Many musicians develop pain in one or more joints or tendons after years of playing their musical instruments. There is evidence that diseases such as osteoarthritis are directly related to the repetitive movements that occur when playing an instrument. Some musicians suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that affects one in a hundred adults in the UK. Making music with arthritis can be very painful and not possible in some extreme cases. However, many musicians refuse to let arthritis stop them from pursuing their passion.
While arthritis can be a painful obstacle that some musicians have to overcome, making music can also be a form of therapy and pain relief for non-musicians who have arthritis. We are investigating a case study from Sunderland that shows the power of music to help people with arthritis.
In our latest blog, we examine the different connections between music and arthritis.
It makes sense to start with a brief overview of how the two main forms of arthritis affect musicians:
Wear of the joints associated with osteoarthritis can occur in musicians at a younger age. This is because repeated movements and overuse of the joints increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has osteoarthritis in his hands as seen in the photo above.
Rheumatoid arthritis is when the body’s immune system begins to attack the joints. More common in women over 40, this can mean that individuals have chronic pain and dysfunction, which can seriously affect a musician’s ability to play and perform.
How Music Can Relieve Arthritis Pain
Music can actually help alleviate some of the pain associated with arthritis. The movement and finger movements associated with playing can actively support those suffering from arthritis in treating their pain. In addition to releasing endorphins that relieve pain, playing an instrument helps improve mobility and strength in the joints.
In October 2014, the Arthritis UK Sunderland Group held a meeting to discuss music therapy and arthritis, and how music can help alleviate pain in those affected. Much of the discussion was about that bunker, a Sunderland group dedicated to healing through music, especially John Hope. John suffered from the symptoms of arthritis for 27 years. He had a passion for music and wanted to try drumming despite daily pain in his hands, toes and spine. After expert instruction from Cieran in the bunker, John found that after a few weeks he was able to hold his drumsticks and sit on a chair for over an hour, which he would never have thought.
John told Arthritis Research UK“Music releases endorphins that help relieve pain and improve my mood. The personal lessons and support that I received helped me enormously. “
The bunker is determined to help you follow your musical passions, whether you’re learning to beat a rhythm on African drums or playing the piano. For more information, please visit Bunker site,
The hope is that this type of specialty therapy will spread through music across the UK and that people with arthritis will find another option for pain relief.
Musicians with arthritis
For many musicians, giving up their passion is not an option. You must therefore look for ways to relieve the pain and minimize the effects of the symptoms of arthritis. Here are some real-life examples of musicians with rheumatoid arthritis:
The French singer suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis in her early thirties.
Here she plays the classic Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien:
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