Performing Arts Medicine


Ballet Dancer Mid-air in Jump --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Performing artists use their body or voice for artistic expression and includes:

  • Musicians
  • Dancers
  • Actors
  • Public speaking
  • Mime
  • Magicians and more

These artists use parts of their bodies intensely, frequently with repetitive activities and for hours every day.  These unusual stresses increase susceptibility to specific health issues.

For example:

  • Musicians – can hold their instruments for long periods of time in fixed or unusual positions.  Violinists strain their neck holding their violin and guitarist twist their wrist and fingers to get around the fret board.  Pianists and drummers hold their arms in front of their bodies and so on. This creates muscle imbalances which eventually cause problems.   Just the finger motions of pressing keys repetitively eventually imbalances the finger muscles.
  • Dancers – experience traumas, strains, and muscle imbalances which impairs their performances.
  • Vocalists – singers, actors and speakers can strain their voice and perform sub-optimally by not maintaining balanced biomechanical skills for all parts of the vocal apparatus.

To thoroughly address Performing Arts Medicine, all domains of the performer should be taken into account…their body, mind and spirit.  If we focus on just the muscles within the biomechanics area of the body domain as an example, muscles would be evaluated for SPRITE:

  • Speed
  • Power
  • Range of Motion
  • Independence (of movement)
  • Technique (i.e. timing, balance, etc.)
  • Endurance 

Additional factors within the body domain would include: essential nutrient status; organ function; pulmonary and cardiovascular function; etc,

Healthcare Approach

As in any healthcare field, sometimes the goals are short term…reactive to immediate needs. The artist who shows up at the performance and is in pain which jeopardizes the event.  Performing Arts practitioners can be called upon for emergency care at the event or studio.  Other times, the needs are more preventive in nature.  The Performing arts practitioner may be part of the team helping to develop the artist to new heights of capabilities and expression.

 Whether the goal is short-term or long-term each Performing arts Medicine practitioner will need to develop a totally unique, personalized health care plan for the artist that addresses their specific condition.  These diagnostic and treatment methods may entail standard methods such as physical exams, lab tests and imaging studies.  Frequently involved will be assessments of muscle strength imbalances, pulmonary function, biomechanical integrity and neurological control.

Performing Arts Medicine Practitioners 

Theoretically, Performing Arts Medicine is no different from general care practice.  The main differentiating features between these health care fields are highlighted more by degree and familiarity with the specific activities.

  • Degree – the demands put on the body, the ability for their bodies to perform at levels of excellence and artistry.  This would be comparable to the sports practitioner who works with elite or professional athletes.
  • Familiarity – The Performing Arts Medicine practitioner will be familiar with one or more of the performing arts.  They will know the specific activities, the common injuries, stresses and goals of the artist to a much greater depth.  This will enable the practitioner to diagnose and treat the artist with greater precision and speed.

For inquiries and potential referrals to performing arts medicine practitioners, contact,