Pain among professional orchestral musicians: a case study in body culture and health psychology

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BACKGROUND: Professional musicians experience high rates of musculoskeletal pain, but only few studies have investigated how this pain is accepted by musicians. AIM: T o investigate the culture of pain and to explore how professional musicians experience and cope with pain. METHODS: Ten semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted; 8 with musicians and 2 with professional elite athletes. In addition, a concert and two rehearsals were observed. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed verbatim. Configurational analysis was used to interpret the material as a whole. RESULTS: Musicians often experience pain as a consequence of prolonged repetitive work early in their career. Such pain is compounded by the lack of breaks during concerts and rehearsals. Orchestras seldom give opportunities for adjustments required for individual instruments, breaks, or action to prevent pain. Musicians' strong sense of coherence and the experience of pain as integral to their identity have encouraged musicians to develop flexible coping strategies. Ignoring pain and potential damage is an accepted concomitant to striving for perfection. A musician does not focus on pain but on the music. CONCLUSION: For the musician, pain has a significance beyond being something that can simply be removed by a practitioner. Pain tells both an individual story and a cultural story that is crying out to be heard.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Problems of Performing Artists
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)124-130
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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