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Alternative Medicine for Musicians
Interview by Doug Papa 
   Rusty Klobas has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in Hallowell for six years.  He studied in oakland California at The Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences.  He is a licensed acupuncturist and has a masters in Chinese medicine. 
  DP.  Can you explain to our readers what exactly acupuncture does?
  RK.  Chinese medicine is based on a theory that there are pathways through the body through which energy moves, and that's the same pathway through which pain travels.  It's much less scientific than a lot of western people would like to think.  The  Chinese first discovered that when people were injured in battle, certain areas of their body might heal faster than others.  This is how they began to discover these pathways.  The pathways are like streams of energy through your body and the insertion of a needle is merely to clear the blockage and to facilitate an easier,cleaner flow through that pathway.
     How often would you recommend a musician with a heavy practice and playing schedule seek the services of an acupuncturist?
     I would say,  Let's have a consultation, let's figure out what the musician's needs are.  First we would talk about diet - about making them aware of what should and should not be eaten.  If certain muscles are being used a great deal from which chronic muscle pain has developed, we need to address that.  If it's an acute situation it's going to resolve fairly quickly, and if it's a chronic situation it's going to take a little longer to work through it.  I had a musician come in not too long ago who complained that every time he would gig until 2:00 in the morning, the next day he would be flat on his back.  What I managed to do for him was give him an herb tea that he would actually take on stage with him and sip through the performance.  The benefits carried over to the next day.  The body is designed to rest at night, but musicians don't.  It's helpful to find out what supplements, both herbal and vitamin, can help through periods of stress.  After diet needs have been established then it's a matter of maintenance.  I try to get my patients to get to know their bodies so they can begin to recognize their own needs.
     Do you see clients who have developed arthritis or tendonitis from excessive practicing?
     Well, first I don't even use the words tendonitis or arthritis.  We just look at it as pain, an obstruction in the channels.  Again, nutrition is a big part of the question.  The demand for blood in the arms is constant and so the body is required to provide that blood.  If the nutrition isn't there then the required nutrients aren't getting into the blood.  A person really needs to strengthen the inner workings of their body so that what they're getting out to the arm is pure oxygenated blood.  There are some herb products that can really facilitate this, as well as acupuncture - to build high quality blood.  A critical factor in all this is what's referred to as yin deficiency.  Yin in Chinese medicine represents fluids and coolant...the lubricants in the body.  The lubricant goes to our joints, and to the muscles, so everything is moving, pliable and flexible.  Another thing is the yin is produced at night, when we sleep.  The yin time of the day starts at 3:00 pm and goes to 3:00 am.  If a person is out and active at those hours, instead of the body replenishing its yin, its fluids and lubricants, it's actually exhausting its storage.  I think this is where some of the real chronic problems arise because you add to that somebody who is smoking or in a smokey environment, the heat from the smoke is going to dry fluids.  The arms are being used constantly, the demand for blood is there and it's the time of day that is kind of contrary to the body's normal rhythm.  This is a problem for the whole music industry because entertainment usually happens at night.  I know it's not something that people want to hear.
     Do you recommend musicians perform certain exercises before practicing or performing?
     I'd recommend yoga for anyone.  Yoga incorporates the breath with stretching.  If I were to recommend something for musicians , I would say, Remember to breathe.  Our tendency is to get so mind - and body locked into a position or action that we forget that our whole body needs to breathe, that our whole body needs circulation.  If you have a break just sit back, let your muscles go and breathe.  Remember to breathe even while you're playing, it may even enhance one's playing by taking some of the tension out of your performance and putting more free flow into it.
     How much would you recommend meditation for relieving stress and helping one focus on the music?
     I think for the musician who is very good, very experienced, meditation is going to get them out of their head so the body can do it.  For someone who is a beginner at music or anything else, meditation is a way of keeping perspective.  Keep the body loose, keep the energy flowing.  It's a way of restoring and maintaining health.
     Is there any other kind of advice you'd like to give music instructors, or performers or studio musicians?
     Well, I would say the one thing is just a little caution on the lifestyle.  I mean the excitement of being out, a lot of people around, people applauding, getting people hyped up, the tendency is get people going in that direction.  Smoke more, drink more, party more.  If that's the direction they're going it's going to affect the music.  I think music is such a spiritual energy, that getting into the spiritual aspect of healing, which is feeling your own body's energy, which is working with the breathing, relaxing the muscles, can only enhance the quality of a person's music.  It's like as far as healing and music go together, it's all very spiritual.  As far as all the activities surrounding musical performance in our society it really kind of takes away from the real essence of what music is - the inner soul. 
    Doug Papa is currently studying music at the University of Maine at Augusta, is an interviewing fool, and was the original drummer for the Speedweenies.