How Are Musicians Like Athletes?
I started off playing the drums in 10th grade, and shortly after picked up the bass and electric guitar. The bass was borrowed from a friend, and another sold me his old electric guitar, a Mexican Fender Stratocaster, for dirt cheap. I've played casually ever since. Since becoming a chiropractor, my interest in music has afforded me the amazing opportunity to go on the road and treat touring musicians. Those were some of the most fun experiences I've had in my career.
Backstage with Lettuce at Hulaween Music Festival
At my first experience backstage, I didn't know what to expect. I had already treated lots of professional athletes at this point since I focused my career on sports, and was familiar with how that process went. For example, in our NFL Combine training program, the football players would be cycling in and out of the treatment area all day, while training and performing drills in between. The schedule was unpredictable, and we had to be ready to work with little notice. Would working with musicians be totally different?
It turns out, it was not. I quickly realized that their days practically mimicked each other. They would arrive in a new town and unpack their gear. Then they'd practice for a few hours before their performance. Take a quick break to eat and rest, before stepping out in front of a live audience of thousands and showcase their craft, sometimes for hours on end. Wait, am I talking about athletes or musicians?
Musicians suffer some of the same repetitive stress injuries that athletes experience. Chiropractic and rehabilitation is extremely popular in sports among athletes. Every American Olympic team has a chiropractor on staff. So does every NFL team. I could go on. Why don't musicians get the same treatment? Musicians are athletes, just in a different way. So what kind of injuries do musicians get? Let's take a look at three conditions I see most often from my musicians.
Most musicians perform their craft with their hands. Drummers are flailing their arms wildly all over the kit while guitarists and bassists are cruising up and down the fretboard. Singers are straining their vocal cords to deliver the lyrics. All of these activities involve repetitive stress of the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. Especially when sustained at high intensity for hours. Muscles along the base of the neck and into the shoulders become tight and tender. Active Release Technique, and chiropractic adjustments are a great way to mobilize these areas for relief. You'll be back to headbanging in no time!
Once again, this is a repetitive stress injury due to overuse. Singers don't tend to suffer from this injury, but guitar players, pianists, and drummers certainly do. The muscles of the outside of the forearm are used when holding chords and tapping notes on the keyboard. Constant stress to this area can lead to pain and chronic soreness. If you can't play notes quickly because of muscle pain, this can affect your performance! Without proper care, this condition can plague someone for months if not years.
Low Back Pain
Drummers especially suffer from this condition. Sitting on a small chair for hours does a number on the back. Even the most high-end thrones are nothing more than a small, short stool. There's no back support, not that it would help anyway because drummers are leaning forward over their kit. An adjustment, as well as a few warm-up exercises before taking the stage can mean the difference between playing a great show or suffering through agony. Once you hop back on the bus and sit for hours, the situation can get even worse.
Musicians, don't neglect your bodies! You need to care for yourself the same way athletes do: with proper nutrition, exercise, rest, and recovery. And part of recovery means taking care of nagging pains and injuries. Don't let chronic pain affect your performance!
If you've made it this far, I'll hook you up with a bonus: a mixtape made by me. Here's a few tracks of some artists I've worked with in the music industry! Available on Spotify.