Perceptions of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) in Irish traditional musicians. A focus group study

Iseult Wilson*, Liz Doherty, Laura McKeown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Abstract

Title: Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in traditional Irish musicians: A focus group study
Background
Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) are common in musicians and are described as pain, weakness, lack of control, numbness, tingling or other symptoms that interfere with the ability to play an instrument at the accustomed level. Although there is a considerable body of research, this mainly investigates classical musicians and research into injuries affecting folk musicians is considerably limited. The aim of this study, therefore, was to explore the traditional musicians’ experience of PRMDs.
Methods
Four single stand-alone focus group interviews were conducted in 2011 and 2012, and took place in two venues in Ireland: Derry and Limerick. Data were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The Research Ethics Committee of the University of Ulster approved the study. Informed consent was obtained from all participants who were identified using purposive sampling techniques. The inclusion criteria were: males or females aged 18 and above, and who taught or played Irish Traditional music on any instrument. The data were analysed using the interpretative phenomenological method.
Results
There were twenty two participants, all of whom had been playing for between 8 and 40 years, and included students, music teachers, performers and a university lecturer. Nine participants engaged with music in more than one way (performing, teaching, writing, music therapy) and many (n = 11) played more than one instrument.
All participants believed there was a link between playing music and PRMDs, and although five participants did not have PRMDs themselves, they were each aware of one or more musicians who did. Some participants identified more than one symptomatic area, and the main body areas that were affected were the back, shoulders, arms and hands. The words used to describe PRMDs were pain, sore, cramping, tension, tiredness, weakness/loss of power, stiffness, tightness, twinges, pins and needles, and numbness.
The main theme that emerged was that PRMDs are an integral part of being a traditional musician, and that the whole musical experience was generally prioritised over the health of the musician. The theme of fear emerged in all focus groups and whilst it related primarily to the fear of not being able to play music, there were sub-themes related to avoidance of acknowledging and managing the injury, and distrust of health professionals. All groups identified stresses that contributed to PRMDs as being: the environment (especially when playing in sessions), posture, the instrument itself, the music being played, and performance.
Discussion
The participants in this study were traditional Irish musicians, and although PRMDs are common in all groups of musicians, certain key identity components within the traditional Irish music culture (such as the session environment and posture) are associated with PRMDs, and it is vital that when managing these PRMDs, that this cultural identity is not threatened.
Implications for practice
Music is a passion, a career, an intrinsic part of life and therefore not readily abandoned, so health professionals will need to be sensitive to these factors when considering their management of PRMDs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventFirst Irish Multidisciplinary Conference on Scientific Research for Practice in Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing - Cork, Ireland
Duration: 27 Nov 2012 → …

Conference

ConferenceFirst Irish Multidisciplinary Conference on Scientific Research for Practice in Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing
CountryIreland
CityCork
Period27/11/2012 → …

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