Overuse versus Misuse

Overuse injuries/syndromes are defined as situations involving muscles, tendons, ligaments or fascia that are stressed beyond the limits for that individual (Dawson, 2008, p. 4). Taubman observed that musicians prefer the diagnosis of overuse due to the association with “extreme sacrifice for one’s art” (cited in 1984, p. 144). Unfortunately, pride in the dedication creating physical suffering soon becomes panic when the condition remains (see Feeney, 1998, p. 47). Fry is not as poetic, believing that overuse injuries are created by “excessive, undisciplined, sporadic practice” (1984, p. 59).

To label PRMDs as misuse is somewhat controversial. Bragge denied adequate proof that misuse is the cause of injury (2006, p. 7). Fry was also reticent to embrace the term “misuse”, as he believes this labelling is retrospective. He was also reluctant to criticise any technique as “incorrect”, as this seemed to conflict with the range of techniques he observed in famous pianists. Nevertheless, Fry noted these performers all avoided the extreme ranges of movement (1986h, p. 38), a key principle of coordinate movement common to both Ortmann’s and Taubman’s work.

Others were ahead of their time in calling for PRMDs to be named as misuse. As with Taubman, pianist and pedagogue Carola Grindea was adamant that PRMDs are caused by incoordinate technique, and advocated a meticulous scientific analysis of piano technique (1987, p. 2). Her stance is confirmed by Body Mapping experts Conable and Conable, who attribute pain at the instrument to three causes: a medical condition such as arthritis, trauma caused by an accident, or pain from misuse. In their view, the latter is almost always responsible for musicians’ PRMDs (2000, p. 49).

This concurs with my professional experience, developed through learning and teaching the Taubman Approach. To my mind, “overuse” does not explain why some musicians can increase their practice load or practise long hours without adverse affect, and others cannot. If pain is caused by “overuse”, it is difficult to understand why pain is eradicated when replaced with coordinate movements, enabling formerly injured pianists, such as myself, to practise more difficult repertoire for long hours, and improve in skill. Therefore, the term misuse, not overuse, is employed throughout this book.

Extract from Learning and Teaching Healthy Piano Technique: Training as an Instructor in the Taubman Approach. Available through: http://www.theresemilanovic.com/phd-published/ Advance orders below cost price until Aug 31.

Reference List

Bragge, P. (2006). Performing arts medicine: Past, present and future. Victorian Journal of Music Education,     2004-2006, 6-14.

Conable, B., & Conable, B. (2000). What every musician needs to know about the body: The practical application of body mapping to making music. (Rev. ed.). Portland, OR: Andover Press.

Dawson, W. J. (2008). Fit as a fiddle: The musician’s guide to playing healthy. Lanham, MA: MENC: The National Association for Music Education in partnership with Rowman & Littlefield.

Feeney, K. (1987). [Review of Choreography of the hands: The work of Dorothy Taubman DVD]. Clavier, 26(9), 39.

Fry, H. J. (1984). Occupational maladies of musicians: Their cause and prevention. International Journal of Music Education, 2(4), 59-63.
Fry, H. J. (1986h). What’s in a name? Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 1, 36-38.

Grindea, C. (1978/1991). Tension in piano playing: Its importance and dangers. In C. Grindea (Ed.), Tensions in the performance of music (pp. 96-125). London: Kahn & Averill.

Taubman, D. (1984). A teacher’s perspective on musicians’ injuries. In F. L. Roehmann & F. R. Wilson (Eds.), The Biology of Music Making Conference, Denver, CO (pp. 144 – 153). St Louis: MMB Music.


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