As drummers, we all know that drumming places tremendous demands on our bodies. When we are young we think we are invincible. At some point in our lives and careers we quickly learn that we are not and must work hard to stay healthy.
My last two Single Strokes articles described some of the common causes of low back pain (LBP) and how they might be evaluated. This months article will concentrate on the treatment and prevention of low back injuries in drummers.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to describe specific treatments for the numerous causes of LBP, I will describe some basics treatments and prevention methods. Recommendations for the treatment and prevention of lumbar spine injuries can be found at www.spine-health.com. When LBP develops our first recommendation is to stop the activity that is or might have caused the pain. Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen or acetometaphen can be helpful. The application of ice packs to the back for 15-20 minutes every 2 hours can significantly decrease the pain and muscle spasm that might accompany the pain. It is also recommended that you remain relatively active. This does not mean to you cannot rest the spine, but studies have shown that prolonged rest can be detrimental resulting in muscle deconditioning and weakness.
The key to treating low back injuries is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. As drummers we are required to sit for extended periods of time often reaching and twisting our torsos while performing. We also have to set up and breakdown our kits before and after gigs. Improper bending, lifting and carrying our drums can lead to a variety of low back injuries. Proper lifting techniques must be leaned and practice by each of us to help prevent low back injuries.
Maintaining a lumbar flexibility and strengthening program can also significantly help prevent low back injuries by conditioning our core (trunk and lumbo-pelvic) musculature. These exercises can be completed in the privacy of our homes or in hotel rooms. A fully equipped gym or health club is not necessary. A number of these core strengthening exercises can be performed on an exercise ball that can be carried with you on the road. An excellent description of these exercises can be found at www.pbats.com/educate/trunk/index. I have used an exercise ball rather than a throne while practicing to help me develop my core strength while practicing.
Unfortunately, we all will experience LPB at some time in our lives. With the proper treatment and preventative measures our exposure, as drummers to these debilitating injuries can be minimal.