Lynne Krayer-Luke, flutist and Body Mapping specialist

A Case for Body Mapping 

by Lynne Krayer-Luke

Over the past twenty years, a field of performing arts medicine has developed in response to the many complaints of musicians who are experiencing pain from playing their instruments (Harman, 1998). It has become the norm for musicians to have thirty hours of orchestra rehearsals and concerts per week, plus chamber music, plus individual practice (Fry, 1986). These long hours of rapid, repetitive movements have caused high rates of pain and injury among musicians.

One of the first major surveys of medical problems among musicians was done by Fishbein, Middlestadt, Ottati, Straus, and Ellis (1988). A nation wide survey of International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) revealed that 82% had a medical problem. 76% reported a medical problem which was severe enough that they felt it had affected their performance. Treatments which these musicians found to be most useful (aside from surgery and rest, which are sometimes medically necessary) included those which aided in developing body awareness and retraining of movement (both of which are taught in the Body Mapping method).

A very sad, unexpected clinical finding of a similar survey conducted by Fry in (1986) revealed an acceptance of the pain among musicians. Many reported that they thought their pain was “normal”; that it was just part of the job. Many of the musicians learned different ways to adapt and cope with their pain. Many would conceal their pain, perhaps out of fear for losing their job or not receiving any new work.

Conservatories and music schools world wide are now beginning to recognize the need for courses that will educate their students on how to retrain their movement so as to prevent injury and promote health and facility at the instrument. Several papers (Barton, 2008; Hildebrandt & Nubling, 2004; Medoff, 1999; Spahn, Hildebrandt, & Seidenglanz, 2001) are beginning to be published which suggest the integration of such programs in music schools/conservatories is advantageous. In 2001, Spahn, Hildebrandt, and Seidenglanz published a study which investigated the effectiveness of a “Physiology of Music and Performing Arts medicine” course on students at the Zurich Conservatory. The course outlines basic physiological and medical information to the music students. The results showed that there was a positive effect on the physical health of the participants of the course. Studies such as this suggest that movement education (perhaps in the form of Body Mapping) may help to lower the number of overuse injuries among musicians.

Musicians are in need of a way to address the pain and injury that plagues them so that they may continue their livelihood. An approach, which aids in technique correction, relaxation, and body awareness is recommended by many of the afore mentioned studies. As was just mentioned, teaching physiology and medical information with practical application to music making has shown to have potential for having a positive impact on musicians’ health. Additionally, educating young musicians on injury prevention is reported to have positive long-term effects. This would all suggest that including a movement education program, such as Body Mapping, into one’s training could be extremely beneficial.

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Copyright © 2009-2010, Lynne Krayer-Luke