Exploring Music's Complexities

Musicians’s Health Conditions

Noted Health Conditions

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Researchers have identified certain medical health conditions that occur with increased frequency among musicians.  These conditions can affect musicians of all ages and ability.  The problems have also been shown to be related to their practice and performance of music.

Data indicate the problems include musculoskeletal disorders, skin disorders, respiratory disorders, and noise induced hearing impairment. It  has been shown the most common injury type suffered by musicians is repetitive strain injury (RSIs).  A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an injury to part of the musculoskeletal or nervous system caused by repetitive use, vibrations, compression or long periods in a fixed position (1). Other common names include repetitive stress disorders, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), and overuse syndrome (2).  Other types of musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and focal dystonia, are also common (1,2,3).  Non-musculoskeletal problems include contact dermatitis, hearing problems such as tinnitus, respiratory disorders or pneumothorax, increased intraocular pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and psychological issues such as performance anxiety(3).

Musicians may suffer tinnitus and hearing disorders due to exposure to loud music, such as hyperacusis or diplacusis. They also are at an increased risk of having problems with the stomatognathic system, in particular mouth and teeth, which may in some cases lead to permanent injuries that prevent the musicians from playing (4,5,6).

New Treatment Opportunities

Recent research and an increase in specialization in the medical community is making long-term rehabilitation possible for musicians who before would have had to stop playing entirely. Much o the work focuses on repetitive stress injuries –- tendinitis, nerve entrapment, muscle strain or carpal tunnel — because most instrumentalists will face problems from these overuse injuries. New treatment options address other issues that might have before forced musicians into an early retirement.

Dr. Serap Bastepe-Gray, founding co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine that launched in 2015, has simplified a slew of recent research into a simple statistic. “For every five professional musicians, four will have some type of injury during their career. Two will continue to play but never fully recover. One will quit and do something else. Only one of those will recover quickly and completely enough to return to playing “.

“Clearly if 80 percent of musicians are dealing with injury and it has disastrous effects on the musician, the idea that they’re going to get injured, go to the clinics, get fixed and back to play is not working,” Bastepe-Gray said.


  1. Health Problems of Musicians.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_problems_of_musicians.

2.  Mitchell T (2010). Longyear S (ed.). “A painful melody: repetitive strain injury among musicians” (PDF). Pittsburg State University.

     3.  Heinan M (April 2008). “A review of the unique injuries sustained by musicians”. JAAPA. 21 (4): 45–6, 48, 50 passim. doi:10.1097/01720610-200804000-00015PMID18468369

4.  Kardous CA, Themann CL, Morata TC, Reynolds J, Afanuh S (2015). “Workplace Solutions: Reducing the Risk of Hearing Disorders among Musicians” (PDF). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved July 12, 2016

5.  Di Stadio, Arianna; Dipietro, Laura; Ricci, Giampietro; Della Volpe, Antonio; Minni, Antonio; Greco, Antonio; de Vincentiis, Marco; Ralli, Massimo (2018). “Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, and Diplacusis in Professional Musicians: A Systematic Review”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 15 (10): 2120. doi:3390/ijerph15102120ISSN 1660-4601PMC 6209930PMID 30261653

6.  Rodríguez-Lozano FJ, Sáez-Yuguero MR, Bermejo-Fenoll A (September 2011). “Orofacial problems in musicians: a review of the literature”. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 26 (3): 150–6. PMID 21987070.




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