Musicians benefit from physical therapy

On Thursday, Sept. 19, at 11:30 a.m. a crowd of music students and faculty gath- ered in Urness Recital Hall for a presenta- tion about core strength and injury preven- tion. Physical therapist Dave Wieber and occupational therapist Ann Dahl filled the hour with helpful wellness advice.

The speakers, from Wieber Physical Therapy in Faribault, are used to working with students. In addition to their regular practice, Wieber and Dahl also work with St. Olaf performing arts students in the Skoglund training room, providing treat- ment for overuse injuries and other issues related to the physical demands of practice and performance.

The hour-long lecture focused on the importance of developing proper posture and core strength in order to avoid injuries. Wieber first demonstrated what good pos- ture looks like, standing sideways to show how the head, shoulders, neck and back all ought to align. Throughout the presenta- tion, he emphasized the interconnected- ness of body’s muscles, bones and tissues. Lecture attendees were asked to place a hand on a partner’s spine and feel how the back muscles tightened while the partner moved

hisorherarmasifholdingabowtoplaya stringed instrument.

The core, Wieber explained, involves leg, shoulder and neck muscles, not just the stomach and back. A strong core matters to musicians because using the body’s large muscles to support a balanced, stable frame reduces fatigue and improves fine motor control. While most instrumental musi- cians focus on training their hands and arms, ignoring the rest of the body has a detrimental affect on both performances and musician health. Dahl noted that many of the hand and wrist injuries she sees stem from other problems in the person’s shoul- ders and back.

The second half of the presentation con- sisted of Wieber and Dahl demonstrating several exercises to strengthen the muscles that help musicians improve their posture and relieve tension. Most required no spe- cial equipment and could be done in a practice or dorm room, the library or even a car. The entire audience stood and practiced each stretch. Wieber recommended that musicians do a few reps throughout the day, instead of trying to work through everything at once. The lecture finished with a brief question and answer session.

While the presentation was directed

toward music students, many of Wieber and Dahl’s suggestions apply to students and faculty in every discipline. Anybody carry- ing an overstuffed backpack and spending hours leaning forward while studying can acquire a permanent slump and back pain. Dahl also pointed out that the contorted positions many adopt while working on laptops also create pain and lasting damage. She recommended that laptop users either sitatatableorfindawaytopropupthekey- board high enough to use without hunching over.

Additionally, Wieber suggested dividing long blocks of study or practice time into shorter intervals with breaks that include movement and stretching. Because it is only possible to both focus on a task and main- tain healthy posture for about 20 minutes at a time, taking stretch breaks allows the brain to process and retain information more effectively and avoids stressing the body.

On-campus physical therapy is one of many resources available to St. Olaf musi- cians and other performers. Contact Kathryn Ananda-Owens for more informa- tion about physical therapy and other musi- cian wellness-related concerns.