisted, your head is not cocked, and your chin is not jutting out.

Musculoskeletal injuries are frequent in musicians with joint laxity (double-jointedness or hypermobility). Although many music teachers find these youngsters very flexible and therefore good candidates for instrumental playing, they may in the long run experience problems with pain that can become chronic. Studies show that injury risk is higher in musicians with laxity. This may be due to the fact that the instrumentalist must use more pressure to stabilize and “brace the joint” to prevent it from collapsing.

These musicians should be assessed. If you have hypermobile joints, it is of the utmost importance to use prevention, avoiding more long-term and extensive hyperlaxity. It is important to learn careful technique, eliminating grabbing and pressing with fingers, and to learn joint protection.

There are many ring splints available that can help prevent the buckling of finger joints—some are even stylish—and can be used for practice as well as performance. Consult a qualified physical therapist. Theses devices are by prescription and must be fitted. Therapists will also be in a position to guide you on strengthening hyper lax joints safely.

It is essential not to slam fingers down on any instrument. “Banana fingers,” or fingers that are softly curved with some length, is a good analogy. Focusing on up action (which emphasizes release) is preferable to down action (which may result in squeezing). Listen for “snapping” or “slapping” strings or keys, which may indicate too much finger pressure.

String players: watch for excessive calluses, grooves, or torn skin in left-hand fingers, as well as collapsed knuckle joints and squeezing thumbs. You are either pressing too hard or your bridge is too high or both! All instrumentalists should avoid raising or dropping wrists.

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