TIPS FOR PIANO PLAYERS

As a Massage Therapist, I’ve begun to detect patterns and compensations that a body makes when it is faced with a certain stress. These adaptations or compensations can occur in a side to side, front to back or a rotation based compensation. Many times you are able to make changes to reduce the stress that a body is put through. Examples may be changing your chair, position of your computer and keyboard, walking patterns ect. Then there are times when you are only able to make changes to a certain degree given the activity you are doing. An example of this is playing the piano. Generally the position of the piano is fairly constant given the dimension of the instrument. A piano player will then find themselves in a slightly head forward position to see the music and keys. Playing for up to an hour and beyond can cause a lot of stress on the back as it supports the weight of your upper body for this extended period of time. At the same time, the muscles of the front of your torso can become shortened and over time remain in that tightened position. This can affect Body Systems like Digestion, Breathing and the Nervous System. When you are playing the piano, often your shoulder will be turned inwards causing muscle imbalance and reducing the efficiency of the shoulder movement in any “overhead activities arm movementâ€?.
Engaging in an exercise and stretch routine away from the time that you are playing piano will help to strengthen the muscles that are fatigued during the time that you are playing, namely the neck muscles, mid back muscles and muscles between the shoulder blades. Posture that you maintain during playing, but also importantly away from playing, is important as a reminder to the body what a normal balanced body should be so the body will not deviate into a position that may manifest in a pathological way later on. Effects on the body may be, as mentioned before, effects on Digestion, Breathing, and include muscle pain that can refer to other areas of the body, headaches, impingement of nerves causing numbness and function difficulties in the arms and hands, TMJ (jaw), dizziness, nausea, fatigue to name a few.

A fantastic treat for the hands (as an often overlooked area of the body, even with piano playing) is a Hydrotherapy treatment called Contrasting that you can do at home. Contrasting uses Heat and Cold to bring in new blood to the area, then allows Oxygen to go to the Muscles and Muscle Metabolites to the Blood in exchange, then pushes the old blood back to the heart.  This treatment involves:
-placing your hands in warm-to-hot water for 3 minutes and emerging up to your elbows
-then placing your hands in cold water up to just above the wrists for 30 seconds
-repeat this 3 times.

If you have any circulatory disorders or other illness, please contact your Doctor to confirm that this is safe for you to do.

As each person compensates differently, and therefore presents differently, it is difficult to arrive at a Universal Strengthening program that is fit for everybody.
Having said that, the muscles that tend to become weakened the most include:
-The muscles that rotate the shoulder outwards (including the Rotator Cuff muscles)
-The upper/midback and neck muscles at the back
-The muscles that travel from your spine out to the shoulder blades

There are Muscles that do the opposite to those named above than will become shorted and unable to lengthen that need to be released /stretched.. Muscles that become shortened often lose their ability to release the metabolites they create and put unnecessary stress on the joints they cross and can cause pain and imbalance as a result.

Generally, I find that making simple posture changes are adequate to help strengthen the necessary muscles and to balance the body.

Call Simon James R.M.T. at 818-1640 to make an appointment to review your current posture and incorporate some exercises/stretches to help to strengthen and balance the body to the specific activity of Piano Playing.

Massage Therapy / Posture cont…

Postural Education is very much a part of my treatment as I believe that much of the success of a treatment depends on what the client does away from the treatment. I had included some tips when working at the computer but something that I left out that I noticed was becoming quite prevelant is the aspect of having the chair low enough that both feet can be solidly on a surface like the floor or a foot stool. The reason behind this is that if they aren’t, then a person tends to tuck their feet under the chair. When that occurs (especially with someone that has tight thigh muscles), it causes low back extra curvature. If you sit like this for hours at a time, then the musculature can shorten in the lowerback and the over curvature can become remain long term even when not sitting, causing a postural imbalance, back pain, head forward posture, nerve impingement, TMJ (jaw) and other conditions. The only reason that this can spread up to the jaw is that the upper body, head, shoulders and jaw can become the counter balancers to the overcurature of the lower back. I’m contemplating doing a talk at offices about good posture at the workplace that takes about 15 minutes but can be very valuable in maintaing good posture at and away from work.

Heading up to Penticton

In August, my friend Damian and I are going up to Penticton for a Work/Holiday trip. What would drag us up there in the madness of the heat? The Penticton Ironman of course. We will be Massaging for the Athletes for 5 days. This will be part time for some of the days. There will be different types of Massage Therapy based on the athlete’s needs and if the massage is before the race or after the race. I’m pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I feel very confident with my work but I’m always curious about dealing with super-professionals athletes. But it should be lots of fun and I get a cool t-shirt out of it. After than, we are probably going down to the U.S. and have a bit of a break then back to Victoria. We are doing lots of different events here in Victoria from a Firemans Competition to Dragonboat Races to 24 Hour Relay. It’s all for A Good Cause and a chance to get the word out about what Massage Therapy is all about.
Should be a good summer.

Composing Music

I can’t remember if I had an earlier entry regarding this, but I have found a lot of enjoying recently with recording different musician playing their tunes. With a couple of different microphones, a pre-amp and my computer with some Professional Recording Software, I can travel to where they are playing and do up a pretty good little recording, mix and master the music and burn on a cd for them. At this stage, I am doing this as my own hobby and for practice and, who knows, maybe on a more professional basis in the future. I’ve done a couple of concerts and some recording for audition cd’s ect. It has been a lot of fun and the people I record are very happy as it can often be a very expensive little deal to get a recording and I think it is a great benefit for all parties involved. I have an interesting little diddy coming up with a Sitar player who would like to record and put some percussion behind it. Each instrument seem to present with a very different type of sound and therefore seems to have different recording needs so it has been a good challenge. For example I managed to record my own voice doing some songs as a Tenor and found that the Soprano has much different needs to arrive at a good recording. I am looking forward to the sitar recording.

Are you a musician or anyone you know a musician, in the Victoria area, and would like a recording of your music? Call me anytime at 818-1640. If you feel guilty about having me record for free, I do work for coffee (large Americano). I think it’s good Music Karma.