Their music uplifts us with the Christmas spirit this time of year. But making that music can be literally painful for musicians according to an Edmonton researcher.
“It’s a much higher rate of injury than any other type of work,” Christine Guptill said.
The assistant professor of occupational therapy at the University of Alberta is part of a group of researchers who found injury rates amongst musicians is “off the charts” when compared to other occupations.
“Over 80 per cent of professional musicians have had problems at some point,” Guptill said.
The injuries include repetitive strains, tendinitis, nerve compression and general upper body problems like back pain. Guptill added the amount and types of injuries are on par with dancers and professional athletes.
“We’re really trying to bring musicians’ injuries into the forefront of people’s understanding and also to musicians themselves, to try and help prevent problems in the future.”
Guptill herself is a classically-trained oboist. The research group she is involved with is currently working on an injury assessment protocol for musicians.
“Really, when we look at other workers, these would not be considered very serious injuries. But if you’re a really elite performer and you’re trying to engage in musical practice, it’s not that easy. You need to do that several hours a day and if you’ve got those kinds of things going on, it can be a real detriment,” she said.
Guptill said the holiday season can be especially difficult for performers because musicians tend to have higher than normal stress levels.
She adds exercise can help prevent injuries as well as a musician’s mental health.
Her team is starting a course to help music students reduce their risk.