Abstract: [AGB AWARD WINNER 2016]
BACKGROUND: Physical symptoms present in a large percentage of instrumental musicians at all levels of expertise, yet the impact of these symptoms on patterns of muscle use and perceived exertion during performance is still unclear. PURPOSE: Quantify the effects of physical symptoms on muscle activity and perceived exertion in skilled violinists during a range of bowing actions. METHODS: Fifty-five professional or university (undergraduate or postgraduate) violinists performed 5 randomly ordered 45-second musical excerpts designed to elicit a range of right arm bowing actions. Surface electromyography data were obtained from 16 muscles of the trunk, shoulder, and right arm during each excerpt performance. Sites of current physical symptoms were reported using a pre-test questionnaire. Average rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for the excerpt performances was obtained immediately after the final excerpt performance. RESULTS: Right upper trapezius muscle activity levels were significantly reduced in participants reporting right shoulder symptoms (p<0.05). Violinists with right wrist symptoms displayed global increases in average muscle activity across all investigated muscles (p<0.03). RPE did not differ significantly between any groups of symptomatic and asymptomatic participants. CONCLUSION: Differential muscle activity patterns appear between right shoulder symptomatic, right wrist symptomatic, and asymptomatic violinists, presenting the possibility of altered biomechanical responses to physical symptoms that vary with symptom location.