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Rotator cuff (shoulder) problems and Rocktape

Colleagues,
 
Many years of attritional use have taken their toll on my right shoulder. After surgery, acupuncture and physiotherapy, I'm left with little improvement.
My physiotherapist is now recommending that I try Rocktape (kinesthesia tape), which is a fairly recent entrant into the marketplace for athletes. I would be grateful if anyone who has experience of this type of product would share their opinions.
Thank you.
 
Peter Gambie
Conductor
The Renaissance Choir
Southampton Choral Society
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on May 17, 2014 5:08am
Use it!
 
I am a Choral Music Educator, former competitive gymnast, trainer of gymnasts and certified group fitness trainer as well.  I have taped up many of my athletes over the years to help them get through competitions, and this tape is of great help.  
 
Having damaged my own shoulders during my competitive career, I have done physical therapy on several occasions to help my shoulder last longer.  Each time I go ask for a prescription for Physical Therapy, I am investing in the long-term use of my shoulders.  I am 50 years old, and I have done 3 rounds of PT for my shoulder since I was 28 years old.  Each time, it gets better for a period of years.  Ultimately, I will probably have to have rotator-cuff surgery, but until then, I am doing lots of things to delay surgery.  Once we cut, we weaken the area in many ways...even if it's arthroscopic.
 
Here are some suggestions for you:
 
1)  Ice religiously.  Get an ice pack like this one:
Keep it in your freezer all the time.  Ice it day and night or whenever you are just sitting.  Ice is under-used by most people who have injuries largely because it is inconvenient to sit with an ice-pack and hold it on the shoulder.  The ice pack above is designed for the shoulder and makes it really easy to sit and ice.  In fact, I am using one right now as I type this!  Icing religiously several times per day for 10 minutes each time will help you very much.  Don't ice it before you are going to conduct.  
 
2)  Stay on top of the physical therapy exercises you did with your physical therapist.  Do them several times a week to re-train your muscles to help your shoulder function differently.  If you stop doing the exercises, your body just goes right back to what got it there in the first place.  
 
3)  Before you are going to conduct, make sure the shoulder is warm.  You can place a warm pack on it.  Also, and more importantly, get your body moving to increase blood flow for several minutes...especially in the AM...and then stretch it using some of the stretches you've learned in PT.
 
We have to approach the care of your shoulders in the same way we approach the study of music.  We've only got two shoulders, and they need to last us a lifetime!
 
Dale Duncan
Find my Sight Singing Program for Middle School Students here:
My YouTube Channel:
My blog for Middle School teachers:
 
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 17, 2014 3:42pm
I have also done PT several times over the years for right shoulder pain, and am doing it again right now.  It definitely helps and heals, but I decided that there was something I must be doing physically in my conducting to aggravate my shoulder and that my career probably depended on fixing it.  I've heard good things over the years about Alexander Technique, so I decided to take the plunge.  I've had two lessons, and have been amazed at what I've discovered already about the tension in my posture, which translates into tension in the shoulder and neck while conducting.  I had a three-hour dress rehearsal this morning, and my shoulder sailed through it.  I'm (metaphorically) holding my breath, hoping this is a real breakthrough.  If it is, I'm sold.  It won't fix a rotator cuff tear, and shouldn't replace medical treatment, but I've got more hope than I've had in a long time that this is teaching me to release tension, and thereby stop reinjuring my shoulder.
 
Linda Gingrich
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 17, 2014 4:28pm
I love Alexander Technique and use it myself (my undergrad voice teacher also taught AT and introduced it to me when it WASN'T popular) and the  breathing exercises with my choirs.  One of my sopranos swears it helps her allergies....don't know about that but do know when we don't *make time* for it at the beginning of rehearsal, I can hear it in my singers.  I am a very tense person and pay for it when I don't do my breathing or stretches or exercises.  I've learned to make time or I'm miserable. I was a ballet dancer and I think my body reacts to tension by clenching muscles I used 'back in the day' when I'm under stress.
 
Tension is destructive for all performers and any way you can control it helps, long term.  Rocktape or PT or yoga breathing or AT ....whatever works for you is what you should do. 
on May 17, 2014 6:05pm
Peter:  I have had rotator cuff issues with both shoulders, not conducting related, but obviously sensitive to the conducting impact on my mobility. I have found that the best way to cope with shoulder issues has been physiotherapy. Short of PT, I have found that pilates has gone a long way to address mobility issues not only in the upper torso but the entire body. I am afraid that growing mobility issues is simply an aging issue but pilates has been an aid in my struggle to keep a flexible body. I can recommend two sources that may be of use to you: 1) a great book for musicians entitled "The Athletic Musician" by Barbara Paull who is a physiotherapist who pracitices her craft with a violinist, Christine Harrison. Together, the two of them treat musiician related injuries in an effort to provide healthy motion/movement for players and ultimately, conductors. 2) I have put together a brief article in conjunction with a licensed pilates instructor that may be of use to you; however, it is designed to assist the choral conductor with his/her choir in rehearsal in the ever useful "warm-up" period. If you are interested in my article, drop me a note at: glfisher63(a)gmail.com and I will send you a pdf version. I know that this is an important to aging conductors and one that if dealt with an an early age, can help to fend off any number of potentially threatening issues to mobility.
 
Gary Fisher
Burlington Civic Chorale
Burlington, Ontario
Canada
burlingonncivicchorale.ca
 
on May 18, 2014 5:20am
Thank you all for such detailed and valuable advice. I was lucky to receive Alexander technique lessons as part of my college/university music course back in the 1970s.
I will continue with physiotherapy as you advise; get plenty of ice; read about athletic musicians and try Rocktape. I may even have to stop chopping up logs and using a chainsaw, but that's a different story!
 
Peter
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 19, 2014 6:32am
I've just started using RockTape for lower back problems. Highly recommend! Make sure you have someone show/demonstrate the proper way to use it.
on May 19, 2014 7:33am
I have been addressing this very issue for conductors at workshops in Tennessee and Kentucky.  An Occupational Therapist (arm expert!) and I have been looking at the physiology and typical problems faced by the conductor.  We're hoping to turn this into a research project soon.  
 
For long-term help, we recommend stabilizing the scapula (shoulder-blades).  We've used back braces, but not tape yet.  There are simple exercises (probably what your PT has already advised). What we always forget because we're so busy taking care of everyone else, is the need to build up our own core strength.  Focus on your posture and the placement of your shoulderblades (back and down) while you're sitting and standing (and typing for long periods of time) and strengthen the large muscles around the shoulderblades (I like push-ups in addition to PT stretches). 
 
Good luck! 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2014 3:40pm
Mr. Gamble,
 
I am sorry to learn of your ailment.  A friend of mine is a physical therapist - specifically for musicians.  She advocates use of the Alexander Technique with her patients and students.  If you haven't tried this already, it may be something to consider. As a former dancer, I would agree with some other statements posted here that it is worth it to warm up prior to rehearsal.  I don't know what your schedule necessitates, but if you currently allow yourself one break within a long rehearsal session, it might possible to opt for two shorter breaks instead. 
 
I am sure that your gifts and hard work are appreciated by many and that you love what you do so I certainly hope you will find recovery soon. Good luck!
 
Heather Seaton
Applauded by an audience of 1
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