Stay healthy, keep playing

To play and perform means keeping yourself healthy and safe. Whether you're transporting a heavy instrument, holding a lighter instrument in the same manner for an extended period, or engaged in a repetitive action, playing music can impact your body. Check out the following information to keep yourself going strong for the long haul.

Tips and information

Lift with the legs & more tips

Make it a habit to follow these steps when lifting anything--even a relatively light object--and you'll be in good shape for your next performance.

  • Protect yourself against injury and make work easier. Take a moment to consider what you will lift or move before jumping into the task. Over time, safe lifting techniques can become a habit.
  • Size up the load and check overall conditions. Don't attempt the lift by yourself if the load appears to be too heavy or awkward. Check that there is enough space for movement and that the footing is sound. "Good housekeeping" ensures you won't trip or stumble over an obstacle.
  • Make sure your balance is good. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot beside and the other behind the object you're lifting.
  • Bend the knees; don't stoop. Keep the back straight but not vertical. (Tucking in the chin straightens the back.)
  • Grip the load with the palms of your hands and your fingers. The palm grip is much more secure. Tuck in the chin again to make sure your back is straight before starting to lift.
  • Use your body weight to start the load moving, then lift by pushing up with the legs to make full use of your strongest set of muscles.
  • Keep the arms and elbows close to the body while lifting.
  • Carry the load close to the body. Don't twist your body while carrying the load. To change direction, shift your foot position and turn your whole body.
  • Watch where you are going!
  • To lower the object, bend the knees. Don't stoop. Make sure your hands and feet are clear when placing the load.
Brains, brawn, & bones

The neuromusculoskeletal system is the complete system of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and associated nerves and tissues that allow us to move, speak, and sing. This system also supports our body's structure.

The "neuro" part of the term "neuromusculoskeletal" refers to the nervous system that coordinates how our bodies move and operate. The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and hundreds of billions of nerves that transmit information from the brain to the body and back in an endless cycle.

Our nervous systems allow us to move, sense, and act in conscious and unconscious ways. Without these structures, we could not listen to, enjoy, sing, or play music. Making changes in our approach to movement, particularly to the complex movements needed for the performance of music, means working closely with our nervous system so we can replace any automatic, unconscious, or poor habits with healthy, constructive, and coordinated movement choices.

Basic neuromusculoskeletal protection steps for all musicians

Gain information about the body that will help you move according to the body's design and structure. The parts of the human body most relevant to movement are the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems. Muscles move our bones at joints. Our bony structure is responsible for weight delivery and contributes to the support we need to move easily and efficiently. Nothing is inherent in our bodies' design or are instruments that should cause discomfort, pain, or injury.

Learn how to avoid the behaviors or situations that put your neuromusculoskeletal health at risk.

  • Always warm up before you practice, rehearse, or perform. It takes about 10 minutes before muscles are ready to fire at full capacity.
  • Monitor your practice to avoid strain and fatigue. Take breaks when needed and avoid excessive repetition or practice time if you notice fatigue, strain or discomfort.
  • Use external support mechanisms, such as neck straps, shoulder straps, and proper bench or chair height.
  • For vocal health, drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses a day, and limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Avoid smoking.
  • Be aware that some medications, such as allergy pills, may dry out your tissues. Be mindful of side effects, and consult your physician if you have questions.
  • Maintain good general health and functioning by getting adequate sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise.

*Note: This information has been adapted from the NASM-PAMA documents on Musicians' Health and Safety.

Additional info on musculoskeletal health