Suggested warm-ups prior to playing and cool-down stretches following performance and/or practice
Muscle speed, efficiency and strength are enhanced by a rise in muscle temperature. Muscles that are not warmed up fatigue more quickly. We then try to force the muscle to do what we need to do, resulting in increased tension. A demanding task is more work on a tense muscle, so it becomes more fatigued. A vicious cycle ensues. Start away from the instrument with the following suggested warm-up stretches, or those your doctor recommends. When at the instrument, start slowly and easily.
Cooling down is just as important, as it can prevent cramping and tightening in the muscle after vigorous activity. If you have a hectic day of several rehearsals, warming up and cooling down can help get you through, and prevent soreness the following day.
Lastly, if you do hurt, do not self-diagnose. Many disorders that may affect our playing have similar symptoms. In fact, some medical conditions can cause 'referred' pain in areas not at all where the problem may begin. An accurate diagnosis is a prerequisite, the earlier the better before any injury might become a serious or long-term problem. Collaboration with the patient, teacher, physician, therapist or colleague is ideal. Remember that treating over-use injuries is incomplete without analysis of our technique, our emotional temperature and a look at activities of daily living, which may aggravate our condition.
After an injury, begin with 10-minute practice periods, increasing the number of practice times per day before you increase the length of time. Remember that no performance, contest, or audition is worth putting one's career in jeopardy. With a little awareness and pacing, we musicians can enjoy a career of many decades and prevent pain from obstructing our enjoyment of making music.
Exercises compiled by Minnesota Orchestra cellist Janet Horvath, with contributions from: Dr. Alice Brandfonbrenner, M.D., Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Medical Program for Performing Artists; Carole Brooks, Hand Therapist, Rehabilitation lnstitute of Chicago, Medical Program for Performing Artists; Jennifer Byfield., P.T., Sister Kenny lnstitute, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Cheryl Mutschler, R.N., Yoga Teacher and Massage Therapist; Frank Heller, D.O., Chiropractor, American Board, of Chiropractic Orthopedists.
This article was originally published in 2013.