Being a dietitian nutritionist and exercise specialist who works with musicians, playing guitar and music for me has to come last as it’s more important to keep up with the latest nutrition research to help my clients versus what can I learn next with music. On the other side I enjoy playing guitar and do so as time allows. Playing also connects me to insight as to what stressors, musician stress factors, musicians may have because I am always paying attention to body mechanics.
We all become accustomed to what we do whether it be our work, a sport, playing an instrument, or a combination of both work and performing as it is with the professional musician. When we become accustomed to what our body becomes comfortable with, we often forget the importance of repairing our body by way of food, stretching, or activity to relieve joints of inflammation or pain.
Musician Stress Factors
As for myself, my body has become accustom to weight training, over and over very similar routines at least four days per week for over 30 years. Therefore, it’s rare for me to feel much discomfort or tightness following a tough work out, and when I do feel any discomfort I don’t always pay attention to it. However, I do know enough to nourish my body both pre and post work-out to prevent and repair any damage that’s been done. Perhaps this is why I feel less stress. This same method holds true for any musician working the same muscles and tendons day after day. More flexibility and strength develops over time, and on the downside unfortunately over time there is more ware and tear on the joints leading to arthritis for some. The other downside is by only working certain muscle groups as it is with playing an instrument, there is more room for stress factors, and weakness in other muscles not being used. Similar to any athlete who only performs one exercise day after day that leads to increased risk for stress fractures.
This week as I’ve been learning a couple of new songs on the guitar, perhaps playing a little more than usual, and like any new song it’s new moves, new exercise for the fingers, wrists, and hand, and new repetition over and over, thus leading to tightness and joint pain I’m not used to feeling because I am not a professional seasoned guitarist as I am with regular exercise. At first I thought this shouldn’t be happening, I perform all kinds of exercises including forearm exercises and wrist stretches as I’m a kayaker, but yet this was a new pain never felt before. What this told me is two things; one that I need to stretch more and probably get a little more nourishment into my body post playing guitar, and two it tells me that a seasoned musician requires nutrients as much as any athlete repetitively using the same body parts over and over. Proper nourishment can help to alleviate impending inflammation or joint pain, and repair or prevent damage from happening down the road that may include arthritis or osteoporosis.
Proper nourishment means consuming adequate nutrient rich carbohydrates with antioxidants and phytochemicals, plenty of protein sources to repair damaged tissue, adequate hydration, as well as rich sources of essential fatty acids and calcium to name a few. It means not going hours without eating, and if you’re practicing three hours at a time, it means having something to eat before and after playing. This is how you can help alleviate musician stress factors.