Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience as
a hornist and as a chiropractor. First a little about my
experience. I studied French Horn with Arthur Berv, principle
of the NBC Symphony under Toscanni at the Manhattan School
of Music in New York. I performed for three years professionally
with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in Israel from 1972–1975,
prior to leaving music and studying Chiropractic. I have
been a chiropractor since 1978. Presently, I perform for
over 12 years with a local community orchestra.
During my initial phase as a chiropractic patient, a year
and a half prior to leaving the Jerusalem Orchestra, I thought
seriously of the mechanical dangers of orchestral musicians.
Sitting the furthest from the stage and opposite the conductor,
I had a bird’s eye view of the orchestra. To my left
were the bassists. As they draped their body over their
instrument they swayed and thrusted their bodies in deep
and broad strokes. The fiddles pushed the bridge of their
instruments hard against their chin and were forced to raise
their right arm/shoulder for extended periods at the same
time keeping their cervical spine in a laterally flexed
position. In both cases cervicothoracic physical wear and
tear was evident. The brachial plexus being aggravated resulted
in specific neurological pressure. As we know too well,
there is a myriad of complaints stemming from this including,
carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, tempomandibular complaints,
chronic fatigue and more.
Looking before me were row and row of woodwinds. Flautists
with extended positioning of their right arm and shoulder,
as well as mildly extending their cervical spine compressing
the sub occipital region. Bassoons and Oboes with double
reed pinching embouchures and irritating body placement.
Brass players gather their strength pressing their lips
to buzz out a sound. Trombones exercised their right arms
as they held onto their instruments with their left. Tubists
garner all their strength to wrap their arms around their
regal instrument as they huffed out their deep tones. Horns
.. this special instrument requiring holding the instrument
with the right hand in the bell and the left hand manually
exercising the valves. Since the harmonic range of the horn
is so extensive, the need to bear into the instrument reaching
the highest and lowest notes is overwhelming. The best of
the musician attempts to contain this pressure as they find
the positioning of the horn in relationship of the upper
thoracic girdle a chronic irritant.
There is not one instrument immune to physical pressure.
Observe the pianist and harpists and watch the busy percussionists.
It is easy to view the long term effect of their chronic
physical wear and tear.
In our day and age of ergonomics, it is important to examine
this area of lifestyle and advise our patients accordingly.
Basic stretch and proactive exercises prior to and after
rehearsals and performances is crucial. The emotional riptide
that accompanies a professional performer only enhances
their physical stress levels requiring our advice even more.
This is only a general review of a musicians plight. As
experts in biomechanics it behooves us to reach out to all
local and professional performing groups. If you have a
musician as a patient, I recommend you have them bring their
instrument with them and you observe their specific mechanical
stress. For example, a guitarist. This instrument finds
a useful knee and a draped upper body. Review the mechanical
pressure to their spine with anatomical charts. Simple action
steps should be offered, such as mild cervical and thoracic
stretches, and other useful advice you feel to share. Patients
should be advised to listen to their body and keep up with
their adjustments to manage the physical stress and maintain
It will be obvious that a musician with reduced physical
stress only enhances their level of performance. Every musician
wants to reach that special zone where their ability to
perform intellectually matches the actual result. Chiropractic
care is far more than an elective approach to reduce tension
and prevent chronic wear and tear, it has a far more noble
goal, allowing the musician a free passage toward harmony.
Only those that understand and partake in the process will
benefit. Play on and turn on those who need to know.