BACKGROUND: Repetitive piano play may overload neck and shoulder muscles and tendons, leading to playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs).
METHODS: In this pilot study (EMG data of the extensor carpi radialis have been published separately), surface electromyography (sEMG) activity of the upper trapezius (UT) was captured in 10 conservatory piano students while playing a fast and a slow music score selected from the individual's repertoire, each 3 minutes long. Measurements were made at baseline and again after 2 hrs and 4 hrs of rehearsal time of the piano études. The amplitude of the sEMG signal was processed by a smoothing algorithm, and the frequency component with a non-orthogonal wavelets procedure. Amplitude of the sEMG was expressed in percent of maximal voluntary contraction (%MVC) at baseline, and the frequency component using median frequency based on the frequency band powers. Statistical analysis encompassed repeated measures ANOVAs for the amplitude and frequency components of the sEMG signal (set at 5%). The students also rated the intensity of rehearsals using a visual analog scale (VAS).
RESULTS: The median values for the %MVC presented a global mean for the left trapezius of 5.86 (CI90% 4.71, 6.97) and 5.83 for the right trapezius (CI90% 4.64, 7.05). The rehearsals at moderate intensity increased the amplitude of %MVC of the upper trapezius by around 50% and decreased the median frequency.
CONCLUSIONS: Playing faster presented higher magnitudes of activity of the upper trapezius. The decrease in the median frequency in response to long rehearsals may be a sign of muscle fatigue.