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The influence of neck-shoulder pain of trapezius muscle activity among professional violin and viola players: an electromyographic study

Patrice Berque, Heather Gray
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 17 Number 2: Page 68 (June 2002)

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Abstract: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the neck- shoulder area are common among violin and viola players. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) on muscle activity, by measuring electromyographic activity in the upper trapezius (UT) muscles of violin and viola players under three experimental conditions: rest, performance of an easy piece, and performance of a difficult piece. Ten professional violin and viola players from a Scottish orchestra volunteered to take part in the study. Five subjects complained of pain in the neck-shoulder region; five were pain-free. Bilateral surface electromyography (EMG) was used, following submaximal reference voluntary contractions, to record the muscle activity of the UT muscles during the three experimental conditions. Subjects were randomly allocated to the conditions. A four-factor balanced analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed. The results revealed that the pain-free subjects developed more UT muscle activity than subjects experiencing neck-shoulder pain (F = 4.07, df = 1, p = 0.05). Furthermore, the subjects developed significantly more UT activity when progressing from the rest condition to performance of the difficult piece (F = 36.64, df = 2, p < 0.001). The PRMD subjects developed more UT activity than the pain-free subjects at rest. The opposite tendency was observed for the playing conditions. However, the results were not statistically significant for this interaction (F = 1.85, df = 2, p = 0.169). The results suggest that redistribution of the load to other synergistic muscles may be a strategy used by PRMD subjects to alleviate pain or discomfort at the neck-shoulder area. The voluntary monitoring of shoulder muscle activity may be of great importance in the prevention of PRMDs in viola and violin players.

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