Good musicians nearly always carry injuries. Luke, one of our sports injury therapists, knows as he plays the french horn at a pretty high level. He offers massage for musicians and this advice:
Most of the musicians I treat hold down other regular work in addition to their practice, such as labouring, painting, cleaning, cheffing, teaching etc. This combo can lead to repetitive usage of the body that may be at odds with their practice as well as a stressful lifestyle, without much rest. Repetitive task-oriented work is fatiguing for specific muscle groups that may well be used a great deal when playing. In this way, a musician’s massage needs are not so different to an athlete.
Postural habits play a large part in causing long-standing discomfort for musicians. It is easy to witness this in effect; the hunched-over jazz pianist, or the lazy slouching drummer, or the nerdy guitarist, playing with a lopsided torso. Therefore, many massage techniques aimed at alleviating tension in the bodies of those who work with repetitive actions for large parts of the day will be equally applicable to musicians, who spend hours practising in a potentially awkward posture. Aftercare tips are: stretching before and after practice; giving self-massage when muscles are sore (using our old friends the golf ball and tennis ball); taking short breaks at regular intervals to give overworked muscles a rest to help prevent the risk of RSI developing.
I find that singers are generally aware of good posture, as this is vital to producing a good sound from the vocal chords. Tightness in the chest area can occur due to heavy use of breathing muscles (forced inhalation), whilst tightness in the diaphragm could also be addressed when massaging the abdominal area. I know this to be true as a brass player myself; after a heavy bout of blowing, the diaphragm has had a considerable workout, whilst the abdominal muscles too are used in maintaining a steady flow of air.
There is also the stress factor involved in a musician’s lifestyle that may come into consideration when consulting a musical client for massage purposes; late nights, early starts for day jobs, and the pressure of performing (perhaps with nerves and anxiety also playing a part). Therefore, I find that massage with a relaxation focus forms a good section of treatment, working on breathing to encourage parasympathetic nervous response.
Luke absolutely knows what he’s talking about. So, call and book in and let him keep you playing at your best.