Drumming and Spinal Health by Chris DeRosa

by Chris DeRosa

In this entry I want to talk about health and how it relates to drumming.   There are 3 aspects to this important balance:

This article will specifically address the physical aspects.

I’ve been drumming since I was eleven years old and never really thought too much about my physical body and it’s up keep.  I have always been very active and blessed with good genes in regards to healing and health.  I’ve also considered myself an athlete in a way because of the physical demands drumming requires but it didn’t go much further than that thought.  Over years of practice and performing, the repetitive movements we do create some strain and stress on individual body parts and muscles.  At times, I will drum as much as 8 hours in a single day. This demand on our bodies over time can develop into a chronic condition.  I had this unlucky situation come to my attention recently.

Earlier this year, over the course of several weeks my lower back was becoming stiff and eventually grew very painful. This continued to the point that after about 6 weeks of this progression I was at times barely able to get out of bed. All my life I have been blessed with a body that heals quickly and if I just work through it, it would fix itself in time. Much to my dismay, this time would be different. I am fortunate enough to have a very good M.D. near my home, so I limped my way over to see him. After a few very specific tests my doctor found what appeared to be a condition that developed (and went unnoticed) over a long period of time. Specifically my L5/S1 (a vertebrae in the lower middle back) was slightly compressed causing my muscles and spine to twist in a “not so drum friendly” way.

I soon realized that I had recently moved and started sleeping in a new bed frame.  Each morning when I would sit up (in bed) and answer my emails etc.  I was sitting in a new, less friendly position to my back (L5/S1).  Unknowingly I aggravated this condition to the point of my then present state of limited mobility and absolutely no drumming fun.  The positive thing was that after learning the source of my pain (and about my then unknown condition) I was able to not only fix the immediate problem but also address the bigger long-term situation.  This also got me thinking about my setup and more importantly, my seat.  I realized I have had the same drum throne for more then 10 years.  I quickly went out and researched the various thrones available and replaced my old “Honda” seat with a new hi-tech “Cadillac”!

I am happy to report that after several Chiropractic /Acupuncture sessions I was not only back blissfully drumming, but ultimately dealing with an ongoing condition until now not realized.  The point of all this is to strongly communicate to each of you to listen to your body.  It’s imperative to not only try to prevent any potential injuries that our drumming can cause, but that we also each take the time to stretch before and after practice, rehearsals, and shows.  It’s impossible to do what we do as drummers (including lifting heavy gear) and not go unscathed over the course of time.  Trying to make exercise a regular part of our routine will go a long way towards this prevention.

Since my recovery I have made 3 new decisions regarding my physical health:

1) Started a weekly Yoga regime.

2) Sought out and bought the highest quality Chondroitin Glucosamine supplement to add to my diet.

3) Committed to getting a Chiropractic adjustment at regular intervals to keep everything in line.

Remember  – don’t take your health for granted. Prevention goes a long way.

If you’re interested in hearing some of my playing or learning more about me, go to my website. I couldn’t leave you without thanking all the good folks at Vic Firth drumsticks, Evans drumheads, Sabian cymbals, Brady snare drums, Rhythm Tech, and Grover Pro Percussion for all their support.


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