Send to

Choose Destination
CMAJ. 1998 Apr 21;158(8):1019-25.

Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in musicians: a systematic review of incidence and prevalence.

Author information

Department of Oncology, University of Western Ontario, London.



Work-related musculoskeletal disorders cause pain, disability and loss of employment for many workers, including musicians. Although performing arts medicine is a growing field, the health problems of musicians remain under-recognized and under-researched. Therefore, the author undertook a systematic review of published information on the incidence and prevalence of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) in classical musicians.


Seven databases were searched for the period 1980 to 1996. The main textbook and performing arts medicine journals were searched manually, as were reference lists of all relevant papers. The author also contacted individuals familiar with the literature of performing arts medicine. Studies were included for review if they reported PRMD incidence or prevalence in classical musicians. Of the 24 studies identified, 18 cross-sectional surveys and cohort studies were reviewed. The author subjectively assessed the studies using criteria modified from an existing evaluation scale and used 4 criteria for data combination. On the basis of prevalence values from the eligible studies, chi 2 tests for heterogeneity were performed.


Only one study estimated PRMD incidence. Ten of the 17 prevalence studies were ineligible for data combination, because of low response rates and other methodological problems. In the 7 eligible studies, PRMD point prevalence ranged from 39% to 87% in adult musicians and from 34% to 62% in secondary school music students. The best estimates of PRMD prevalence were derived from the 3 studies that excluded mild complaints; these studies indicated that PRMD prevalence was 39% and 47% in adults and 17% in secondary school music students respectively. Statistical combination of data across studies within each demographic category was not possible.


Available data indicate that the prevalence of PRMD in adult classical musicians is comparable to the prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders reported for other occupational groups. Several recommendations for future research are outlined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center