'There are two necessities for a musician - a good masseuse, and a good physio'
This was the advice given to me by a mentor many years ago. He had just undergone surgery for carpal tunnel, and had been unable to play for a while with no idea when he would be fit enough to play again. A terrifying prospect for any musician.
I've been fairly fortunate so far in my career and have only had one injury that has made me worry for my continued ability to play.
About a year after starting my job at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, I began experiencing restricted movement in my right wrist. I was finding it increasingly difficult to comfortably reach the tip of the bow, and at times would get pins and needles in my fingertips and shooting pains up my forearm.
The stupid thing was that for a long time I felt embarrassed to admit that there was a problem. I worried that people would think I was making something out of nothing, that I was weak, that I wasn't capable of doing my job.
When I finally did see my GP, his response was less than helpful; I was essentially made to feel that I was wasting surgery time by making an appointment about a sore wrist.
When a physio friend from home insisted I seek a second opinion, and a colleague recommended a respected physiotherapist who worked regularly with dancers and musicians, I was initially loath to make an appointment because my doctor had made me feel like I was complaining about nothing. I am so glad I did make the appointment. My complaint was taken seriously; I was reassured that anything, no matter how small, that stopped me from working at my optimum ability, was a problem that must be addressed.
As it turned out, one of the small bones in my wrist had become slightly displaced, and I was carrying quite a lot of unhealthy tension through the entire right hand side of my upper body.
After about six sessions (a combination of massage and manipulation of the offending joint), during which I was taught how to stretch properly, and given good, solid advice to help prevent, or at least minimise the risk of future injury, I was feeling much happier and healthier.
A number of years ago, The Strad magazine did a wonderful article on musicians' injuries, and about the element of taboo there remains about discussing this issue openly. Having an injury does not make you unemployable or weak, it makes you human. However, if you have an injury and ignore it, there could come a time when it does make it impossible for you to work.
Never, never ignore any niggles you have. If you're unsatisfied with a diagnosis seek a second opinion. Do whatever you can to keep yourself strong and healthy - go for regular massage to dispel tension, and exercise.
The actual physical playing is only one part of what we do. It is imperative to keep both your body and mind healthy and in tip top shape too.