Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pictures and Words and Recovery

When I meet with a student suffering from a performance-related injury, the first steps include introductions and history. When taking down the student's history, I am hoping to hear about visits to medical professionals. I have many skills that can help recovering musicians, but diagnosis is not one of them.

My most recent new student had been in pain over a period of two years and had seen various specialists. Good. I took down her diagnosis and then asked her one of my standard questions, "Did anyone show you a picture of that part of your body?" Standard answer, "No." Not good.

For whatever reason, most injured musicians are not shown a visual or tactile model of their injured areas. It is true that some people are squeamish about views of body parts, but many are not. Medical people can always ask before showing an image to a patient. People whose careers hinge on healthy movement patterns are probably extremely motivated to heal, even if they are somewhat uncomfortable with anatomy. Seeing what is going on in their anatomy may be an important piece of that healing.

Why? Because the brain has areas devoted to physical structures. These areas are called "body maps." They are created from our sense of the size, structure, and function of body parts, and we move according to these maps. An inaccurate map leads to inaccurate movement, which often leads to limitations in performance and potentially to career-threatening injury.

There are many ways that musicians create confusions about their body maps, and these errors are known as "mismaps." One of the most common ways is through teaching that creates faulty body images, often through unhelpful language linked to metaphorical descriptions of movement. One of the easiest ways to correct mismaps is by studying accurate anatomical images.

If you are an injured musician or teaching an injured musician, search for accurate anatomical images. If you are under the care of a medical specialist, ask to see images or models. It will help you to heal according to the true structure of your body.

For more information on texts related to Body Mapping, visit

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