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Do You Need a Full-time Rockstar Physiotherapist on Tour?

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Interview With Bassist and Physiotherapist Anna Achimowicz

Do You Need a Full-time Rockstar Physiotherapist on Tour? The Un-Healthy Price Bass Players Pay…

By Anna Achimowicz / Head Rockstar Physiotherapist at Performing Arts Medicine

So why don’t you have a full-time rockstar physiotherapist on tour?

Budget.

Almost every conversation with a tour manager starts like this…

Bass Player: Isn’t the bass player and the band’s health and ability to perform the first priority here?

Tour Manager: We get massage therapists on location from city to city… it’s okay… it works.

It’s not okay, and it doesn’t.

Nothing is more wrong with this statement. If there’s anything that the body of a bass player doesn’t want to tolerate is a lack of consistency. A random massage therapist in every city, a generalized treatment, massage, or soft tissue work, not to mention a quick chiropractic adjustment that will potentially leave you with consequences for years, with absolutely no knowledge of the individual’s needs or health priorities that are the cause of pain or injury. What’s even more important is how they’re going about performing.

A heavy solid-body bass or guitar strapped around one shoulder, plus pyro, backflips, metal cages, and explosives, for 60, 90, or more minutes for weeks on end with every night in travel and a mass of external factors. Let that just be the tip of the iceberg leading to all sorts of compensation mechanisms in the body. Bass players may hear ’tendonitis’ or ‘bad posture’ terms thrown at them or simple strain when looking for any medical help. No such thing, especially since the body is made to move, where its anatomical elements are properly stimulated through repetitive movement in order to be healthy and perform its function. So playing bass itself or muscle ‘weakness’ isn’t the case either. No, it’s not, and it doesn’t have much to do with training at all either. We’ll get to that.

Nothing against massage or soft tissue work and their representatives, but musicians and stage performers, especially those touring bass players are like high-class athletes, and their bodies undergo extreme strains and effort requiring specialized methods and techniques. This will not only be efficient in improving their playing, nerve responses, coordination, and activation but will especially address compensation and movement patterns that are specific to what bass players, actually do in their stage show in respect to the environment, their style of playing, surrounding and stage choreography, very physical or stationary way of playing.

The other element that is crucial is sustainability; a one-off massage without a specialist being consistent with working on a player’s body and his or her health with a directed strategy and controlled environment leads to potential injury risk. Although in the short term this can provide a relaxation or regeneration effect, the underlying causes of the problem are left untouched. Increased blood flow and tissue overstimulation in some cases are not required and can do more damage than help. Proper assessment of pain presenting while playing Is far more important for any symptoms while in static, sitting down, lying, or sleeping.

An individual approach to treatment when it comes to functional ‘lesions’ which is the vast majority unless a structural injury occurs, has a place. It usually always starts at the pelvis, and always has to do with improper nerve function and impulsion to the rest of the systems. Imagine a cable half plugged into your bass or amp, it has no chance to transmit the signal in its full 100% force. That won’t sound good. And last but not least, where it hurts is not where we should treat it first. Pain is a very intelligent bio-feedback system and a way of the body saying, hey something is wrong, I need assistance here!

So what does that mean exactly?

Well, say a player has pain in his cervical spine, the tension in one of the shoulders, overall back strain, knee joints ofter an issue after the performance, and an old ankle joint sprain from childhood that flares up every now and again. I can add that most of the places manifesting pain are not the source of the problem. Properly finding the cause, reversing it, and bringing the body into a natural balance with all its systems here ( muscle-skeletal, neurological, circulatory, lymphatic, digestive, no name a few), the body has the natural capacity to regenerate itself after any strain. And by strain I understand any kind of effort requiring activity, sleeping doesn’t count ( Performance, effort, gym training, rehearsal, training, or even normal daily activity, etc.)

Inconsistency, when it comes to a lack of specialized care over a player’s health, is one of the main causes of injury, overuse, and omitting the early symptoms such as pain or discomfort. As we know, we suck up, dose up on a bunch of Advil or reach for a quick-fix temporary solution that doctors or trainers are happy to provide at a hotel gym, or simply go in for a one-time massage or adjustment because it’s all that is offered. Multiplied by weeks, months, and years in one’s career is a bomb with a delay pedal on it. Something is going to give in at some point, because the nerve system is going to be compromised one way or another, functioning with the wrong settings. Just like your amp or badly leveled fret job, it starts with buzz and rattle, and then a cascade of problems arises.

