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Some Embouchure Problems of Horn Players: Overuse Injury and Focal Embouchure Dystonia


Copyright 2024, Mark Alan Wade

Primary Author: Dalrymple, G.
Journal Title: The Horn Call
Date Published: Feb-04
Language: English
Category: Multiple Medical Disorders
Key Words: medical performance embouchure overuse injury focal dystonia horn
Full Citation: Dalrymple, Glenn, and Glen S. Estrine. Some Embouchure Problems of Horn Players: Overuse Injury and Focal Embouchure Dystonia. The Horn Call 34, no. 2 (February 2004): 52-55.
Full Abstract: The majority of medical problems of the embouchure of horn players can be divided into two categories: overuse injuries, and focal dystonia. The cause of the repetitive injury disorder of the embouchure is simply the repeated excessive pressure of the mouthpiece against the lips. This causes fluids, primarily the lymph channels to leak into the interstitium (the connective tissue spaces between the cells). It takes extended periods of time for this fluid to drain, much like getting a fat lip from a hit to the lips. The stiffness caused from the swelling often triggers the musician to practice more to achieve the desired musical result, and the problem perpetuates. Pain and discomfort are typical of this injury. Treatment for this type of disorder requires cessation of playing for a period of time depending on the severity of the problem. Focal dystonia is a task-specific kind of dystonia that is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions of a particular region. There are two main focal dystonias affecting musicians: focal hand dystonia, and focal embouchure dystonia. Neither type is accompanied by pain or discomfort. Both types of dystonias are disorders of the brain, not of the muscles and tissues involved. The symptoms do not manifest themselves until the player performs the task-specific (focal) movement. Trembling of the lips and air leaking from the lips while playing are common symptoms of focal dystonia of the embouchure. There is a low prognosis of improvement or cure for patients suffering from dystonias.