repetitive strain injuries


The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!

-Artur Schnabel (Austrian pianist)

The pause is as important as the note.

-Truman Fisher (American composer)

UBC Symphony 2013 Fall

The more I grow as a musician, the more I have come to understand that the pauses and spaces in a composition are equally important as the notes played. As a young musician in an ensemble or group improvisation setting, the temptation for me was to play all the time, often to exercise my zeal in a recently new found skill or technique. But how much more there is to the musical experience when one stops to listen to not just the individual parts but to the piece as a whole, including the spaces and pauses in between.

Which leads me to this. The pause.

What are you doing your pauses when performing and practising?

You are likely listening to the music or perhaps counting measures.

Here are a few other tips I encourage the musical athletes I work with to practise:

  • Reset your posture: Find that neutral position again where your head and shoulders are sitting on top of your pelvis, with equal weight exerting through both legs or both sides of your buttocks when sitting
  • Deep breaths: Take a deep, slow belly breath (diaphragmatic breathing). This helps you relax any nervous tension that may have developed when playing.
  • Shoulder rolls:  No matter what instrument played, most musicians will carry some sort of tension in their shoulders. A simple way to reset the muscles is to roll the shoulders forward and backwards a few times during your break.

These few practises will help to prevent unnecessary tension in the muscles. This will benefit you by decreasing your chances of injury; easing your tension when playing, both from the physical and mental aspect.



Study Postures

The student – musician’s body undergoes much asymmetrical stress with repetitive motions during practice and rehearsals, as well as prolonged static postures in sitting, usually at a desk and computer.

Here are a few tips to consider when studying:

Study Postures – Musicians

For mini-break exercises, visit us here!





Musician, athlete, or both? Part 2.

Tips to playing and performing pain-free. 

Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Musicians are often compared to athletes.  You push your body for hours at a time to practice and perfect your skills so that you  can perform better. But sometimes, your  bodies become overused, and playing  becomes painful. The terms below are often associate d with the performance of elite  athletes. But did you know that these same
issues affect the performance of a musician as well?


PLAYING WITH PAIN  doesn’t always happen right away. Sometimes it starts with “fatigue” or “tension” that eventually goes away. But as time passes, you may find that these symptoms linger for a little
longer and don’t go away as easily as they used to. So you take a long break from your instrument and the pain goes away.


B U T   W H A T  H A P P E N S    W H E N    T H E     D I S C O M F O R T R E T U R N S     W H E N     Y O U   S T A R T    P L A Y I N G    A G A I N ?

Musician Injuries often happen because playing your instrument, whether it is the violin, piano, cello, guitar, flute, drums or even the glockenspiel is REPETITIVE and ASYMMETRICAL.

Muscles and tendons need time to recover and rebuild after use. Without adequate rest, their fibres will break down and inflammation and pain occur. We call this tendonitis. It first starts with fatigue or an ache, and eventually turns into pain and swelling with any type of use, leading to loss of ability to play.

Asymmetry combined with repetition is the perfect environment for an injury to brew. It may not appear immediately, but at some point down the road, an injury is likely to occur.

Often times, changes in technique, practice habits,  instrument set-up, posture, and other life changes can contribute to injury. You may want to examine whether there have been any changes lately and whether they were introduced quickly versus gradually.


Warmth, pain, and loss of function are signs of inflammation.  Use the acronym “R.I.C.E”. Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
REST from the aggravating activity.
ICE on the area for 15 minutes at a time.
COMPRESS with a tensor sleeve or brace.
ELEVATE the area for 15 minutes at time if it is swollen
Then, consult your physiotherapist to help you get to the
root of the problem to prevent the injury form recurring. You
can find more tips for musicians at

Violin-related Neck and Back Pain

Many injuries I see amongst the novice  to intermediate violinist are quite easily preventable. Watch this video for a few practical tips to include when you are next playing your violin. Many of these principles apply to the high performing violinist as well as other instrumentalists too!

There are SO many things to think about when playing, and these are just a few to prevent neck and back pain when playing violin.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Equal weight through both legs
  • A neutral, elongated spine
  • Knees unlocked
  • Head on top of shoulders
  • Shoulders on top of hips

Happy playing!