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August 24, 1984

Pianist's cramp to stage fright: the medical side of music-making

JAMA. 1984;252(8):985-989. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350080001001

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Music may soothe the savage breast, but it may not always soothe the musician. The same fingers producing those ethereal tones may be straining painfully as they reach across a string, and the same artistic temperament fiercely striking a chord may have been stricken with nearly incapacitating terror only moments earlier.

A handful of physicians, many of whom play instruments themselves or have musical family members, are becoming aware of these unique medical problems. Although the ranks are still too small to call "music medicine" a full-fledged entity akin to sports medicine, communication between musicians and medical practitioners over the past few years is leading to consolidation of isolated experiences into a coherent body of knowledge.

Early this summer, for example, Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill, and the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) sponsored a conference on "The String Player's Stress Points—and Their Relief." Here, physicians