Performing Arts Medicine

What is Performing Arts Medicine?

When artists use their bodies to perform in front of an audience, this is called performing arts and some physical therapists offer Performing Arts Medicine services to treat this. Examples of those who are performing artists include dancers, gymnasts, musicians, singers, actors, and more. Performing artists are exposed to significant stressors to their bodies because of the required repetitive movements and activities they are exposed to in order to perfect their art.

With exposure to repetitive movements, there is a risk of joints, muscles, and other tissues breaking down. This significantly affects not only the physical ability to perform, but often it also includes psychological stress too. The inability to practice and perform can be devastating to a performing artist. Often, an injured performing artist works through the potential loss of not only his or her livelihood, but also the inability to perform his or her passion and dream.

Repetitive motion injuries can range from strains and sprains to arthritis, bone fractures, and more. Performing Arts Medicine is when medical providers such as physicians, surgeons, physical and occupational therapists specifically focus on treating performing artists. They have a unique focus on helping performing artists not only prevent injuries, but also when an injury does occur they work hard to get them back to performing.

What to expect

There are health care providers whose passion is to help performing artists, so as a consumer of health care, you have a choice in finding the right provider for you. Do your homework and search for a health care provider with excellent outcomes, great customer reviews, and can provide the care you need for a reasonable cost.

Health care providers whose passion is in performing arts, they understand the pressure and desire to get back to performing quickly. They go beyond just treating the technical side of the injury, but they also focus on maximizing the artist’s performance with the avoidance of re-injury. There is a balanced approach between the artist’s expression, technical training, and generalized conditioning.

There are various performing arts services including, but not limited to:

  • Clinical rehabilitation (PTs and OTs) to conservatively manage injuries
  • Education and training to help with prevent injuries
  • Massage therapy to manage wear and tear of soft tissues
  • Onsite consultation to maximize performance and manage issues as they arise
  • Physician services may include orthopedic, neurological, and psychological services
  • Speech therapy services to assist with vocal cord strain

Physical therapists focus on restoration of muscles, joints, movements, endurance and balance. They not only help manage the injury, but they also assist with retraining performance-specific muscles. They use various techniques based on the performer’s art, but commonly treatment includes stretching, strengthening, and manual work including soft tissue mobilization. A performing arts PT will also take treatment a step further and focus specifically on the technical aspect of the art and integrate that into treatment.

Occupational therapists focus on restoration of muscles, joints, and movements of the upper extremities. Treatment focus may include hands, elbows, shoulders, and neck. They may focus on stretching, strengthening, range of motion, and even splinting or bracing; however, they also can assist with the performing artist’s work environment and playing style. They can make recommendations of possible adaptions to ensure the artist can continue to perform.

Psychologists focus on managing stress and anxiety which can be exacerbated by the inability to affectively perform. This especially holds true when a performing artist becomes disabled or experiences chronic pain.

Speech therapists focus on improving vocal performance. They work with the artist on identifying vocal misuse or abuse and create strategies to prevent overuse which leads to vocal fatigue and possibly loss of voice all together.

Is Performing Arts Medicine right for you?

Performing artists have unique medical risks and expectations which requires medical intervention of highly trained health care providers that understand those risks and expectations. If you are a performing artist who is either looking for help in prevention of, or managing, an injury, Performing Arts Medicine is right for you.

Do your homework to find a health care provider who specializes in your art. There are physicians, psychologists, and therapists who are qualified to help performing artists. Do your homework.

Most states have direct access to a physical therapist, meaning you can go directly to a physical therapist without a physician order. To determine if your state has direct access, please visit the American Physical Therapy Association’s website Physical Therapy Direct Access By State.

Occupational therapists also have direct access; however, it is determined by local state statutes. Please verify with your insurance company if you can be treated by an OT without a physician order.

To find a qualified PT, OT, or SPT near you, please click on Find A Clinic. This link will help you find a PT, OT, or SPT in your area that specializes in Performing Arts Medicine.

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