Playing Musical Instruments When you Have EDS

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is the name given to a group of rare disorders that affect the connective tissue that provides structure to joints, skin, blood vessels, and other organs. People with EDS have fragile skin and loose joints, raising the risk that common activities, like playing musical instruments, can cause damage.

What musical instruments can be risky?

Any musical instrument that is hard on the joints, like the violin, can injure patients with EDS. Most types of EDS cause hypermobility of the joints, meaning that joints bend further than they should and are prone to dislocations. Instruments like the violin can place excessive strain on joints, particularly of the fingers and arms.

Wind instruments like the flute, trombone, and saxophone are also generally not ideal for EDS patients. Playing a wind instrument requires inflating the lungs, throat, and mouth, and maintaining the pressure to produce a consistent sound from the instrument. For people with EDS, this inflation can cause stretching and tearing of tissues. People with some types of EDS are also prone to lung problems (like spontaneous lung collapse), which could be exacerbated by playing wind instruments.

What musical instruments are safe?

The type of musical instrument that is safe depends on the type of EDS you have, and the severity of your symptoms. Your physician may not be familiar enough with musical instruments to say which ones would be OK and which ones would not, but asking is still worthwhile. Likewise, ask your physiotherapist, as these specialists are trained to help patients go about everyday activities.

In general, avoid instruments that require strain on the joints or tendons.

How can I find out more?

Talk to your doctor, physiotherapist, as well as to professional instructors who play the instrument you want to play. Find out from the music instructor where the areas of strain will be when you are playing, and discuss with your physician and physiotherapist whether they think that instrument will be a problem for you.

 

Last updated: Oct. 24, 2019

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