Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Playing-related injury in guitarists playing popular music

John L. Rigg, Randy Marrinan, Mark A. Thomas
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 18 Number 4: Page 150 (December 2003)

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Abstract: Playing a musical instrument involves the repetitive use of muscles, often at their extreme range of motion. Consequently, musicians in general are at an increased risk for the development of pain syndromes related to nerve or musculoskeletal damage. Acoustic and electric guitars are among the most popular instruments in the world today, with a large population of musicians at risk of injury. This article examines the results of a survey completed by 261 professional, amateur, and student guitarists to determine the most common anatomic locations of playing-related pain and its relationship to possible etiologic factors. A survey of 15 questions was distributed to professional, amateur, and student guitarists who play the musical genres of rock/blues, jazz, and folk across the United States and Canada. The questions addressed type of guitar played, style of music performed, playing posture, picking technique, anatomic location of pain, history of formal training, presence of playing-related pain in the past 12 months, history of trauma to the affected area, and history of other nonrelated medical problems. Playing-related pain was reported by 160 (61.3%) of 261 guitarists who completed the survey. The most often reported location was the fretting hand, with 109 (41.8%) of 261 subjects reporting the presence of playing-related pain in the previous 12 months. The back and neck were the next most reported sites of playing-related pain, with 45 (17.2%) of 261 subjects reporting back pain and 39 (14.9%) of 261 subjects reporting neck pain in the previous 12 months. The results suggest that a substantial number of guitarists playing various styles of popular music are experiencing playing-related pain.

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