Keeping as fit as a fiddle
Progress Health physiotherpist, Sarah Upjohn specialises in helping musicians, provides tips on why we could all benefit from improving our posture
34% of adults and 69% of children in the UK play musical instruments. The sound of an orchestra tuning up before performance brings a sense of anticipation and excitement to any audience. It is the accumulation of hundreds of hours of practice by the musicians brought together by the skill of the conductor. Unfortunately, like many professional and keen amateur athletes, this dedication can result in playing-related musculoskeletal injuries. Young musicians, professional orchestral musicians and conservatoire students can all suffer and, at worst, an injury can mean they are prevented from playing again.
Sarah Upjohn is a specialist physiotherapist at Progress – The Cambridge Centre for Health and Performance, and Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital and her particular expertise is in treating musculoskeletal disorders through the analysis and re-education of movement and posture. She uses an analytical approach to successfully treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal disorders.
She believes we should all follow these simple tips and look after our posture:
1. Be mindful of your posture and position as you sit at work
2. Aim to maintain symmetry, or return to a position of symmetry.
3. Let go of accumulating muscle tension, particularly in shoulder girdles
4. Move from one fixed position (ie sitting at a desk) and do gentle stretches regularly throughout the day.
Sarah’s specialism outside of her work at Progress is helping young musicians at the Purcell School for Young Musicians and for BAPAM (the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine). She has more than nine years’ of experience of treating instrumental musicians.
“In basic terms we are all fully aware repetitive strain can lead to injury. It is important we understand the risk factors of any activity we chose to undertake and minimise injury. This is especially true in younger people who spend hours doing the same exercise or practice. Some sports have addressed this; for example, rowers have two oars until they are 15 years old when they can row sweep (one blade) and ballerinas cannot use pointe until their feet are fully grown. There are no such measures in music and as musicians often play or practise for between two and seven hours a day, they are at risk from acquiring playing-related injuries, which, with appropriate care, are mainly preventable.”
Sarah supplies some tips to keep people playing longer.
1. Increase playing time gradually
2. Introduce a new repertoire gradually
3. Be aware that stress can produce tension in muscles, increasing the workload that the muscle is doing
4. Remember to adjust stands and supports as the child grows
5. Do not add additional stressors immediately after a growth spurt when children are particularly vulnerable to soft tissue injury
 ABSRM, 2014