Many musicians, including drummers, face this debilitating condition. The problem is that musicians, like most people, think that this could never happen to them, maybe because they think they are too young to suffer from any physical problem, but they neglect their own body and practice for hours on end without the necessary conditioning.
Playing the drums has been proven to be equivalent to working out. And just like with any sport, before you play the drums you need to be ready.
Tendinitis is the swelling of a tendon. In drummers, this usually affects the upper limbs, especially the tendons of the muscles that move the wrist, elbow and shoulder. It could be the consequence of physical exertion. When untreated, it may progress and irradiate to other parts of the arm, causing swelling, tingling, and/or numbing, which result in decreased resilience and muscle strength.
Who wants to go through that, right? Especially since this usually means you’ll have to stop playing for some time, as former tendinitis-suffering drummer Alexandre Cunha tells us: “When I had tendinitis, I had to practically stop playing drums for a year. I was unable to practice and played as little as possible. It took me a couple of years to go back to my regular routine, since the pain was already ingrained in my brain and I lost the desire to play. I was afraid of feeling that weakness and muscle pain all over again. After the tendinitis I started to practice Global Postural Re-Education, which significantly improved my posture and, reduced the number of crises—since once you get tendinitis, the possibility of a new crisis is always there.
My tip to drummers would be to find some balance. Even if you play more than seven hours a day, you should dedicate at least 30 minutes daily, or one day a week, to a sport and keep in good physical shape, since the body is our work tool.”
To reduce the risk of tendinitis, the musician—even those of us who only play at home—must exercise the proper care, as Danilo Romera de Oliveira, a specialist in Exercise Biochemistry from UNICAMP University, advises us:
Stretching and warming up are different concepts that should be performed at different times. Before playing, warming up is more adequate. Since warm-ups raise muscle temperature, they prepare the tendons so there’s no “slack”, and also activate the nervous system to promote more assertive contractions without energy waste (in the contraction of unnecessary muscles), avoiding in this manner, contract muscles that are still not ready for action.
Stretching must be done at the end. After playing you should relax your muscles, activate the relaxation mechanisms, to aid in the recovery of any injured tissue.
Better recovery can be accelerated with proper resistance and aerobic training. After a while, resistance training strengthens muscle fibers, enabling increase in movement and more coordinated movement, thereby raising your performance level. However, strengthening exercises alone aren’t enough. Since playing drums is an intense activity, it becomes necessary to have good aerobic conditioning to promote recovery, as you will need more oxygenation in your body in order to eliminate the enzymes (LACTATE) that provoke pain. These will be eliminated through your breath, as CO².
That should be complemented by a healthy diet comprising the main components, such as carbohydrates and proteins.
It’s a known fact that most musicians work late hours, making it hard to get enough rest, for themselves as well as their muscles. During sleep, our body manufactures hormones exclusively dedicated to the regeneration of injured tissues, and that is of the utmost importance in the prevention pain and injuries, including tendinitis.
I’m not suggesting you should get up and join a gym right now, or even that you need to exercise every day, but ideally you should create a system, and avoid long lapses between exercise sessions.
– Warm up prior to Playing/Practicing;
– Stretch following Playing/Practicing;
– more intense Playing/Practice sessions should be followed the next day by aerobics and stretching only;
– If you haven’t Played/Practiced in over 18 hours, it’s time for resistance training: lighter loads if you have an event on that day, heavier if the event is only the following day;
– Eat well after you train;
– Sleep well!!! Even if it’s just for a few hours.