Sax Breaks Backs.
And other parts…
Saxaphone players are prone to injuries that may impair their performance, but may also disrupt their life outside of music. Finger, wrist, neck and back injuries are common. Back pain, neck pain and headaches are leading causes of missed work worldwide. Your concerns are legitimate and demand proper attention in order to reduce your risk of future disability or inability to play.
An 2019 article published The journal “Medical Problems of Performing Artists” discussed the most common injuries among saxophone players. PRMD’s (playing related musculoskeletal disorders) are remarkably common in saxaphone players. Small injuries may lead to bigger injuries, even disabling pain that derails careers.
Professional and college level saxophonists were polled and 76.15% had had some form of PRMD in the past. 50% had a PRMD in the past year. 21.1% had a PRMD in the past week!
The most common areas of pain and injury were the wrists, neck, mouth and jaw. “The most common self-reported postural habits were forward head position and rounded upper back. Postures that correlated with higher pain ratings were rounded upper back and backward pelvic tilt. The rounded upper back, backward pelvic tilt, and excessive curve in low back postures were significantly correlated with the presence of PRMD problems in the right wrist” (Med Probl Perform Art. 2019 Dec;34(4):215-221.)
Posture in saxophone players is complicated by the weight, position, angles and limitations of devices that reduce strain, like straps and harnesses. These straps and harnesses are designed to among other things, bear some of the weight load of the instrument, and assist your posture while playing. Even with these devices, injuries and pain are very common. Musicians have their preferences for these support devices. Comfort and reduced strain on the neck and shoulders are most important.
Many of the aches, pains, strains and injuries in sax players may be managed by the musician themselves. This is possible only when strategic action is taken early. Many PRMD’s, left alone, get worse and ultimately require more invasive interventions. Don’t wait to find out what kind of surgery you will get. If you feel something is wrong, get help soon. You will save time, money, pain, energy and practice/performance time.
Dr. Lou Jacobs is a chiropractor – acupuncturist in Portland, Maine who has been specializing in musician injuries and crew injuries for 20 years. Dr. Lou is available for telemedicine consultations for music-related injuries and health problems. Among those he has permission to mention, Dr. Lou has worked with Mumford & Sons, The Pixies, Steve Vai, Tommy Emmanuel, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, Blackberry Smoke, Gogol Bordello, Trey Anastasio, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. PHOTOS