The Cumulative Injury Cycle

As a musician injury coach, I have seen this cycle show up with most of my clients who are working through pain or injury. This is a concept/perspective that looks at repetitive/overuse injuries through the lens of sports science.

So let's define the cumulative injury cycle.

The injury cycle is a term created by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. It refers to a cycle of different events and stages that happen during repetitive stress injuries. Repetitive stress injuries (also referred to as overuse injuries) are very common in the musician world, and they can cause debilitating symptoms and circumstances that interfere with practice, performance, and life. In this article, I am going to dive into the different stages of the injury cycle and what one might experience at each stage.

But first - let’s get some perspective.

Playing any instrument can be considered an athletic event, with the ultimate goal of playing as effortlessly as possible. Although musicians aren’t required to be in control of extreme amounts of power and force, such as football players or olympic athletes, they are faced with many challenges including:

1. Fine motor skills involving repetitive movements over long periods of time

2. Mental endurance and stamina

3. Muscle endurance and stamina

4. Coordination and balance

5. Full capacity of the breath

6. Physical and mental responses in high-stress environments and events, often involving a high amount of adrenaline stemming from the fight or flight response

So what happens if your body isn’t able to physically manage the load of these challenges?

Enter the injury cycle.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, repetitive stress injuries have different contributing factors, including:

* poor posture (I greatly resonate with the terms alignment and body organization)

* lack of daily movement

* prolonged periods of sitting (around 30-45 minutes of being in the same position will start to cause adaptations in the body)

* internal and external stressors

* poor movement patterns

* chronic mental and physical fatigue

* muscles that are repeatedly placed under stress and used in a shortened or tight position