Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Use of a Shoulder Rest for Playing the Violin Revisited: An Analysis of the Effect of Shoulder Rest Height on Muscle Activity, Violin Fixation Force, and Player Comfort

Laura M. Kok, Jim Schrijvers, Marta Fiocco, Barend van Royen, Jaap Harlaar
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 34 Number 1: Page 39 (March 2019)

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Abstract: AIMS: For violinists, the shoulder rest is an ergonomic adaptation to reduce musculoskeletal load. In this study, we aimed to evaluate how the height of the shoulder rest affects the violin fixation force and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the superficial neck and shoulder muscles. METHODS: In professional violinists, four different shoulder rest heights during five playing conditions were evaluated. Outcome variables included the jaw-shoulder violin fixation force and bilateral surface EMG of the upper trapezius (mTP), sternocleidomastoid (mSCM), and left anterior part of the left deltoid muscle (mDTA). Playing comfort was subjectively rated on a visual analogue scale (VAS). Linear regression models were estimated to investigate the influence of the shoulder rest height on muscle activity and violin fixation force as well as the muscle activity of the five evaluated muscles on violin fixation force. RESULTS: 20 professional violinists (4 males, 16 females, mean age 29.4 yrs) participated in this study. The shoulder rest condition had a significant effect on playing comfort (p<0.001), with higher shoulder rest conditions associated with decreased subjective playing comfort. The mean violin fixation force for each shoulder rest condition ranged between 2.92 and 3.39 N; higher shoulder rests were related to a higher violin fixation force (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: In this study, violin fixation force and muscle activity of the left mDTA increased while playing with an increasing height of the shoulder rest. As the shoulder rest influences muscle activity patterns and violin fixation force, adjustment of the shoulder rest and positioning of the violin need to be carefully optimized.

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