PERFORMING ARTS MEDICINE
Performing Arts Medicine (PAM) is a field of medicine devoted to the care and support of all performing artists. It has been established for over 30 years both in the UK and internationally but is now becoming more widely recognised.
Performing artists are all elite athletes in that they have usually spent many years training from a young age to achieve extreme levels of skill and artistry within their given discipline. It has been said that it takes around 10,000 hours of training to become a skilled professional and this will inevitably take its toll on the body. Playing an instrument requires adapting often awkward and asymmetrical postures, dance requires an extreme use of joint flexibility, acting and singing requires an exceptional use of the voice and circus performers work at the extremes of physicality with complicated equipment. If you add in the fact that many performers have to deal with the effects of differing working environments and high levels of stress from performances and auditions, all within the context of a highly competitive and unstable industry, it is easy to see how this can create physical and emotional challenges for this population.
Many of the physical symptoms that performing artists encounter will have their roots in the particular postures and techniques related to their discipline. Therefore, it is vital that any health practitioner treating a performer has an in-depth knowledge of the technique involved in order to address the cause of the issue and not just the symptoms. Otherwise, the symptoms may become recurrent causing unnecessary time lost to injury. For most performers, time lost to injury represents both a financial and an emotional cost. Performing Arts Medicine is uniquely placed to provide the expert support and care for this highly trained and elite population.
In the UK, there are many practitioners including doctors, surgeons, osteopaths, physiotherapists, psychologists etc. who specialise in this field. There are two main organisations acting as advocates for this: The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) and Dance UK. Both organisations hold a register of specialist practitioners. We are also proud to be the first country to develop an MSc in Performing Arts Medicine which runs in the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science at UCL. This represents the first formal qualification of its kind in the world, training doctors, surgeons and other health professionals in the specifics of caring for performing artists.
The Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) in the US and the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) are also leaders in this field and there are many other similar associations worldwide.
It is our dream in the PAM community to build a strong international infrastructure to support the diverse range of highly skilled, dedicated professionals that make up the world’s performers and provide the specialist treatment and understanding that they need and deserve.