Drumming is an art that requires both physical and mental devotion to master. Whether you are new to drumming or play at a professional level, the hours of strenuous practice can inevitably take its toll on you.
Different instruments demand the use of various muscle groups and different limbs. For example, if you are a pianist, painful or swollen fingers can completely push you off your game. The same way, drumming requires complex movements and you must be aware of the types of injuries or pains you might develop along the way. These injuries could be traumatic due to an accident, or more commonly, due to over use.
In this article, we will go through the most common injuries in a drummer’s life, and how you can avoid them.
Tendons are the inelastic and rigid cords of tough fibrous collagen that attach muscles and bones together. Tendonitis is an inflammatory reaction where the tendons and the sheath or covering over it swells up and pains. The injury can occur as a result of overuse. When your tendons are overloaded, irritated and henceforth damaged, the tissues swell up to promote healing, as inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to start the process of healing. When this swelling subsides, the range of motion originally present in the tendons is lost and it constricts to make complex movements painful. The buildup of tissue cells and fluids further irritate the area.
Prevention – To prevent tendonitis, make sure to warm up before the drumming sessions and stretch after ending your gig. A good mechanical technique and hold over the set of drums with along with physical care and good diet can successfully prevent this condition. Keep overuse to a minimum and don’t cross a healthy, set amount of time for drumming.
Treatment – Tendonitis can be treated depending on its longevity and severity. In cases of acute pain, the condition can be reversible by stopping the drumming for some time, icing the area until it feels numb and resting it for a couple days. Early controlled motion while playing drums after this period is recommended. In case of continuous pain, consult with a physician, especially when this occurs in lower extremities like Achilles or patellofemoral tendons, as these require more time to heal.
For long standing or chronic tendonitis, a more aggressive approach is required to reduce the pain and symptoms. Consistency is key, as you’ll need active rest with limited to no use of the affected body part. Cross training is a way to do so as you practice using the non-effected body parts and condition them to heighten your performance. Physiotherapy can also work to treat the symptoms by increasing metabolism in the localized area of pain. With increased blood flow, the healing process is accelerated and the pain subsides. This isn’t a permanent cure of the problem though, and you’ll need to get physiotherapy on regular basis. Controlled motion along with physiotherapy offers the best results.
Medication may help in case of early detections and prompt treatment. However, they may have side effects. Prolonged use of the anti-inflammatory medications is not recommended as it can cause internal injury or addiction.
These are some great techniques that can help prevent tendonitis altogether.
Epicondyle is the area at the elbow end of the bone which has a protuberant shape. This region can come under great stress with poor techniques, overuse and excessive drumming and become inflamed and painful. It can lead to chronic elbow pain and is unlikely to completely resolve if left untreated for long.
Prevention – Be aware of the amount of elbow force you are using while playing drums. Excessive elbow force along with too little rebound results in overload of the tendons and muscles of the arms. Stretching before you play and icing the sore and overworked joints can prevent epicondylitis. This video goes in depth about better rebound while playing.
Treatment – Treatments can include friction massage, heat therapy, ice, joint manipulation and mobilization, various exercises and ultrasound therapy. Short term anti-inflammatory medication can also be beneficial.
Sprains and Strains
Sprain results from over stressing or tearing of ligaments while strain is soft tissue injury besides the ligament. These sprains and strains stimulates a natural musculo-skeletal healing process in the body, but the downside of this process is the formation of scar tissue which greatly reduces mobility and can also cause pain and stiffness as it has no elasticity and is highly sensitive to pain.
Prevention – As with other injuries, over use, poor technique and bad posture while playing can cause strain and sprain in the ligaments and tissues. Icing the area is critical as soon as you feel the pain as healing can occur simultaneously and reduce the swelling.
Treatment – Treatment includes a period of rest along with physiotherapy and controlled motion therapy. Pain medications may also help. Icing the area over an extended time accelerates healing.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is an epidemic as it affects almost every other person, especially when you have to sit and perform. Slouching and bad posture plays key role in back pain, but taking excessive stress and exerting yourself beyond a controlled point can result in back pain too.
Prevention – Maintain your lumber curvature while you are seated. This informative video goes in great depth to explain good posture while drumming. Proper lumbar positioning is critical. Keep your abdominal and lower back muscles in good condition and stretch often. While seated, keep your tummy tucked, and the glutes and hamstrings stretched. Ice the area as soon as you experience pain.
Treatment – Seek professional help if the lower back pain extends to legs, or causes loss of strength in muscles, or the sensation of tingling or numbness. Analgesic creams, ointments and sprays can also help a great deal. Apply them regularly and cover the area to get the maximum effect.
Blisters and Hand Pain
Stick plays an important role in a drummer’s life. Choosing the right stick is critical to avoid pain in hands or blisters and other skin injuries or irritation. Many drummers go for a size depending on the volume and effect they produce, completely avoiding its compatibility with their arm size, finger and hands. This can result in blistering and hand pain.
Prevention – A good grip and technique is important when using the sticks. You can find the techniques for correct grip and use of drumsticks in this informative video. Make sure the sticks you choose aren’t too small or big and feel comfortable to play with. Don’t play too hard and use rebound to create volume and speed. Keep your hands dry and wash them when you feel excessive moisture or sweat buildup. This will prevent callus and blisters formation. In case of a skin injury or irritation, use gloves while playing to avoid further irritation of the affected area.
Treatment – In case of blisters, draining it early on with sterile techniques is important. A pin prick is enough to drain the blister. Keep the area well bandaged for at least 12 hours after the drainage. Callus forms over the area with time, and with proper moisturizing of the skin, the callus will slowly go away instead of cracking and causing pain.
In any case, don’t let your injuries build over time and don’t ignore even a slight amount of pain or pricking. It’s best to take all preventive measures mentioned above and only practice with the best and correct techniques. Never hesitate to see a physician in case of pain, early detection can save you a lot of pain and money later on.