Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest blog post - Dr. Laura Drees - Musicians' Health

This week's blog post is about the health of musicians, written by Indianola chiropractor Dr. Laura Drees.
Musicians' Health
by Dr. Laura Drees

​You might wonder what a chiropractor with an undergraduate degree in Human Biology could possibly have to say that can help a student studying music. You’d be surprised how much health and taking care of your body can affect music, currently anddecades from now. I’m not a total science junkie; several years ago I tried out multiple musical instruments only to find out I’m not as coordinated as I’d like to be. My multiple music endeavors include piano, violin, and clarinet. Actually I was pretty skilled at the clarinet, second chair even, until I came down with pneumonia. It affected my lungs so much that it changed my tone and ultimately my ability to play. This brings me to the topic at hand; health really does relate music.

1. Keep yourself healthy and free of disease. Even catching a cold will put a damper on practicing, especially if you play a wind instrument. You don’t need me to tell you how impossible it can be to play with a stuffed up nose or sore throat. We all know we should do it, but how many of us wash our hands as long and as often as we should? Viruses and bacteria spread so easily on instruments which you touch several times a day. It’s even worse if you are handling reeds and mouth pieces.

2. Daily vitamins are another way to prevent or shorten many illnesses. A daily multiple vitamin can help to keep your body running at its optimum level, which will increase your disease fighting abilities. A good multiple will contain several antioxidants in one tablet such as Vitamin A, D, and E which all increase your immune system. If you feel a cold coming on, a great supplement to start is Zinc. By sucking on a Zinc lozenge right away, it can actually coat the throat and will not allow the cold virus to stick to your airway. It can greatly decrease the length of your cold and if taken early enough it may even prevent it. Another great preventative herb is Echinacea. It’s effective for sore throats, colds, and bacterial infections. Calcium is another important vitamin to have in your daily diet, or as a supplement. It keeps your bones and joints strong, which brings me to my next topic.

3. We will all develop arthritis in our bones and joints as we age. As a musician you need that fluid motion in your hands, arms and shoulders. Arthritis can inhibit this. It weakens and deforms your bones, also making your joints smaller and less mobile. Basically, the more arthritis you get, the harder it will be to keep playing. The best way to prevent arthritis is keeping Calcium in your diet, keeping your bones strong by exercise including weight bearing workouts, and maintaininggood posture. I recommend studying yourself while practicing your instrument in the mirror. Watch to see if you are sitting up as straight as you think you are, making sure your shoulders are held up and back. Optimal posture is when your head, spine, and pelvis are lined up. Make sure you’re not slumping forward with your shoulders rolled in. It’s important to be aware of posture and make the right changes now because arthritis isn’t just for the elderly and once the bones and joints start to change there’s no going back.

4. Another no-brainer we don’t always accomplish is getting enough sleep. It wasn’t so long ago that I was a student so I know that studying, stress, parties, and going out with friends can all hamper our sleep patterns. Our bodies actually heal while we sleep and we need an average of 8 hours of sleep to reap the benefits. Sleep actually increases your memory and concentration, increases abilities to fight illness, helps alertness, aids in weight control, and gives you energy.

Summary: It seems to me that above all, most of us just need to increase our health awareness and take better care of ourselves. Listening to your bodies, some preventative measures, and common sense will help tremendously in keeping your music career going strong, as well as keeping you healthy throughout your life.

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