All artists know that painting requires standing or sitting for hours at an easel or desk and just like in any other job that requires prolonged repetitive movements, can lead to many health problems if proper precautions are not taken. Many of us, me included do not heed warnings and do not take the necessary precautions to prevent all sorts of flare ups.
The long hours spent hunched over the easel as well as any time spent extending your arm or leaning your head back can lead to neck strain. This causes muscle aches and pinched nerves in the neck and shoulder, which in turn can lead to headaches.
The first precautionary measure it to take frequent breaks and stretch before and after each painting session.
I have developed problems with my shoulder (rotator cuff). When you work with your arms held in one position for long periods of time you can run into a problem called impingement syndrome. This is when your rotator cuff tendons get pinched. As this area swells from irritation the tendons become further and further pinched leading to shooting pains and reduced ability to move the arm.
I ignored my problem for over a year now and can tell you that the condition, although better at times has overall become much worse and is now at a stage where my painting time has come to a crawl.
There are specific stretching exercises for the shoulder that are geared to strengthen the rotator cuff. These should be done before and after you engage in your painting session. Again taking frequent breaks will help. If the pain is too intense you need to visit an orthopedic doctor, who might order an MRI to see the extend of the damage. Sometimes over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, as well as a regular exercise regime and ice packs after you work will help with the pain, other times surgery might be recommended.
Elbow pain is another common problem after any type of repetitive arm motion, such as holding a palette, mixing paint for long times or sitting for long hours with elbows propped up on a table. It can cause pressure on the radial nerve, which in turn can lead to pain, numbness and tingling that radiates down the arm to the 4th and 5th finger.It can also lead to a painful condition called lateral epicondylitis. This is a type of tendonitis that affects the outside part of the elbow.
Again, stretching before, during and after you work can help. Ice after work or anti-inflammatory medicines, an elbow band, and physical therapy also can help. If the pain is too intense a physician might order a cortisone injection.
I hope that these little tips will ensure you many more hours of enjoyable painting sessions!
If you have developed problems as a result from painting, please feel free to share and offer suggestions which exercises you have found useful.