From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Really, the Life of a Rock Star Can Be Painful

Think the life of a rock star is glamorous? Not so indicates a recent report in the Sunday Mirror (U.K.) that noted even rock stars develop work-related injuries.

Earlier this month, for example, former Beatle’s drummer Ringo Starr was reported to be recovering from shoulder surgery intended to alleviate problems stemming from years of drumming. The Mirror also pointed to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that kept Status Quo’s guitarist, Rick Parfitt, from playing, and that cause folk-rock guitarist Richard Thompson to ice his arm before shows.

Rock stars, and even wanna-bes, regularly face risk factors for injuries like repetition and awkward postures, as do other performing artists. According to the Worker’s Compensation Board of British Columbia, 23 percent of all performing artists’ injuries for which claims were accepted between 1998 and 2002 were for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and 42 percent of workdays lost in British Columbia’s performing arts industry during the same time period were related to back strain, other strains and tendonitis.

In 2002, the BBC reported that researchers at the University of Surrey deemed the neck/shoulder and wrist/hand regions to be at the greatest risk of injury for musicians, particularly guitarists, something physiotherapist Kathy Lewis could attribute to low-slung guitars, poor posture and the force exerted while playing. However, Lewis also noted that the greatest source of MSDs for guitarists might be the result of repetitive movements of the fingers across the fret board.

“The pressure that you exert with your fret board hand is extremely high and you fatigue very, very quickly. Most players push too hard,” Lewis told the BBC.

Ergonomic resolutions for the pain of being a rock star may include adjusting the position of the guitar strap, reviewing the posture taken while playing any instrument and taking regular breaks. Lewis’s specific recommendations for guitar players include playing a wider variety of music that will encourage different finger positions and using lower gauge strings that don’t require as much force.

In the United States, a number of clinics and programs have been set up to address the occupational risk factors existing for rock (or jazz or folk) stars. Included are the Bay Area Health Outreach Program, a collaborative effort between the Oakland Jazz Foundation and the University of California San Francisco; the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic (NOMC); and Ithaca College’s Performing Arts Medicine program, a joint program by Ithaca College’s School of Health Science and Human Performance and the School of Music.

Sources: BBC; Sunday Mirror (U.K.); Worker’s Compensation Board of British Columbia