Stay In Tune Both Physically and Instrumentally!

Chiropractor Anna Papadopoulou has some advice for fellow musicians.

Playing flute in an orchestra myself, I can relate and understand how hard it is to keep ‘in tune’ sometimes! So here is some helpful information for musicians everywhere when playing musical instruments…
Woodwind and brass players require the correct breathing technique in order to create the best possible intonation, articulation and length of notes. One of the key components of breathing technique is the correct biomechanics of the spine and the associated myofascial structures that will support and facilitate the best projection of sound.

Diaphragmatic breathing is of paramount importance. The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing and hence is called primary muscle of respiration. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. Abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and provide more power and control in exhalation.

Inhalation causes descent of the diaphragm and slight chest elevation. Improper sitting (slouching or forward leaning) causes accessory muscles of respiration to initiate breathing instead of the diaphragm and this alters the breathing pattern, resulting in leading with primary chest expansion instead of breathing with the belly. This perpetuates rounding of shoulders and anterior head carriage. This can have a direct impact on the intonation, length and quality of the sound the instrument produces.

Some helpful tips for overcoming such problems are listed below:

  1. Correct position is assumed on a chair that allows free upper body movement and concurrently provides support to the normal curves of the back.
  2. A sit wedge will ensure that the hips are raised higher than the knees and this maintains the normal lumbar curve, helping to maintain a straight posture.
  3. Correct the level of the music stand to avoid looking down at the music thus encouraging bad posture. Adjust to a comfortable position to ensure minor and necessary movements in the head, however allow enough room for upper body free movement.
  4. Make sure that your shoulders are gently drawn downwards and backwards and perform regular checks that you are gently holding the instrument rather than gripping.
  5. Perform regular stretches before and after practice, rehearsals or concerts in all major muscle groups in the neck (Scalene, levator scapulae and trapezius), to avoid build-up of tension.

A lot of musicians experience the fear that the current injury will result in the end of their music career, and that visiting a health practitioner will most likely result in an advice of rest along the lines of… “You should stop playing for a month and monitor the recovery”. We understand that lack of practice for even a small number of days can have a detrimental effect both on the musician’s confidence as well as their technique. We therefore aim to get you playing again as quickly as possible.

Should you choose to attend the clinic for further advice, we believe in looking at the whole picture, so we may ask you to bring the instrument along so that we can assess your posture and the body’s reaction to this task. Chiropractic can help reduce the current symptoms; however the symptoms you may be currently experiencing are only the tip of the iceberg. Together we will attempt to identify the cause of the problem and provide you with advice on what you can do to help yourself improve and prevent further damage.

Chiropractic can be a helpful addition to help improvement of your technique in your attempt to
stay in tune in the long run! Prevention is better than cure. After identification of the underlying problem, your chiropractor will propose a tailored management plan that may include adjusting of the spine and/or extremity, soft tissue work and at a later stage provide you with an individualised functional rehabilitation program to target the areas identified for improvement.

I hope the tips provided will help keep you playing for many years to come – please feel free to give me a call if you would like further information on this topic.

Anna Papadopoulou