Effect of a musicians’ exercise intervention on performance-related musculoskeletal disorders

Cliffton Chan, Tim Driscoll, Bronwen J. Ackermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: To evaluate the effect of a purpose-designed exercise program on performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) and associated risk factors in a sample of professional orchestral musicians. METHODS: A 10-week exercise program was made available to full-time musicians employed by the eight premier symphony orchestras of Australia. Questionnaires were administered before, immediately after (T1), and 6 months after interventions (T2) containing questions relating to change in frequency and severity of PRMDs, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) during rehearsal, private practice, and performance, as well as nine performance-related factors. Participants were also asked to rate whether these performance-related factors affected their overall playing capacity during different playing situations. A comparative control group of musicians had no intervention and completed a modified questionnaire at the same time points. RESULTS: Exercise participants (n=30) reported a reduction in frequency (p<0.05) and severity (p<0.05) of PRMDs at T1 but not at T2 compared to controls (n=23). The exercise group reported a significant improvement in RPE during private practice at T1 (p<0.01) and T2 (p<0.01), but not during rehearsal and performance. At T1, the intervention was rated to be moderately to highly effective for three performance-related factors: strengthening muscles that support playing, learning techniques that support playing, and posture. Further, participants reported an intervention effect on overall playing capacity during rehearsal at T1 and T2. CONCLUSIONS: A tailored exercise program for musicians was effective at managing PRMDs, especially in reducing the frequency and severity of PRMDs. Physical therapy exercises should be considered in modifying performance-related factors that have been reported to be predictors of PRMDs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-188
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Problems of Performing Artists
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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