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 but is now becoming more widely recognized.
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 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.
There are many practitioners worldwide, including doctors, surgeons, osteopaths, physiotherapists, psychologists etc., who specialize in this field. The Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) is an international organization made up of such practitioners, as well as arts educators, arts managers, and artists themselves. They have a register of specialist practitioners around the world who can provide PAM resources and support for artists. In the UK, the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) also provides resources and healthcare for artists and were key in developing the MSc in Performing Arts Medicine which runs in the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science at UCL. This is 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.
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 to provide the specialist treatment and understanding that they need and deserve.