Performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) include any pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, or other symptom that interferes with the ability to play an instrument at the level to which the musician is accustomed.  Diagnosed injuries, such as carpal tunnel or tendinitis, are often included with PRMDs.

The field of performing arts medicine is a new specialty that is growing quickly due to increasing demand.  Musicians are incurring PRMDs from playing at an alarming rate.  The rate of PRMDs in instrumental musicians fluctuated from 37% to 87% in the literature.1  Overuse was the most common condition afflicting all types of instrumental musicians.2-8  Overuse was often categorized as musculoskeletal pain and overuse syndromes.9  Musicians experienced PRMDs most frequently in the upper-extremities.10-17  Females were more likely to suffer from PRMDs than males.5,8,18-22  The younger demographics were more susceptible to PRMDs.8,13,22,23  The larger the instrument was, the more likely the player would incur an injury.5,18,19

My PhD thesis investigated PRMDs in bassoon players.  Previous studies grouped the bassoon with dissimilar instruments when publishing results thus tainting specific findings.  Bassoon was often poorly represented in sample sizes because of the rarity of the instrument.15  Previous research reported bassoonists incurring PRMDs from playing, between 5%21 to 80%.12

To provide more information on the rate of PRMDs in this small population an international questionnaire was conducted via the Internet, which was proven a successful tool for gathering Musician information by the University of North Texas Musician Survey.12  The International Bassoonists Questionnaire (IBQ) was created.  The IBQ covered:

  1. Types of injuries and PRMDs experienced by bassoon players
  2. Injury and PRMD frequency among bassoon players
  3. Severity of PRMDs
  4. Location of PRMDs
  5. Duration of PRMDs
  6. Treatments used
  7. Contributing factors to the development of PRMDs
  8. Perceptions of the bassoon community regarding PRMDs
  9. Exercise regiment of bassoon players
  10. Demographic information

The IBQ was left open for over eight months and was closed on 25 May 2007 with 212 respondents.

Results from the IBQ will be posted in February 2012.  Check back soon!

1.    Zaza, C. Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in musicians: A systematic review of incidence and prevalence. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Apr 1998;158(8):1019-1025.
2.    Fry, H. J. Hunter. Incidence of Overuse Syndrome in the Symphony-Orchestra. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Jun 1986;1(2):51-55.
3.    Mandel, Steven, Patterson Stephanie, Johnson Caryn. Overuse syndrome in a double bass player. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 1986;1(4):133.
4.    Newmark, J., Lederman R. J. Practice Doesnt Necessarily Make Perfect – Incidence of Overuse Syndromes in Amateur Instrumentalists. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Dec 1987;2(4):142-144.
5.    Fry, H. J. Hunter, Ross Peter, Rutherford Martin. Music related overuse in secondary schools. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 1988;3(4):133.
6.    Goodman, G., Staz S. Occupational-Therapy for Musicians with Upper Extremity Overuse Syndrome – Patient Perceptions Regarding Effectiveness of Treatment. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Mar 1989;4(1):9-14.
7.    Lockwood, A. H. Medical problems of musicians. N Engl J Med. January 26, 1989 1989;320(4):221-227.
8.    Dawson, W. Upper extremity overuse in instrumentalists. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Jun 2001;16(2):66-71.
9.    Brandfonbrener, A. Epidemiology and Ricks Factors. In: Tubiana R, Amadio PC, eds. Medical problems of the instrumentalist musician. London: Martin Dunitz; 2000:171-194.
10.    Fry, H. J. Hunter. Patterns of Over-use Seen in 658 Affected Instrumental Musicians. International Jounral of Music Education. 1988;11(1):3-16.
11.    Zetterberg, Carl, Backlund Helena, Karlsson Jenny, Werner Helen, Olsson Lars. Musculoskeletal Problems among Male and Female Music Students. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 1998;13(4):160.
12.    Thrasher, M., Chesky K. S. Prevalence of medical problems among double reed performers. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Dec 2001;16(4):157-160.
13.    Warrington, J., Winspur I., Steinwede D. Upper-extremity problems in musicians related to age. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Sep 2002;17(3):131-134.
14.    Lederman, R. J. Neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems in instrumental musicians. Muscle & Nerve. May 2003;27(5):549-561.
15.    Burkholder, K. R., Brandfonbrener A. G. Performance-related injuries among student musicians at a specialty clinic. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Sep 2004;19(3):116-122.
16.    Toledo, Santiago D., Nadler Scott F., Norris Richard N., Akuthota Venu, Drake David F., Chou Larry H. Sports and Performing Arts Medicine. 5. Issues Relating to Musicians Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2004;85(1):S72-S74.
17.    Nemoto, K., Arino H. Hand and upper extremity problems in wind instrument players in military bands. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Jun 2007;22(2):67-69.
18.    Lockwood, Alan H. Medical problems in secondary school-aged musicians. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 1988;3(4):129.
19.    Middlestadt, S. E., Fishbein M. The Prevalence of Severe Musculoskeletal Problems among Male and Female Symphony-Orchestra String Players. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. Mar 1989;4(1):41-48.
20.    Zaza, C., Farewell V. T. Musicians’ playing-related musculoskeletal disorders: An examination of risk factors. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Sep 1997;32(3):292-300.
21.    Cayea, Danelle, Manchester Ralph. Instrument-specific Rates of Upper-extremity Injuries in Music Students. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. March 1998;13(1):19.
22.    Abréu-Ramos, Antonio M., Micheo William F. Lifetime Prevalence of Upper-body Musculoskeletal Problems in a Professional-level Symphony Orchestra: Age, Gender, and Instrument-specific Results. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 2007;22(3):97.
23.    Fishbein, Martin, Middlestadt S. E., Ottati Victor, Straus Susan, Ellis Alan. Medical Problems among ICSOM Musicians: Overview of a National Survey. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 1988;3(1):1-8.