Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 965–973 | Cite as

Frequency, severity and predictors of playing-related musculoskeletal pain in professional orchestral musicians in Germany

  • A. Steinmetz
  • I. Scheffer
  • E. Esmer
  • K. S. Delank
  • I. Peroz
Original Article


Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMD) in professional musicians are common. Existing literature demonstrates that up to 86 % of musicians are affected. The aim of the study was to evaluate the frequency of musculoskeletal pain in professional orchestral musicians with regard to their instrument affiliation. Of special interest were pain intensity and its association with predictors such as gender, instrument group, age or stage fright. Professional orchestra players completed a self-report questionnaire to assess playing-related musculoskeletal pain and its frequency and intensity in various body regions on a numeric rating scale (NRS). Relative frequencies and prevalence ratios for different instrument groups were estimated. Out of 720 approached musicians, 408 were included in the sample (response rate 57 %); overall, 89.5 % had been affected by current or past playing-related musculoskeletal pain, 62.7 % reported pain in the previous 3 months, and 8.6 % reported current pain. Pain distribution and frequency varied between instrument groups. For all instrument groups, the neck was the most common pain region. About 43 % of musicians presented more than five pain regions, in particular violin players. Approximately 40 % of musicians indicated frequent or permanent pain. Average pain intensities increased from NRS 3.8 up to a range of 5.9 and 7.4 for frequent and permanent pain, respectively. Female gender and stage fright were proven to be predictors for musculoskeletal pain. Professional orchestral musicians are greatly affected by PRMD, often experiencing frequent or permanent pain, high pain levels and pain in various body regions. As PRMD might contribute considerably to performance disability, sick leave and the possibility of premature termination of a musicians’ career, this study highlights the necessity for tailored therapeutic and preventive strategies in performing arts medicine.


Musculoskeletal pain Musicians Occupational disorders Playing-related musculoskeletal disorder 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Clinical Rheumatology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Steinmetz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • I. Scheffer
    • 3
  • E. Esmer
    • 1
  • K. S. Delank
    • 1
  • I. Peroz
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedics, Traumatology and Physical MedicineMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Institute of Musicians’ Medicine, Department of Manual Medicine and Pain MedicineSana Kliniken SommerfeldKremmen/OT SommerfeldGermany
  3. 3.Department of General and Visceral SurgeryHelios Kliniken SchwerinSchwerinGermany
  4. 4.Department of Prosthetic Dentistry and Oral GerontologyHumboldt University of BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Orthopaedics, Traumatology and Physical MedicineUniversity of Halle (Saale)Halle (Saale)Germany

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