Date Presented 04/22/2023

This study explored occupational adaptation interventions for playing-related musculoskeletal disorders. Results indicate decreased pain intensity, decreased Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand scores, and increased adaptive capacity among university-level music students.

Primary Author and Speaker: Allison Naber

Additional Authors and Speakers: Katherine Ericsson

PURPOSE: Music students enrolled in university-level programs are at risk of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMD) and may under-report injuries (Rickert et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2021). While research exploring the prevalence and broad treatment of PRMDs is available, recent literature highlights a gap in understanding occupational therapy’s unique approach for addressing this population (Ting & Rocker, 2019; Villas et al., 2020). The Occupational Adaptation model of practice provides a holistic, client-centered and occupation-focused approach for addressing music student health. This study aimed to determine the impact of occupational adaptation-focused interventions in addressing music students’ PRMDs.

DESIGN: A quasi-experimental one-group pretest/post-test design was used. Participants were recruited from three instrumental studio classes.

METHOD: Twelve music students, ranging from 19-32 years old (M = 22.33 years), from a midwestern university participated in occupational therapy services grounded in the Occupational Adaptation model of practice over four weeks. Assessment tools included the Performing Arts Module of the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand functional outcome measure and an informal occupational adaptive process evaluation.

RESULTS: Significant results include a decrease in current pain intensity (Z = -2.038, p < .042), a decrease in 24-hour pain intensity (Z = -2.94., p < .003), and a decrease in DASH scores (Z = -2.81, p < .005). Strong correlations were found between participants’ adaptive capacity and improved DASH scores and 24-hour pain intensity.

CONCLUSION: Occupational therapy services grounded in the Occupational Adaptation model of practice can improve music student health by impacting their adaptive capacity.

IMPACT STATEMENT: This study provides evidence to support occupational therapy interventions for addressing PRMDs among university-level music students.


Rickert, D. L., Barrett, M. S., & Ackermann, B. J. (2014). Injury and the orchestral environment: Part 1: the role of work organisation and psychosocial factors in injury risk. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 28, 219–229.

Yang, N., Fufa, D.T., Wolff, A.L. (2021). A musician-centered approach to the management of performance-related upper musculoskeletal injuries. Journal of Hand Therapy, 34(2): 208–216.

Ting, A., & Rocker, J. (2019). Evaluation and Treatment of Musicians from a Holistic Perspective. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 7(4), 1–10.

Villas, B., Duarte Wisnesky, U., Campbell, S., Slavik, L., Mevawala, A.S., Handl, M.N., Guptill, C. (2020). Role of occupational therapy in musicians’ health: A scoping review protocol. BMJ Open,10(12):e040922.