Anyone else feeling a little stiff? Maybe it’s the upcoming weather changes, but I’m feeling a little overdue for a chiropractic visit for my neck and shoulders. Any flute player knows that our instrument is not the most ergonomically-friendly one, so we really have to be careful about our body awareness and positioning. In fact, according to physical therapist Gay Lynn Westover, “In 2012 there was a cross sectional survey given to the musicians in Australia’s eight full time professional symphonic and pit orchestras focusing on performance-related musculoskeletal disorders. 84% that participated reported pain and injuries interfered with playing their instruments and/or participating in orchestral rehearsals or performances. 28% reported taking at least one day off from work because of the pain.”
Yikes, right? The good news is that with a little bit of dedicated work and attention, the risk of this happening can be greatly reduced. Here are some suggestions from Westover, as well as Dr. Lea Pearson:
1. Approach posture as a whole-body function. Instead of just thinking about not sticking your neck out, rounding your shoulders, or balancing your head on your spine (which are all very important points!), think about distributing the work and micro-movements throughout your whole body. This will help alleviate stress and soreness.
2. Adapt your body to your flute, not vice versa. Experiment with your natural positioning of your hips (especially when standing), arms, and even your legs, and determine what feels the most comfortable related to bringing your instrument to a good playing position. Don’t be afraid to adapt your chair or stand position–what works well for your student or ensemble neighbor may not work for you.
3. Move! Alternate between standing and sitting, take practice breaks, experiment with walking slowly and purposefully around the room while you are warming up. Outside of your musical life, staying active with your favorite kind of exercise will help keep joints limber and fluid.