As an instrumentalist we often face many physical challenges that, over time, can lead to chronic physical discomfort, pain, or worse. I have found that dealing with discomfort–even slight discomfort–as soon as the sensations arise is better than waiting to see if they go away on their own. I am a big proponent of holistic healing methods and, while my suggestions here may cost you some money, the amount pales in comparison to the cost of mainstream medical doctor’s visits and the loss of income from not being able to play. So, here goes:
MASSAGE – for neck/arm tension and tightness. Good also as a way to reduce emotional stress before an upcoming concert. I like to have a massage two days before a concert, if possible. The day before is also okay but never on the day of. It can make you tired or lightheaded.
ACCUPUNCTURE – for any type of localized pain. This ancient Chinese healing method will relieve pain, speed up the healing process and make you feel both calm and revitalized simultaneously. Better yet, there are virtually no side effects other than perhaps a slight discomfort for some people when the sterilized needles are inserted.
CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENT – in the hands of a skilled practitioner, this method of adjusting your neck and spine can relieve both sharp pain, dull aches, and tingling that are either localized or that radiate down your arms. The thought of it can be a bit scary the first time but, really, it’s not painful and it can work wonders.
Other modalities that you may want to try are the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkreis Method. They focus on posture and freedom of movement and can make one realize just how much the habitual ways of using our bodies can interfere with breathing and movement. I find that heat makes my fingers and arms more flexible but if I feel sore in a particular spot I will try and ice it to reduce the inflammation.
Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofin, can be of help if you find it is really necessary but I try to avoid them as much as possible. A good natural alternative is a topical ointment called arnica gel – it can be found in health food stores and has none of the chemical drawbacks (or odors) that are found in products such as BenGay. And, of course, your grandmother’s method of soaking in epsom salts is not only soothing but is a tried and true way to naturally reduce inflammation.
In short, don’t be afraid to try any or all of the above. As players we need to keep our bodies happy and healthy. It may feel like you’re pampering yourself too much but addressing – immediately – even the slightest discomfort in these ways is insurance against long-term disabilities (and costs). So, yes, do go ahead and “pamper” yourself. You and your music making are worth it!
See my other related post: Dealing With An Injury Related To Your Instrument