Especially understanding the specifics of playing an instrument is miles away from sitting at a desk at a day job where motion and motorics are usually limited to the slight movement of the fingers and wrist in a static position for hours on end. No comparison in performance, and even greater when it comes to evaluating the cause of the problem a player points out. Session musicians and recording artists that however do spend hours playing and sitting down, face a whole other group of problems caused by dis-reactivity of muscles, circulatory issues which will manifest in migraines, digestive issues, vertigo, and the obvious lumbar and cervical spine issues. But a sitting bass player is a topic for a whole separate article.

How is this possible since a world tour is always a huge operation employing a mass group of crew, techs, promoters, bookers, managers, assistants, and managers who don’t have the budget for one person overlooking the most important element of a band’s performance?

Lack of awareness is the first element, ignorance, lack of understanding of how important a physio’s work actually is contributing to the performer’s well-being, and red flags that can turn into a potential injury and always do over time. And a whole bunch of stereotype thinking of doing things a certain way for decades in the touring industry. Luckily the time to change this starts now.

How can that be changed then?

Spreading awareness, just like we are having this conversation. Applying proper standards and explaining to people in charge when a tour for a band comes together, having a specialist like a rockstar physiotherapist is crucial for the whole operation. Not only the bass player who together with the drummer builds the rhythm section and unit driving the whole band forward.

After all, before ticket sales, gear, fancy amp stacks, backdrops, and explosions in the stage production satisfy the eyes of the masses, we need to come back to the core element where it all starts with. The body and the player himself. Healthy, in shape, and injury free being able to rock the stage for his or her audience. So before we get carried away with instruments, straps, cases, etc, we need to remember the player’s main instrument, has no spare parts. The integrity of the body, without surgical involvement, invasive treatment, or repairs involving permanent changes in one’s anatomy is crucial.

Why not give the amount of attention, fine detail tuning, and obsession we give to gear and our basses, to our own body and health as a player?

It’s never too late when you end up in good hands that have the proper expertise, qualifications, and proper tools to accommodate the extremes of a bass players life style.

Over the course of my stage career, which hits 22 years this year in 2022, I was also lucky to have started a medical career alongside, developing specialized methods of treatment directed at musicians, stage performers, dancers, actors, etc. Coming from two sides of the spectrum the western school book of anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology, but also everything the alternative approach to healing has to offer.

If you can afford a custom shop instrument, you can definitely afford a tailor-made health specialist that will work with maintaining your most prized possession, your own body, and its health. And your pain usually starts at the bass(e) and that would be at your pelvis.

You can find more information about how to book a session with me as well as Anna’s Activation Method, Physiotherapy for Rockstars and Body Management for bass players seminars at the links below:

achimowiczanna.wixsite.com/bandaid
facebook.com/PerformingArtsMedicineEU
facebook.com/AnnasActivationMethod

Interview With Bassist and Physiotherapist Anna Achimowicz

Bass Player Health

Do You Have Trigger Finger? with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Do You Have Trigger Finger?

In this month’s video, we will cover trigger finger and possible treatments.

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

Dr Randy Kertz - bassist Guide to Injury Management

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Bass Player Health

Play Every Note with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Play Every Note…

In this month’s video, we will cover the best approach to practice on your bass fretboard.

Please make sure to cast your Vote for Dr. Kertz >>> CLICK HERE
Category: Audio Education Technology
Title: Injury Prevention & Management for Musicians – The Pianist’s Guide

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

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Bass Player Health

Believe the Hype… Internet Wisdom, with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Believe the Hype… Internet Wisdom…

In this month’s video, we will shed some light on Internet wisdom and how to proceed.

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

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Bass Player Health

Most Injuries Are Self-inflicted… A look Into the Mirror of Bass Player’s Health

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Anna Achimowicz

When you want to professionally approach your body for playing bass, you will be required to look into the mirror of how you treat yourself… every day.

