The Injured Musician – Why Should I Consider Seeing a Hand Therapist?

Aug 13, 2018

Janelle Borg

by Janelle Borg
PT, DPT | Central Tucson

The musician is a unique type of athlete; we constantly push our bodies to do repetitive motions that they would not normally perform in daily activities which can lead to injuries. I am writing from both the perspectives—a musician and a physical therapist specializing in hand and upper extremity. I studied Horn at the University of Arizona prior to attending graduate school for Physical Therapy. While studying Horn, I had the opportunity to observe many other performers in music groups wearing braces or reporting pain in various parts of the arm. Read on to learn more about how hand therapy may be able to help the injured musician.

Because of this, many musicians experience pain and disability of the upper extremity, resulting in the loss of ability or joy in performing. Some of the common issues include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis/Golfer’s elbow, shoulder pain, muscles that fatigue quickly, and wrist/finger pain. Symptoms can lead to the inability to perform without pain, numbness or muscle aches.

Sometimes the application of heat/ice, use of braces, or a quick stretch may temporize the issue, but may not fully address the problem; in which the pain continues to impact capacity and enjoyment.

As a fellow musician, I can relate to the frustration that comes when pain interferes with the ability to perform. I used to have difficulty playing due to pain in my left shoulder. At first, I just would ‘shake it off’ and attempt to push myself past my limits to continue to play. However, the problem got worse and then started to affect my upper back; I barely could tolerate holding up my horn for even part of piece of music. I finally sought physical therapy and through it was able to decrease my pain, strengthen postural muscles, improve my endurance and return to performing without issue.

Does this sound like you—performing through the pain? A hand therapist could be the ticket to getting back to playing pain free. A hand therapist is a physical or occupational therapist that has studied and practiced many hours to gain extensive knowledge and specialize in proper care of the upper extremity. The upper extremity ranges from the shoulder all the way down to the tips of the fingers.

The trained eye of a hand therapist, particularly that of a peer, can help to detect minute differences in technique that may be the difference between playing with pain or being pain-free. Many times, a problem that may be plaguing a performer may be remedied by proper stretching, strengthening of supporting muscles, postural awareness, manual therapy including soft tissue massage and mobilization of joints, and most important of all, education to prevent repeat injury.

The hand therapist’s ultimate goal is to improve the function of the upper extremity of our patients and assist them to return to their daily lives, hobbies, and careers.

At ProActive Physical Therapy, we offer Hand Therapy at three locations: North, Central and East. Please contact us today to set up an appointment and get back to pain-free performance!

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