My First Shoulder Injury

I haven’t really talked about this very much yet but this past Spring I had a shoulder injury. It was the first time in my life anything like that happened to me as well as the first time I had to stop playing for a while because of a physical limitation. But as much of a difficult process it’s been, I like to think there’ve been some silver linings.

You see, it really made me think long and hard about how to approach my practice and performance routines. And to be honest, I thought I was already pretty good at that kind of thing. Turns out there was much more to be explored.

Cactus Arms

MUSICIANS ARE SMALL MUSCLE ATHLETES

First of all, let’s start thinking of ourselves as athletes. I know playing a concert doesn’t quite seem like the Olympics but in terms of the demands on the body it’s essentially the same thing. We’re asking the body to sit often in a static one sided position for many hours a day which will inevitably create imbalances that we should be addressing.


ADAPTATION

Let’s zoom out a bit though. You might think, if we are putting certain muscles under greater perpetual stress than others, shouldn’t we be training them to do so without getting injured? That’s absolutely right. Your body will always meet the demands you’re putting it under by adapting to them but there’s a catch.


PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

The keywords here are progressive overload = essentially not too much and not too little. The load must progressively stress the targeted tissue to trigger adaptation. If we take the example of weight training, “In order to progressively overload, one would gradually increase the volume by increasing the reps, the sets, the percent of 1RM [one rep maximum], or all. Spikes in training, or rapid fluctuations in load are associated with an increased risk of injury.” (Jules Mitchell – Yoga Biomechanics)


STARTING AGAIN AFTER A BREAK

So how might you use this as a musician? One very current example is getting back to playing after a period of holiday. Instead of jumping in with both feet and practicing for four hours a day, let’s start slow and leave enough time to build up = progressive overload.

Here’s what I’m planning on doing the week before going back to work:

Day 1 – 10 minutes am

Day 2 – 10 minutes am, 10 minutes pm

Day 3 – 15 minutes am , 15 minutes pm

Day 4 – 20 minutes am, 20 minutes pm

Day 5 – 25 minutes am, 25 minutes pm

Day 6 – 30 minutes am, 30 minutes pm

Day 7 – rest ;)

Sounds a bit meticulous? Perhaps. But I’ll take that over having another injury any day of the week.

AN INVITATION

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