Fatigue and pain of the back, both thoracic and lumbar are some common physical problems that musicians in general, and harpists in particular, encounter. Also: neck pain and strain. Tendon problems, and for harpists especially the in extensor tendons ("tennis elbow" or lateral epicondylitis) related to repetitive strain. And although we are speaking of physical problems, I find that psychological factors such as performance-related stress also contribute to the overall health issues of musicians. We may do all kinds of preventative, ergonomical work, but if all that disappears due to stress once the musician is on stage, it won't do much good.
Arms and hands
Since the beginning of this series of articles, my approach has been to present some basic ideas for achieving a strong posture, from which arms and hands move with more ease. Even problems in the arms, tennis elbow for example, could be prevented by building a strong foundation, core, and by allowing for more variation in one's musical practise.
Once a problem of the arms or hands is already present, it will still help resolve the issue if one works on a correct posture. Sometimes musicians may find that when they start working on a better posture, they also need to re-learn parts of their technique for playing. While this may feel like a set-back, or slowing one down, in the long run it means having a technique with less strain on the body, and likely fewer injuries.
In the article on the Centre, I speak of both the core, an anatomical concept, and being centered, a more mental or controlled aspect of physical practise. The core can be said to be the innermost stabilising muscles around our spine, trunk, belly and hips. Being centered means at the same time having a mental focus on the core and letting all movements come from there.
Finally, I would like to share these resources with you where you can gather more information:
- A hugely informative site including both anatomy and exercises: The Artists' and Musicians' Health - Musician Ergonomics (English and Swedish).
- Interview with Coralie Cousin, physical therapist for musicians, speaks of the harp and harpists: A "Musician's physical therapist" for harpists (English).
- La "Kiné des musiciens" (French).
Thank you for your time and all the best with your continued practise!