The Occurrence of Musculoskeletal Complaints Among Professional Musicians: A Systematic Review

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2016 Apr;89(3):373-96. doi: 10.1007/s00420-015-1090-6. Epub 2015 Nov 12.


Purpose: This study gives a systematic overview of the literature on the occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints in professional instrumental musicians.

Methods: A systematic review. Nine literature databases were searched without time limits on June 25, 2015, also the complete index of the journal Medical Problems of Performing Artists (MPPA) until June 2015 (30;2) was searched, and citation tracking and reference checking of the selected articles were performed. The search consisted of the combination of three groups of keywords: musician (e.g., musician, violin, music student, instrument player) AND musculoskeletal (e.g., musculoskeletal, tendon, shoulder, arthritis) AND epidemiology (e.g., prevalence, incidence, occurrence).

Results: The initial literature search strategy resulted in 1258 potentially relevant articles. Finally, 21 articles describing 5424 musicians were included in this review. Point prevalences of musculoskeletal complaints in professional musicians range between 9 and 68 %; 12-month prevalences range between 41 and 93 %; and lifetime prevalences range between 62 and 93 %. Ten out of 12 studies show a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal complaints among women. Brass instrumentalists are reported to have the lowest prevalence rates of musculoskeletal complaints. The neck and shoulders are the anatomic areas most affected; the elbows are least affected. Although some information is reported concerning age, the high risk of bias in and between these studies makes it impossible to present reliable statements with respect to this.

Conclusion: Musculoskeletal symptoms are highly prevalent among musicians, especially among women instrumentalists. Future research concerning the epidemiology of musculoskeletal complaints among musicians should focus on associated risk factors and follow the current guidelines to optimize scientific quality.

Keywords: Arts; Epidemiology; Music; Musician; Occupational; PRMD.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Music*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors