Patterns of pain location in music students: a cluster analysis.

Cruder, Cinzia and Barbero, Marco and Soldini, Cinzia and Gleeson, Nigel (2021) Patterns of pain location in music students: a cluster analysis. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 22 (1). -58. ISSN 1471-2474

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Background According to existing literature, musicians experience high rates of musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders involving different anatomical areas. The aim of the study was to identify patterns of pain location in a sample of music students enrolled in different pan-European music institutions. A further goal was to explore the association between the identified pain patterns and students’ characteristics. Methods A total of 340 music students (mean age 23.3 years, 66.2% female) with current MSK pain completed a web-based questionnaire including both background information (i.e. lifestyle and physical activity, practice habits) and clinical features (i.e. pain characteristics, disability, pain self-efficacy, psychological distress, perfectionism and fatigue). Results Five patterns of pain location were identified by hierarchical cluster analysis: wrist pain (WP) representing 22.6% of the total sample, widespread pain (WSP) (16.9%), right shoulder pain (RSP) (18.5%), both shoulders pain – left concentrated (LSP) (23.2%), neck and back pain (NBP) (18.8%). Amongst the identified patterns of pain location, bivariate analysis identified the WSP cluster as containing the largest number of associated variables. Participants in this cluster reported a higher percentage of women (p < .05), a higher perceived exertion (p < .01) and psychological distress (p < .001), as well as a lower level of self-efficacy (p < .01). Similarly, a higher percentage of participants included in the WSP cluster perceived their musical activity as the main cause of their MSK pain (p < .01). Additionally, a higher level of disability in relation to playing-related activity was reported by participants included in the WP and WSP clusters (p < .001). The RSP cluster was characterised by a higher percentage of participants playing an instrument in a neutral position (p < .001) and lower levels of socially prescribed perfectionism (p < .01). A higher percentage of participants playing an instrument with both arms elevated in the left quadrant position were included in the LSP cluster and a higher percentage of singers were included in the NBP cluster (p < .001). Conclusions Five distinct patterns of pain location were identified and their associations with the students’ characteristics were explored. These findings may be helpful in the exploration of different aetiologies of MSK pain among musicians and in the development of targeted preventive strategies and treatments.

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