Musicians are like athletes: we can only perform when our bodies are in working order. It is very important to build good habits while you are young, so that you can avoid injury and make music for a lifetime. You want to be mindful about your physical motions while you practice; your teacher can help you clarify exactly how to practice. Here are some suggestions to keep your physical life comfortable and functional.
Practicing can involve performing the same motions over and over, which can lead to discomfort and injury. To prevent repetitive motion strain, make sure you take breaks and vary your motions, and it is always a good idea to add some stretches to your practice routine.
Awareness is crucial to training the body to do what we want: we can’t change it if we can’t feel it. Both Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais are useful ways of training awareness for efficient, natural motion without unnecessary tension. Yoga improves strength, flexibility and freedom of motion. Visual anatomical images can help give a basic understanding of how our muscles, skeleton and joints work. Bodymapping uses a clear understanding of anatomy to improve how we move.
You may get good results from regular or occasional massage.
If you are truly out of alignment, it might be useful to go to a chiropractor who finds and adjusts the musculoskeletal area of the body not working correctly. Acupuncture—the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body—has pain relief and relaxation benefits for some people, though it is not yet scientifically understood.
As always, choose your providers carefully and in consultation with a medical professional.
You can find more information about physical wellness in the book The Musician’s Survival Manual: A Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries in Instrumentalists, by Richard N. Norris, MD. It is available for free download.
If you find yourself experiencing discomfort or pain while you practice, first stop what you are doing and then get help: ask your teacher to help analyze your technique, and go to a medical professional to help you be sure you can stay healthy.