Thursday, February 22, 2007

Muscle soreness at exam time

The following derived from a comment from a blogpost several days ago.
I thought it merited its own entry. :>)
Sheila said...
Yay for C,B,A,G duets!!! You're doing an awesome job with them!
This is a very interesting post, and just the reminder to stretch is good, especially when the musician plays two instruments which are played in totally different positions. Even when there hasn't been any illness, I find that I often get a little sore, and taking it slow and easy fairly frequently a good idea.
Any other ideas you can share on keeping from having sore muscles after only a few minutes? I keep my elbows down and try to relax, gently stretch etc., but it's sometimes not enough.Thanks!Sheila

Hi Sheila,

The ways to avoid sore muscles that I've used are this:

1. Every other moment that you're playing your instrument say this to your body: "Can you find an easier, stress-free way to do this?" Then, wait for a physical reply.
The body WANTS to do things the easiest way possible. But we use "mind over matter" so often that we don't realize that if we actually ask the body to do it's own thing that it will show us how to do it.

2. Look for release places in the music. A guitarist I once lived with (during college we shared a flat) discovered from reading "Le Violin d'Interieur" that there are releases in every gesture in music; it's always a tiny amount of tension, and then a full release of tension. Hypothetically you can be completely releasing every other bar or so. Look for complete moments of relaxation within the act of making music. You must undo every tension that you put into playing.

3. Move while you practice. Move deliberately and very slowly in order to find out where the body is most comfortable. When we move deliberately, the muscles no longer have to hold in static positions. If you walk around the room while warming up your longtones, if you deliberately play up to the ceiling (look up and follow the gesture with your flute) or make slow, easy circles with the flute, you will give the muscles more blood flow, and relieve static tension. I use this deliberate slow motion WHILE I'm playing, especially when doing long slow notes. Of course, in performance you don't make huge gestures like this. But if we un-do tension while warming up and playing longtones and slow scales etc., we figure out what the body wants to do to release unnecessary tension. Later, in performance, we use the least amount of unnecessary tension and play "naturally" without strain or excessive motion.

4. Take frequent breaks and THINK about the music. 60% of what we do starts in the brain---and can be rehearsed in the brain.
If your arms or shoulders are sore, then the only real answer is to rest until through sleep, time and stretching, the muscles restore themselves. So give them this time.

THINK through your music, instead of actually playing.


5. I just thought of one more thing that might help:
Extra vitamins, especially B and C.
Because we're usually a bit stressed (before recitals, exams etc.) when sore muscles start, I've realized during my own recovery, that my vitamins B and C were low during muscle pain bouts.
I've heard great things about increasing vitamin B6 for muscle pain.
But I've had great results (in a day or two) by taking B50 tablets, one with lunch, one with dinner, and upping vitamin C to 500 mg a day or more.
Check with your own doctor about taking extra vitamins to deal with muscle soreness, but I find it really helps.
Lots of water too, if you feel that you've forgotten to stay hyrdrated.
Stress uses up B, C and uses up H20.

Hot baths, massage etc. also recommended.
Hope this helps,
Jen :>)
Comments (3)
Blogger Sheila said...

Thankyou!!! This is awesome! Wonderful ideas and techniques! I've tried going through things in my head, while laying on my bed feeling comfy, and it's amazing what you can accomplish. Half way through I actually remember the thought: "This isn't so bad!" going through my head. 'Tis marvelous. The thoughts on Vitamins are interesting too. :)Greatly appreciated!

Friday, February 23, 2007 11:40:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Glad the ideas are helpful.
I wanted to write more about the RELEASE part of "tension and release" but will do so hopefully at a future date.
I think that basically we hurt ourselves (and our muscles certainly let us know by complaining to us) when we try and do too much at once.
We learn this by doing it the wrong way at least once in our lives (I did it too; hurt my shoulders preparing for big performances), and although it's a harsh way to learn to prepare early, in small steps, and gradually work up to a performance, the lesson is learned well when the painful muscles instruct us about our foolish "mind over matter" mind-sets.
So although, yes, it hurts, and NO, you never want to hurt yourself again doing something you love, it's a true teacher; it teaches us to prepare differently, and to allow the body to teach US!!
Bodies know best.
Best of luck,
Jen :>)

Friday, February 23, 2007 1:16:00 PM

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