Musicians have extraordinary challenges holding instruments for extended hours, and staying relaxed. Neck and shoulder problems are common in string players. Playing in orchestras over the decades, I’ve experienced firsthand these challenges. Practicing and performing symphonies are marathon events that are demanding on posture and musculature.
There are a few yoga holds I’ve found most helpful as antidotes for string player stress; and some shoulder exercises on the Bowflex. Learning to breath deep with maximum efficiency is vital. (Also as a vocalist, the breathing techniques I’ve learned have facilitated significant improvement.) Shallow chest breathing has to go! Discovering things that bring balance is an adventure and lifelong process.
Here’s a resource originally circulated through the American String Teacher’s Assn.
I know this is an old thread, but I finally got a few minutes to type this in. I had some problems a few years ago and went to the Performing Arts Medicine clinic at Northwestern Hospital. The following are from a handout they gave me. I find the warm-ups especially helpful for cold hands because they warm up the large muscle groups first and then work down. And the cool-downs really seem to pay off the next morning with less stiffness. It would be neat for someone to do a study comparing players who do these with a group who doesn’t in terms of injury, after 3 months, 6 months, etc.
WARM-UP EXERCISES prior to playing instrument
The optimum speed of chemical reaction and metabolism is 102-103 degrees.
Evidence suggests that speed, strength, and efficiency of contractions are enhanced by a rise in temperature of muscle towards that range.
The only efficient way of raising muscle temperature is by working the muscle itself
10-15 minutes of active exercise for all upper extremity joints is recommended.
EXERCISES (Do 7 repetitions of #1 – #8; Do 10 repetitions of #9 – #11) Avoid jerking motions. Perform each repetition smoothly and with moderate speed.
1) Shoulder flexion—both arms raised overhead then relaxed to sides (like a touchdown signal)
2) Shoulder abduction—both arms at sides—raise outward and upward over head, then relax to
sides (jumping jacks without the jump)
3) Shoulder shrugs
4) Pinch shoulder blades together
5) Elbow flexion/extension—bend and straighten elbow fully (muscle man)
6) Shoulder circles—with arms at sides, rotate shoulders in circles (7 reps fwd, 7 reps bkwrd)
7) Palms up/palms down
8) Wrists up/wrists down with palms facing down
9) Bend wrist to little finger side then thumb side (10 reps)
10) Spread fingers—squeeze together
11) Bend fingers at closest joints to fingernail keeping base joints straight (like hook)
COOL-DOWN EXERCISES FOLLOWING PERFORMANCE/PRACTICE
After vigorous activity muscles may tend to cramp or experience fatigue/discomfort.
Stretching muscles their entire length, holding, and then relaxing helps to alleviate these conditions.
10-15 minutes is recommended. Hold each for a long 5 counts.
EXERCISES: (5 repetitions recommended for each exercise)
1) Raise arms overhead
2) Touch opposite shoulder and hold, keeping elbow up (5 reps. each arm) Optional: gently
swing arm that is at side.
3) Bend neck to the right, then to left—hold each for 5 counts (pressing with a downward motion with hand will keep shoulder down and optimize stretch. For example, when bending neck to the left, press downward with the right hand.)
4) Hands behind head, elbows out to the side
5) Clasp hands behind hips and roll shoulders outward
6) Make a fist and bend wrist downward
7) Straighten fingers and straighten the wrist backwards
8) Spread fingers then relax
Good luck all.
More string player stress busters–Free resources…(Scroll to mid-page to see Newton, CT tribute video)
Call FitnessDunFun for other effective therapies,925-550-6082 / 888-348-0386
May you reap rewards in your journey.