Professional and pre-professional musicians are characterized by physical and psychological demands inherent to their musical activity, and are therefore at risk for developing performance-related pain. A more thorough insight in specific pain neuroscience and related cognitive and emotional aspects of pain might help clinicians in their assessment and treatment of performing artists with chronic musculoskeletal pain. In order to better understand the mechanisms behind shoulder and/or neck pain, a study was conducted in violinists and guitarists. These musicians play in an asymmetric position and are at high risk to suffer from shoulder and/or neck pain. More specifically, we assessed and compared the influence of physical and emotional stress tasks on pain thresholds in musicians with and without shoulder pain. While both mechanisms increase pain thresholds in healthy subjects, studies revealed difference in the pain modulation systems in patients with chronic pain.
During the physical testing procedure, pre-professional (i.e. students enrolled in a full-time Master degree in Music) and professional violinists/guitarists performed an isometric exercise of the shoulder external rotators (i.e. the physical task). The emotional stress task comprised watching “unpleasant” images selected from the International Affective Picture System. The primary outcome measure was the change in pressure pain threshold before and after the physical and emotional task.
Our results indicate similar effects of both tasks in either group i.e. musicians with and without shoulder pain (p>0,05). All musicians showed elevated pressure pain thresholds at local and remote areas after isometric exercise (p<0,05). The emotional stress task increased pressure pain thresholds at remote areas only (p<0,05).
We can conclude that musicians suffering from shoulder pain have normal reactions to physical activity and stress. Both tasks (the physical and emotional stress) adequately activated central and widespread pain inhibitory mechanisms.
PhD student : Drs. Kevin Kuppens
Supervisors: Prof Nathalie Roussel & Prof Filip Struyf, Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy
Prof Patrick Cras (UAntwerpen), Neurology
Prof Jo Nijs (VUB)
This research was performed in close collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire AP University College and deFilharmonie.
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