JAVS Fall 2023

Health and Wellness

Awareness & Basic Injury Prevention for the Violist by Randall Kertz, DC

I am a bassist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist, and I specialize in the treatment and prevention of musician’s injuries—a subject on which I write books, lecture, and produce videos on extensively. I am very happy to be able to share some ideas and thoughts with you from an injury prevention perspective, keeping basic pedagogy and technique in mind, but also with the understanding that everyone is different; for example, the differences in size and stature should always be considered. I am big on awareness, as you shall see from this article, so with that being said let’s dive in! Awareness, for our purposes here, is defined as “paying attention to how you feel.” Pain is the body’s way of telling one that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. When pain is noticed, and the problem is identified early enough, chances are good that one will recover quickly and can hopefully avoid the problem in the future by being proactive. This could mean something as simple as taking breaks when possible, warming up prior to playing, breathing properly to reduce tension, or something more technique-related, like lowering the shoulder or even revisiting the size of the instrument to make sure it is appropriate for the player. First, it is important to take breaks whenever possible. This means optimally, if practicing 45-50 minutes out of an hour, it is ideal to take a 10-minute break. Getting up and moving around during this break will give the body a chance to move, increasing circulation and interrupting any repetitive motion-type patterns and excessive tension that may have developed during the practice hour. While this is not always possible, especially in rehearsal or performance type situations, one can—rather than remain in a ready position when not playing—let one hand and arm or the other hang by the side and shake

it out to help to break up any accumulated patterns of tension from repetitive motion and increase circulation to help avoid muscle cramping. Lowering the arm whenever possible from playing position helps to avoid overuse of the shoulder, arm, and back musculature, and is an important part of injury prevention for the violist, as well as for any musician. Warming up means different things to different people and is important not only prior to playing, but for general fitness and wellness. As a musician, some type of warm up is important, if only for circulation purposes so that one doesn’t go into a playing situation cold. Your muscles need proper blood flow to operate efficiently. Proper blood flow brings necessary oxygen to muscles, which supports efficient muscular function. If one jumps right into a playing situation without getting the circulation flowing properly, you could find yourself cramping up early in a set or rehearsal depending on how hard you play or how difficult the material is. To help to avoid this, a player can, when playing something new or challenging, start slowly, progressively building up speed to allow the muscles to warm up properly and to avoid strain that can occur by doing too much too quickly. Consider starting your practice by running some scales slowly and without tension. Warm up with something simple before trying anything complex. If you start to feel a slight burning sensation in either hand, when possible, stop and wait a couple of minutes to see if it goes away. If it doesn’t go away quickly, or if you need to shake it out to make it go away, that means you’re doing too much too soon. If you are playing to the point of experiencing acute pain in either hand, that means you are probably doing something that could likely lead to tendonitis or a repetitive strain type injury. When stretching before a practice or playing situation or anytime, know the

Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, No. 2, Fall 2023


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