Drums are the most physical instrument in the world. Great drummers have strength, stamina, speed, and even more strength. Because of the physicality of this instrument, drummers are very prone to becoming injured. As someone who has been injured very badly, trust me you want to avoid it at all costs. In this newsletter I will talk about how you can get injured, how to prevent it and what to do if you do get injured.
Note: I am not a doctor and do not claim to have any specialized knowledge on injuries. This is general advice based on my experience. If you have any sort of issue or potential injury you should seek the professional help of a doctor as soon as possible.
What is a drumming injury?
The answer to this can vary, but lifting those heavy drums, playing with tense muscles, or the constant unnatural movement of tightening and loosening lugs and stands will take a huge toll on a person’s arms. Arm injuries resulting from these movements are typically arthritis and tendonitis being long term injuries, and soreness and swelling in the short term.
The arms are doing most of the work and thus, are at the most risk, but the legs and groin are susceptible as well. Sometimes bass drums are not mounted on the floor well and can slide away from you as you hit the bass drum. The sliding away and pushing forward with your leg to hit the kick drum can cause groin strains and leave you with a very uncomfortable soreness.
Another thing you want to be careful about that’s not so much an injury, but more of a lifestyle concern is your back and posture. Just like hunching over the keyboard to type, you are in that same hunching position when you play drums. Some drummers do not have a kit set up well and sit awkwardly and very hunched over while playing. This is a horrible habit to get into and can cause you to hunch over as you age and will definitely cause back pain and stiffness over time. Do not let these injuries scare you though, these are all totally avoidable and will not occur if you do the following.
How to prevent drum injuries.
Generally, always try to WARM UP whether it’s on a pad or the drum set. Before you even do that, STRETCH BEFORE PLAYING DRUMS! It’s an easy thing to do and only takes a couple minutes. By warming up your muscles you go a long way in preventing injuries. Stretch your arms, wrists, legs and anything else you want. You can find drummer specific stretches online and on YouTube.
First, I’ll go over how to prevent hand, arm, and wrist injuries, since these are the most prone. RELAXED GRIP on the stick is a must. If you ever find yourself tensely holding the stick then let loose and relax your grip. Your TECHNIQUE will also play a huge role in preventing injuries. If you are using an improper technique to play, you may not notice anything at slow speeds, but as you play faster you will notice yourself tensing up. This is because you are using incorrect technique! You should be able to play fast while maintaining a loose grip at all times. If you cannot figure out what the proper playing technique is, GO TAKE LESSONS so a professional drum instructor can show you how to play correctly. USE TOOLS to help you tighten and loosen lugs, clamps and stands. They have wrenches that you can use instead of drum keys to take the pressure off your wrist when tuning your drums. As for tightening and loosening stands, carry around a set of pliers with you and use those instead of your fingers to break down or set up your drums. The pliers can clamp on to the part that tightens and the motion you use to turn it will be much less stressful on your wrists and arms.
As for your feet and groin, MOUNT YOUR BASS DRUM by using kick brakes or simply putting something heavy in front of the bass drum so it doesn’t slide. You can also set up on top of a DRUM RUG instead of hardwood or another slippery surface to allow your drum to stay in place better.
Most importantly, PROPER POSTURE will allow you to play drums many more years. This is something that you need to pay attention to and constantly correct until you get used to proper posture. Make sure you are SITTING STRAIGHT and not hunched over or with your shoulders up or tense. The way you have your DRUMS SETUP will play a big role in this. Try to set things up to be within your reach without having to move on your throne. If your drums are set up awkwardly, you will have to move awkwardly, and risk injury. Watch out for a newsletter on how to set up your drums properly to learn more about that.
- What do you do if you have a drum injury?
Depending on what kind of injury and where it is, there are different solutions. If you are in the middle of playing and you notice any pain or swelling anywhere STOP PLAYING IMMEDIATELY AND TAKE A BREAK FROM DRUMS UNTIL YOU ARE PAIN FREE. Now, this is sometimes hard to do if you are in the middle of a gig or a tour where you have to keep playing. In that case, it’s always best to SEE A DOCTOR and get professional advice on the extent of the injury and what you can do about it. Sometimes you may need to go to physical therapy or occupational therapy to rehabilitate the injured part of your body. If you don’t think it’s that bad or cannot go to a doctor try ICING THE AREA especially if it’s swollen. Sometimes ARM WRAPS can help on the spot. You can get these at you local drug store; simply wear the arm sleeve so that it puts pressure on your arms and prevents swelling. This is best use temporarily and will not be a good long term fix. Trust me, I tried and it didn’t work.
Injuries are not necessary and are completely avoidable. Since drumming is an active and physical instrument to play, it’s only natural that you are vulnerable to hurting yourself. So make sure you do your homework and take the time to stretch, warm up, setup your drums properly and use proper technique. It will totally be worth it in the long run!