Musicians’ Health Issues

Musicians’ Health

Musicians face unique health challenges.. Chronic pain is a factor for many musicians, including keyboardists, guitarists, and drummers. In a interview for, Dr. Daniel Ivankovich, a Chicago based orthopedic spine and trauma surgeon, was quoted as saying, “Many musicians give themselves back and shoulder problems with poor posture while standing or sitting for hours while on stage, carrying heavy equipment, and practicing without breaks. Therefore, knowing your physical limitations is important for avoiding injury. In addition to making sure you are in good physical condition, do warm-up and cool-down stretches; strengthen core muscles; take frequent breaks and do not sit slumped over guitars slung between your knees. But, most of all, stop playing if you are in pain.” Read the entire article and see exercises you can do to stay in shape.

Additionally, age, poor lifestyle choices, poverty, and lack of access to health care can exacerbate any health issues that musicians routinely face.

Men’s Health

Dozens of studies conducted over the past two decades show that men are far less likely to seek medical or psychological help than women. Men often excuse busyness as a factor to putting off check-ups – but what is really preventing them from seeking medical care? Fear, denial, cost, and traditional manly attitudes play a part in avoidance. The British National Health Service has conducted studies that concluded doctors spend significantly less time with men than women, give perfunctory explanations, and don’t inform men consistently about possible changes they can make preventatively to improve their health.

US research shows that men with health problems are more likely than women to have had no recent contact with a doctor regardless of income or ethnicity.

Minority Men’s Health

Studies show that due to socio-economic factors, minority men have less access to the health care system and are often forced to work through their pain until their health issues become chronic or deadly. Additionally, inadequate early home training regarding nutrition and health care can set men up for a lifetime of unhealthy habits, which are incompatible to maintaining good health.

Fear, Denial, and Manliness

Men in many global cultures are trained from earliest childhood to deny pain, suffering, and vulnerability. Often they feel the need to remain strong and provide for their families. Few will seek help even when they know that something feels off with their bodies, persevering and pushing through the pain. Fear of getting diagnosed and hearing the truth prevents many men from seeing a physician until their health takes a drastic turn for the worse and by then it may be too late for simpler solutions.

“Killer” Ray Allison (June 20, 1956 – October 6, 2016)

Self Employment

Musical artists are generally self employed and face incredible entry barriers to healthcare from acquiring insurance to meeting deductibles and premiums. Furthermore, navigating the healthcare system can be particularly problematic. Like many people, musicians are unaware of the vast pricing differences between hospital and outpatient clinics, where procedures from screenings to operations may be performed for far less.


Performing artists are often poorly paid and face having to take on multiple part time or day jobs in addition to their music careers to meet household expenses. In these cases, healthcare expenses are perceived as a luxury. Furthermore, institutional poverty, racism, and living in dangerous neighborhoods contribute to stress levels which impacts health.

Unhealthy lifestyles

Performing artists are genuinely prone to unhealthy lifestyles due to late hours and touring. Many self medicate stress by drinking, smoking, or taking drugs, which offers temporary relief but can lead to long term side effects, such as cancer, cardio-vascular disease, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Additionally, minority artists who live in food deserts have limited options for securing affordable and healthy food or have never been taught what constitutes a healthy diet.

ACA, Medicaid, Medicare

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health insurance affordable to all. However, millions of Americans remain uninsured or underinsured even with potentially available subsidies. Furthermore, insurance prices have increased and high deductibles make health insurance unaffordable for those who desire to get it. Freelancers and the self employed face additional hurdles since their incomes vary from month to month and they can not always meet premiums. Medicaid programs put a low cap on earnings and many artists do not qualify. Additionally, severe and chronic health issues tend to intensify in men in the years just before they can qualify for Medicare.

How Chicago Blues Society and Partners Help Musicians

Our mission is to provide outreach, education and empowerment to musicians of all genres who strive to improve their quality of life via promotion of healthy lifestyles. We sincerely believe in a preventative approach to health care. With our partners at Musician Heal Thyself we hold live scheduled seminars where we welcome all who wish to attend. Please visit Musician Heal Thyself for more information and to sign up for our next event. We also partner with One Patient Global Health Initiative, a nonprofit foundation based in Chicago. One Patient Global Health Initiative is led by co-founder Dr. Daniel Ivankovich, an orthopedic spine and trauma surgeon with a mission “to treat patients… who have musculoskeletal health disorders, regardless of their ability to pay.”


While musicians may have unique and specific health problems due to their lifestyle, there are preventative measures they can take to improve their overall health. We at Chicago Blues Society seek to teach healthy habits and help musicians navigate the healthcare system so that they can get the care that they need.

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