‘Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that make him sick.’- HIPPOCRATES

As artists we often think pain and strain, to some extent, is the measure of our coolness, our rebellion on stage, a measure of growth, the originality and uniqueness of how much your body can withstand without sleeping, hydrating, changing our stage costume that was never comfortable to begin with, etc. However, if we go down that road to outsmart our health, competing band or cooler player than you, it can be a short path very quickly.

Growth and development and pushing ones boundaries, especially on stage, is often simply self-inflicted harm and mistreating the body’s early signals, that something is not serving us. That first sensation of discomfort, burning, tingling, that subjective “somethings off” but, never mind, that subtle moment, we’ve crossed a threshold, because we didn’t listen.

How many times did you sit in a session until your leg went numb? How many hours in an evening did you hold on, not having a single sip of water, cause you ‘have to’ drink a toast with every fan you meet after the show? How many times your headpiece pierced into your scull inflicting an initially dull headache that would after many hours cut circulation, press against sensitive sutures of your scull until it inflicts blurry vision, impaired hearing, dizziness or nausea? How hard did you head-bang, feeling the next day you probably sustained a mild concussion?

These are just some extreme examples of what musicians and bass playing performers put themselves through. For the crowds, for the applause, for recognition or fame. Sacrificing their health, their body and wellbeing. That only accumulates, in our cellular memory, yet cannot continue to regenerate, properly heal and reconstruct.

Most of the time, pain, discomfort or dysbalance the body projects onto you, is your nerve system communicating with you, “Your habits are harming me and my health. I need rest, the position you’re playing in is causing wear and tear, the free stage dives without any warm up or preparation are going to fracture a bone or inflict a decent strain of muscles or ligaments. If you don’t properly hydrate, and drink alcohol instead it’s going to develop and inflammatory state or an infection and heal much much slower than you could”.

Yes, that is you, the touring musician overlooked, ignored, brushed off, numbed with a painkiller or worse, glued with superglue and scotch tape because there is no time for that being on tour, performing, recording, writing under the pressure of a label, management, or the very first fans or followers of a newly established project.

Most of injuries and heath problems, are self-inflicted.

Most are functional and come from self-sabotaging habits that neglect your health, look for quick fixes on the go temporary solution hacks, pain-killers, walk-in massages or dangerous chiropractic manipulation manouvres, 3 hour-long nights with minimum sleep, followed with lots of coffee or energy drinks, open wounded blisters closed with industrial glue. Should I go on with examples? You know who you are.

All of this might seem cool and rebellious, when you’re a teenager, but when you’ve passed a certain age of biological maturity, it all Is just detrimental to your health in the long run, causing chain reactions leading to sickness, injury, burn-out, depression and chronic health problems that take months if not years to treat, and sometimes leave irreversible damage for a surgeon to contemplate on.

If you’re willing to commit and admit how you’ve been treating your body, your instrument of your artistic expression, worse than what it deserves, you are ready to face the mirror.

I’ve developed a special service allowing you work with me individually. The Medical Throne of Wisdom is an exclusive health experience with me, a performing arts medicine expert and Physiotherapist for Rockstars. Find out more here:
achimowiczanna.wixsite.com/musicbandaid/medicalthroneofwisdom

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Bass Player Health

Your Elbow Tendonitis Starts at the Pelvis… Welcome to ‘The Matrix’ 

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Interview With Bassist and Physiotherapist Anna Achimowicz

Elbow Tendonitis…

If I got a dollar for every time I heard a weak muscle needs to be strengthened, I would probably be a millionaire by now. The fact that I’m not (yet) is only my fault, I never asked for the pay-up! Now that’s gonna change.

If you read this article, from now on every time you hear that from a trainer, a doctor, a coach or an uninformed bandmate, you send me a dollar! Kidding! (Not)

But when we think of a muscle being ‘weak’ it has nothing to do with being untrained, giving in, or that the song or chord progression is too complicated at the time for your stamina to sustain. That might be the case, and we’ll get to that later, but in principle any muscle. Flexor Carpus Radialis, Rectus Femoris, or Biceps Brachii, all of them, have 3 stages or states of its functionality. And by functionality, I mean proper ’sources’ to work Normal and be Normal-reactive.

A “weak” or painful muscle is not an untrained muscle.

