String musicians’ physical workload to be studied


Svend Erik Mathiassen, professor in occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Gävle, is part of a research team awarded 3 million SEK from Forte to study variation and physical load for string musicians.

Musculoskeletal disorders due to physical load belong to the most common reasons for sick leave in our working life. As neck and shoulder disorders are a major problem among violinists, 50 string musicians from two different symphony orchestras will now be studied during a time period of twelve months.

Tell us more, Svend Erik Mathiassen.

Why string musicians?

They are a vulnerable group, as they are exposed to repetitive arm and hand movements in their work. There are high demands on precision combined with limited possibilities for variation in work postures and movements. In addition, there are high physical and psychological pressures on performing well with a good musical quality in front of a big audience.

In an orchestra, men and women within the same orchestral instrument category perform identical work tasks, which gives us the opportunity to study if there are gender differences in movements, perceived stress and musculoskeletal disorders.

Are musculoskeletal disorders more common among musicians?

Yes, musculoskeletal disorders are more prevalent among string musicians than among the average worker.

Neck and shoulder area disorders are also more prevalent among women than men, and we still do not know why. Female and male string musicians in an orchestra have exactly the same work tasks, and this gives us a good opportunity to find out if there are differences in fine or gross motor skills.

How will you conduct your study?

We will monitor the physical load of violinists and alto violinists repeatedly during 12 months, and pay special attention to variation over time. We would like to study what the time pattern of physical load and recovery does to well-being, performance and musculoskeletal disorders.

What do you hope will be your contribution?

Variation in physical load is seen as an efficient measure to treat musculoskeletal disorders caused by physical load, but our knowledge in how to achieve variation and a good balance between physical loading and recovery in work is insufficient. Moreover, we hope to increase our knowledge on physical load and health for men and women with identical work tasks.


For more information, please contact:
Svend Erik Mathiassen, professor in occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Gävle.
Phone: 026-648206, 070-678 81 58


Text: Douglas Öhrbom

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2017-10-09
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)