Background: Musculoskeletal disorders in humans may originate from biomechanical, environmental, psychosocial and personal risk factors encountered in the working environment. These disorders in musicians are designated as playing related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMD).
Aims: To investigate the correlation between biomechanical, environmental, psychosocial and personal risk factors and potential incidence of PRMD arising in professional classical musicians.
Methods: Fifty-nine orchestral classical musicians were observed: They also filled out questionnaires providing information regarding musculoskeletal symptoms, psychosocial factors and demography.
Results: Clinical observation using the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) showed significantly higher scores in string musicians compared with woodwind and brass players (right RULA score F = 4.77, P < 0.05; left RULA score, F = 3.90, P < 0.05). A multivariate regression model showed statistical significance for five of the six dependent variables regarding prevalence of painful joints, severity of musculoskeletal symptoms and functional limitation. The regression analysis revealed that biomechanical risk factors, perceived physical environment risk factors, instrument weight and average playing hours per week, were the main predictors of PRMD.
Conclusions: The biomechanical risk factors that predict PRMD are mainly associated with the upper limbs. A high association between PRMD and clinical observation emphasizes the need for further investigation of these risk factors and to study possible implementations in order to define 'prevention strategies' for musical routines and patterns, as used by classical musicians.