Volume 14, January 2022
Musculoskeletal symptoms of double bassists: a literature synthesis

by Frances Levenderis and Bridget Rennie-Salonen

2. Background

Musicians' occupational health is a subfield of performing arts medicine and is multi-disciplinary in nature, combining the skills and knowledge of health professionals, and music educators and performers, for preventing and treating musicians' injuries, and optimising pedagogy and performance (Hinkamp et al., 2017; Salonen, 2018). Musicians' health conditions may be neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, auditory, dermatological, or psychological  (Stanhope, Tooher, Pisaniello, & Weinstein, 2019), with musculoskeletal problems being the most common (Ackermann, Driscoll, & Kenny, 2012; Fishbein, Middlestadt, Ottati, Straus, & Ellis, 1988; Stanhope et al., 2019; Wijsman & Ackermann, 2018). Among string players particularly, musculoskeletal symptoms are one of the most frequently reported health problems (Davies & Mangion, 2002; Fishbein, 1988). This literature synthesis will report only on the musculoskeletal aspects, with a focus on string players and double bassists.

The widely used term performance-related musculoskeletal disorder (PRMD)was coined by Zaza et al. (1998), and is defined as 'any pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, or other symptoms that interfere with your ability to play your instrument at the level you are accustomed to' (Zaza, Charles, & Muszynski, 1998, p. 1021). The broader term, musculoskeletal symptoms (MSS), which will be used in this paper, includes PRMD and encompasses injuries of all severities, including more mild symptoms, and both those related and unrelated to playing a musical instrument (Paarup, Baelum, Holm, Manniche, & Wedderkopp, 2011; Ranelli, Straker, & Smith, 2008; Stanhope et al., 2019).