Back care for drum set players

For many people, playing drum set is a fun hobby; an outlet of musical expression and artistic creation. For other people it can be an artistic outlet, and their primary means of income; and can come with a rigorous schedule of practice and performance.  Regardless of whether you are playing once a month, or twice a day, how you approach the drum set can, and most likely will have long term effects on your body.

When I was 18 years old, I remember having to lie down and rest every time that I brushed my teeth, because my back would be in so much pain by the time I was finished.  After finally coming to my senses and realizing that this was not normal, I went to have my back checked out.  Several co-pays and one MRI later I learned that I had joined millions of other people across the world in having Degenerative Disc Disease, along with a couple of herniated discs.  According to my doctor, I had the back of a 50 year old at the age of 18.   Since I was studying drum set and percussion in college at the time, I was quick to begin my journey of exploring back care for drummers.  This article contains a lot of the knowledge and tips that has helped me to continue countless musical endeavors behind the drum set.  Imagine these suggestions as options on a big buffet… feel free to pick and choose what works best for you, and definitely see a doctor for medical advice and/or questions that you may have concerning this content.

Please remember that this article is not medical advice, but rather advice from a fellow drum set player who has spent a great deal of time looking for ways to care for his back in hopes of ensuring a lifetime behind the skins.

  1. Stretching before and after you play – Playing drums is similar to many other athletic activities.  By stretching and warming up your muscles, you are less likely to damage them and more likely to prolong their life.
  2. Exercise – It is crucial to understand that to maintain a strong lower back, you must strengthen your core.  Additionally, if you want to strengthen your upper back you must strengthen your chest.  It is easy for us to forget to strengthen opposing muscles when we are so focused on the specific muscles that we are targeting.  Do your research and try to set a goal of maintaining a balanced work out routine.
  3. Posture & Set Up – Have you ever heard someone tell you that perfect practice makes perfect? Well it may not matter how much you stretch and exercises… if you practice and play with bad posture you are at a great risk for hurting your body and your playing!
    • Always play with your back straight up! No slouching, sorry.
    • Establish a resting position.
      • From this resting position, your arms should be completely relaxed at your sides and the tips of your drum sticks should be in the center of your snare drum as your arms are relaxed at your side.
    • Position the height of your throne and the rest of your drums so that you do not have to lean forward or backward, and so that you don’t have to raise or lower your shoulders in order to play a drum or cymbal.
      • Leaning in either direction can cause unwanted stress on your back, which can lead to damaged muscles.
      • Having to raise or lower your shoulders in order to play can also cause damage to your muscles as you play from unnatural body positions.
      • A big mistake that a lot of people make is setting up their drum set so it looks cool.  No one thinks you are cool when you are laid up on the couch with pain killers and muscle relaxers.
      • Be sure to set the height of your hi-hats so you do not have to raise your shoulders to play.  Did I mention that you shouldn’t raise your shoulders or slouch when you play?
  4. Throne
    • For those of you who have bad backs and need all the help you can get – you may want to consider using a hydraulic throne.
      • One big advantage of hydraulic thrones is the amount of shock absorption they can take.  As you play, there will be a slight give to the throne as you move around the drum set.  After hours of playing, that extra shock absorption can be the difference between being laid up on the couch with pain killers, or being laid up on the couch with that special someone watching the latest videos from LouisvilleDrummer.com.
    • Regardless of what type of throne you use, be sure to get one that has adequate cushion and support.  Many thrones now have back rests, contours and extra padding for lumbar support.
    • Remember – a good drum throne is like a good bed, you should feel good when your are finished using it…not bad.
  5. Back Brace/Support – I know it’s not that cool, but wearing a back brace/support can help in so many ways.  For those of us with larger 6-packs than others, the weight of our stomachs can pull down on your lower back causing fatigue and damage.  I was once told that a pound of fat on your stomach is like 10 pounds pulling on your back.  A back brace or support will help to hold in your belly and support your entire core and lower back.  This can be a huge help for people experiencing chronic pain or simply trying to prevent it.  Besides, we all know that your Misfits t-shirt is going to cover it up anyways, no one will ever know…

 

I hope that this information can serve you well and help you on your journey to good health and even better drumming! I wish you all the best on your musical endeavors!

 

Miguel Monroy

LouisvilleDrummer.com