The normal healthy state of a muscle is called NORMO-reactive, we have also HYPER – which is too much, too much contraction versus relaxation, and HYPO- too little, too little contraction versus relaxation, on a general neurological impulse-based level. Hyper-reactive muscles and Hypo-reactive muscles are understood as dysreactive, and always have a reason for them being so, that should be corrected, enhanced or treated.

A muscle contraction is a chemical reaction that causes the nerve system to fire an impulse that contracts the muscles of your forearm and palm to finger a specific note on the fingerboard. In order to do so we need these 8 parameters to be consistent in your body. HYPO-reactivity (“weak”) can be caused by 1) the lymphatic system, especially in dehydration! 2) crania-sacral system, 3) neuro-vascular, 4) nerve system, spine segment lesion responsible for its respective muscle pair, 5) biochemical imbalance, 6) muscle organ connection 8) structural lesion, the for-mentioned- pelvis.

The pelvis – The Bass(e)

The pelvis is the base foundation of everything. Period. In the human body that is, not universally and philosophically. Just like the drums and bass are the foundation of time within a band or a song, fusing everything together in a mutual drive, beat, tone, and tempo. Well so does the pelvis for your whole body. Now, there are over 365 micro lesions, malpositions, and subluxations of the iliol-sacral complex, but for our purposes, we’re gonna focus on the main 3 types, Category I, II, and III, which are the most common, the most typical yet causing a multitude of issues, including as an indirect relation, your elbow lateral or medial epicondylitis. Often named a golfer or tennis elbow, but having to do very little in fact at all, as these symptoms occur rarely as a result of playing the sport, I know at least one bass player that plays golf in his free time, but we need to focus on a wider population, thousands of bass players around the world, and that’s you.

In my practice it’s often the discussion of what was first, the chicken or the egg, meaning, has the injury occurred first and the pelvis just ‘ran with it’ and went into a functional malposition of the so-called ’twisted pelvis’. Or was it the ’twisted pelvis’, that in result led to the injury? The answer is the latter, on most occasions. As medical professionals, applied anatomists, and biomechanists we do not know why that occurs, some claim, it starts in the womb, being curled up to one side, others claim it’s habitual and our one-side dominant arm and leg that is being taught early on in school, others blame it on bad daily habits, such as sitting on one’s wallet in your back jeans pocket, always tapping with the same foot to the rhythm while playing… We’re not quite sure, what we are sure of, is that it occurs almost in everybody, and is mostly indeed correctable but left untreated causes a vast majority of problems.

A ’twisted pelvis’ is functional to your body like a bass guitar cable halfway plugged into an amp. Might transmit some signal but sure doesn’t do its job nor sounds how you rehearsed it for.

Functionally the pelvis is one of the biggest and strongest complexes of joints when in an asymmetric position leads to a chain reaction disrupting nerve function and impulse transmission, which deregulated the automatic activity of muscles supporting the bone structure, especially the hamstrings, compromising the stability of the pelvis, hip joints, spinal column, everything else just follows. A twisted pelvis in any category, left untreated, causes a slue of complex health problems from tinnitus, to ankle joint subluxation, hearing loss, muscle cramps, tendonitis, lumbar spine pain and so much many others, one book could not simply have space for unless it’s a 6000-page long manuscript. That will in time come in book form from me.

What I can say is, in my 15 years of medical experience as a practitioner, I’ve seen only one symmetrical pelvis In my office, and it was a contemporary dancer.

What’s most tricky about it, a twisted pelvis doesn’t hurt, you don’t feel it, and it is very little you can do to correct it with your willpower, body awareness, or training, which would make things even worse. What you do feel however is a pain-chain compensatory reaction, ending up around your elbow manifesting in pain, tingling, numbness, burning and many other sensations including muscle weakness and disc ordination while playing and in daily function. And that’s just simply the consequential symptom. Not diagnosis.

You can find more information about how to book a session with me as well as Anna’s Activation Method, Physiotherapy for Rockstars and Body Management for bass players seminars and the #NEW ‘Medical Endorsement’ available from Performing Arts Medicine CMT at the links below:

achimowiczanna.wixsite.com/bandaid
facebook.com/PerformingArtsMedicineEU
facebook.com/AnnasActivationMethod

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