Though playing the violin is not a contact sport and it is classified as a mild activity, you can still get repetitive stress injuries or other injuries over time if not careful with your daily routine and posture.
I read an interesting strings magazine write up on a luthier that makes unorthodox shaped violas to prevent injuries. We are not talking about just removing a part of the upper bout of the viola so as to reach better on the fingerboard. But seriously funny odd shaped ones, some looking like a splat! Or that it had been initially made of playdoh in its perfect traditional hourglass shape and then sat on by an elephant. The review of the maker Luthier David Ravinus creations are good too: despite its odd and uncanny design, the violin is powerful and resonant and has gained popularity with many long standing viola players
For professional players who practise at least 3 hours and over each day, it would be a good idea to get an ergonomically designed instrument so that injuries like tendonitis at the elbows or finger/arm or back injuries will be cut down or not occur.
Unfortunately, there are currently no violin instruments in the market resembling Ravinus’ so for now being be cautious to take some steps against injury will be the only preventive action available. And here is my personal list of how:
1. Warm up by Moving your Body
I do stretches especially for the arms fingers and back and tend to do a short workout before actually going into violin practise for the day. Some Yoga poses to stretch out your body would also be useful in maintaining a good balance and helps your mind to be calm before practise.
2. Work at strengthening your Core Muscles
At my gym work out I work to strengthen not only my arms and shoulders but my core muscles as well because playing the violin as a solo instrument requires a lot standing up and movement around the core, you would want your core to be stengthened in order to build endurance for playing the violin. With strength, there will also be endurance and less stress on the muscles to do the work.
3. Always checking my posture
At all times, I work at checking that I have a good posture in playing. In standing, I stand upright and not slouch and in sitting I make sure that my feet are in a 90 degree angle and that I am not sitting completely into my seat but a little more towards the edge. To help me with this, I use Backjoy, a nifty contraption that enables me to sit with less strain on my back.
I also check that my fingers are in the correct position and that my thumb is not pressed too tightly against the neck. When I am playing the different strings, I coincide the angle of my elbows and arms accordingly and not use my back or neck to compensate the movement instead.
4. Practising with the 4th finger
Finger no.4 which is our pinky is often overstretched when doing 10ths or playing octaves with alternating 1-3 and 2-4 fingerings. Sometimes to avoid an entire change in position, we can also stretch out 4th finger to reach the note (for example a C on E string in the first position). When encountering rigorous practise involving a lot of stretching of the 4th finger it is best to be cautious to do the practise efficiently only for a very short while and not to dwell too long in over stretching this.
5. Take breaks
If having a five hour practise schedule, it is not advisable to practise all five hours at a go. Personally do one and a half hours at a go but it would be better to do 55minutes and then take at least a 5 minute break before moving on to the next section of practise. This gives your body a break and stretch in between, your eyes and mind will also thank you for this short breather. And you can find your practise a lot more effective than to have gone on the whole duration at one go without stopping.
6. Go for periodic massages
For hard to stretch areas, massage is a good way to prevent injury and to make sure the muscle knots are dealt with regularly and not left for a long time as there can be acid build up and poor circulation for healing. The best places to go for massages would be shops specializing in sports injuries they tend to be less therapeutic and soothing but they do get to the painful roots of my aches and pains on my arms, hands and back.
Hope these six tips will revolutionalize your violin practise before an ergonomically designed violin is available for sale.