Introduction

Professional musicians, like top-level athletes, use their bodies,
but who is aware of this? What are the options if a problem occurs?
Whom to consult? Many musicians don’t know and wonder, sometimes for years,
before finding answers to their questions.

A lot of musicians who suffer feel guilty. They feel vulnerable and ashamed
to admit that they are injured and can’t play anymore. Quite the opposite
of athletes, who rarely hide their injuries, agree to stop if necessary, and never
hesitate to seek medical help!

On the other hand, whenever I state my profession, most people are astonished:
“Physiotherapist for musicians? I didn’t know such a profession existed”. Some
say, “Musicians must have very strong hands.” Granted, our profession is not
well known, but it has been attracting more public attention since some
of the most famous musicians have agreed to speak openly about their physical
disorders.

Slowly but surely attitudes are changing. More and more musicians are asking
questions about their bodies, and admit that they need physical support.
They ask for exercises to do, for example, to warm up. Musicians are demanding
and disciplined, which has required us to become very competent in meeting
their expectations.

But you shouldn’t think that they all suffer bodily disorders that need treatment.
Some find a solution immediately, and find, as if by instinct, a magic equilibrium.
Paule, a 27-year-old pianist, explains: “I have always found a refuge in music.
I am never bored with it and can work happily for several hours. I have always
felt that there was harmony between my body and my instrument. I don’t ask
myself any questions; I produce a pure sound.” Of course not every-one is
as lucky as Paule, which is the reason for this book. Its aim? To help musicians
who suffer and to answer the following question: “what should I do if something
goes wrong?” and to primarily provide prevention.

Throughout the following pages, you’ll read about musicians who tell us how,
one day, their bodies refused to continue. Some had to stop playing
momentarily… others had to stop for good. I hope these testimonies will help
to explain to musicians who are out of order that they are not alone, and that
they have a path to follow to find their inner serenity. Teachers, doctors
and specialised physiotherapists, all working closely together, are there to help.
In fact we all agree about one thing: a lot of problems could have been avoided
if a preventive routine had been put into place. Practical advice is also given
to help each and every one of you face the times when you “work intensively
without always being in your best physical shape,” as the 43-year-old cellist
Olivier explained to me.

My goal is also to help teachers in their work. Clear explanations and precise
facts about the anatomy of the body, aided by drawings by Blandine Calais-
Germain, will help teachers pass on to their students a positive approach to their
body, which is more than just to say “relax, you are too tense”… For a lot
of musicians, having a relaxed body means being in good shape. This is
a misconception that absolutely must be clarified. When a musician plays
according to a mental concept about his body instead of feeling it from within,
he is making a mistake, since a huge discrepancy occurs between the musical
memory and the body memory. Making both sections of the brain agree
is not always an easy task!

This book refers to instruments such as the piano or violin. The reason is that
so many of you are playing them, often without realizing that there are
significant risks. Other instruments not mentioned are no less important,
but the purpose of this book is not necessarily to consider the problems linked
to the playing of all instruments. As you will see, certain subjects are repeated;
this is intentional, as there are always several ways of explaining
the same problem.

As a musician, training your body to achieve maximum performance is a real
ordeal, but when you are successful, what a treat! “At the moment, my lif
is organised around music. My body is trained in order to help me produce
a suitable sound for the music. I can play six to eight hours a day without
feeling tired, and I’ve never enjoyed it more than now.” Those are the words
of Christine, a 25 year-old viola player, whom I treated in collaboration with
her teacher. They are worth all the thank-yous in this world and are highly
encouraging for all musicians. If this book helps musicians to succeed in playing
fully, without hurting their bodies, then I will have fulfilled my goal.

Coralie Cousin

 

 

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