This paper reports on the major findings from the questionnaire component of a cross-sectional survey of the musicians in Australia's eight fulltime professional symphonic and pit orchestras, focusing on performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs).
Methods: All musician members of the orchestras participating in this project were invited to complete a self-report survey. The overall response rate was about 70% (n = 377). In addition to general health and experience questions, respondents who reported a current or previous PRMD were asked to report on a range of associated factors.
Results: Of the participants, 84% had experienced pain or injuries that had interfered either with playing their instrument or participating in normal orchestral rehearsals and performances. Fifty percent reported having such pain or injury at the time of the survey, mostly with disorders perceived by the musicians to be work-related. Twenty-eight percent had taken at least 1 day off from work for such pain in the previous 18 months. The most common broad sites affected were the trunk (primarily the back), the right upper limb and neck, the left upper limb and neck, and the neck alone, but the relative proportions varied by instrument. Of those musicians who reported at least one episode of pain or injury in the past, less than 50% reported that they had completely recovered. The most commonly cited performance-related factors that had contributed to injury or pain all related to training and playing load (including practice and performance).
Conclusion: This study provides strong evidence that PRMDs are a common complaint in professional orchestral musicians and identifies a range of factors suggested as contributing to the occurrence or persistence of these disorders.