It’s always important to make sure that as guitarists we’re looking after our bodies in the right way whatever age we may be. Why? Well, thats kind of a no-brainer – to make sure we’re not storing up problems for ourselves, to nip any issues in the bud as they arise (or prevent them entirely) and to ensure that we have plenty of happy, healthy and pain-free years of playing ahead of us.
So here are some of my top tips (directly from my own experience) in no particular order for ensuring I stay injury-free and can really physically enjoy my playing. Head back this way next week for another set of tips on this subject.
1. Look after yourself
It may sound a little indulgent (or I used to think it did until I realised its importance), but getting a regular massage is a particular tool in my injury prevention armoury that I don’t think I could do without. It releases tight, tense muscles and is extremely relaxing the right hands (not all massages or persons delivering them are made equal!).
I just came back from a massage this afternoon, focussing on head, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. I feel all relaxed and loosened and ready to crack into a decent practice session. And I can tell you a massage on hands that have been working hard on the classical guitar is so deliciously divine!
2. Invest in a foam roller
After most of my practice sessions, I’ll whip out my foam roller, pop it on the floor, lie on it and roll my upper back up and down a few times, nice and slowly. I do this until I have most of the good “cracks” out. This just loosens up any tight spots that may have crept in during practice.
I don’t stretch prior to practicing (but I do ease into it – no Chaconne straight off the bat!), but I do tend to have a little stretch afterwards. Given that I’ve just been sitting with my arms and chest moving in a forward direction I like to clasp my hands together behind my back to open up the front of my shoulders and chest. I also like to stretch out my sternocleidomatstoid muscle (the big muscle band that runs from the base of your skull behind your ear to your collarbone. To do this I rotate my head to one side and then tip it forward slightly as if were going to sniff my armpit. I hold this for around 10 seconds and then make the stretch a little more by just putting my hand on the crown of my head and applying a little pressure. I then repeat on the other side.
4. Keep reasonably fit
I’m not talking about marathon fit or anything silly like that! I am talking about taking some form of exercise and moving yourself around most days a week. Using the muscles and keeping them fit, strong and ready for action is one of the best ways (in my opinion) to keep injury-free. I take the dog walking most days, and two or three days a week I’ll do a class like boxing or dancing or something similarly fun, or head into the gym.
5. Notice when something doesn’t feel right and stop
It’s been a very long time I’ve had anything niggling or painful come at me whilst playing, but I can tell you hands down the best way to prevent that initial twinge from developing into something more serious (and taking sometime to sort out) is to stop what you’re doing that’s causing the pain. Annoying yes, that you have to stop but your body will thank you for it in the long run. Then go and seek the advice of a good teacher about your technique. And I also highly recommend to anyone that will listen the benefits of Alexander Technique – it really did save me!