Warning: rock ‘n’ roll is bad for your health. We’re not just talking about the shocking diet, the chronic fatigue, the rivers of booze, the black eyes, the blisters and the bassist dropping his cab on your foot. Even the simple act of playing your instrument can put strain on your body and store up serious health issues. Here are four nasties and how to avoid them.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As a musician, your wrist is liable go rogue. We’ve all got a median nerve running down our arm to the fingers, and when that grinds on the wrist bones, you’ll get a numb, tingly feeling like you’re playing your instrument with a corpse’s hand. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by aggressive wrist movements, so warm up before the gig, alternate shreddier songs with mid-tempo ballads and assess the angle of your wrist as you play. If you’re already suffering, a chiropractor can loosen you up, while your GP can prescribe a shot of corticosteroids. Anything to avoid the wince-inducing scenario of surgery to snip the ligament.
If you’ve been trying to nail that legato riff for twelve hours straight and your elbow, wrist and forearm are on fire, that probably means you’ve inflamed the tendons that connect your muscle to the bone. To dodge tendonitis, build up your strength with a grip exerciser or stress ball, and watch your lifestyle and nutrition, as strong cells are more resilient than ones that have been marinated in Jack Daniels. If you’ve got tendonitis already, rest for three weeks with regular ice packs while the fluid drains, and visit your doctor, who can administer steroids, physio and shockwave therapy.
Like pattern baldness and prostate problems, you might think arthritis is a distant dark cloud you won’t have to face for decades. Not necessarily. The most common type – osteoarthritis – is the wearing-down of your joints, and that process is accelerated when you’re putting your hands, shoulders and knees through the wringer every night. Fatty acids, fish oils and vitamins all fight inflammation, and preventative chiropractic sessions will help, even if you’re not yet aware of an issue. While there’s no strict ‘cure’, anti-inflammatory painkillers, thermotherapy and capsaicin cream will give you relief from them bones.
We’re not saying you have to pace around with a book on your head like a finishing school debutante, but do give a thought to posture. When you’re smashing out a drum solo or a meaty thrash-metal riff, try to resist headbanging like the Churchill dog on speed, or you’ll spend your autumn years in a wheelchair. If you play a heavy guitar, try not to lean in any one direction or you’ll cause distortion in the shoulders, and sling it at a height where your fingers, wrist, shoulder and back are relaxed. Chances are, you’re already out of alignment, so visit an osteopath or chiropractor to get snapped back into shape.