Performing Arts Medicine - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Performing Arts Medicine

The Medical Program for Performing Artists (MPPA), founded in 1985 at Northwestern by Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener, has been a part of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago since 1990. Dr. Brandfonbrener is known nationally and internationally for her pioneering work in the medical issues of performing artists and has mentored health care professionals in this interdisciplinary specialty.

MPPA provides comprehensive performance oriented medical evaluation and treatment of medical problems that occur in instrumentalists, singers, dancers and actors at all performance levels, including students, professionals and amateurs. In addition to a typical medical assessment, treatment includes an evaluation of the performer’s technique, physical conditioning, repertoire, instrument and emotional state in relation to the current medical problem.

Performing artists have many unique medical risks, expectations and needs which MPPA addresses by prescribing individualized treatment and rehabilitation programs. MPPA is uniquely situated in a world-renowned rehabilitation facility that is an integral part of an outstanding medical center. Each of the participating specialists in MPPA has made a commitment to serve the medical needs of performing artists. A personalized program may include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Feldenkrais Technique
  • Psychological services
  • Referral to a physician specialist for:
    • Neurological problems
    • Hand injuries
    • Orthopaedic injuries including shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet
    • Dental issues
    • Hearing evaluations
    • Vocal cord dysfunction/voice care

Because our treatment team is committed to preventing re-injury, we educate our patients about posture and body mechanics. This education enables our patients to take active roles in their therapies and make adjustments in their behaviors to protect themselves from re-injury.

Our Physicians

The Treatment Team

If a performer requires diagnosis, a physician will evaluate the condition and coordinate a plan of care. Other members of the treatment team may include:

  • Physical therapists, who work with performers to restore joint and muscle function, improve balance and endurance, and to retrain performance-specific muscles. This may involve using modalities, stretching, strengthening and therapeutic massage. Feldenkrais or Pilates-based techniques may also be incorporated into the performer's therapy program.
  • Occupational therapists, who work to restore hand and upper extremity function needed to perform specific maneuvers while playing an instrument. This often involves stretching and strengthening exercises. Occupational therapists may also work with the performer to make adjustments to the performer's working environment and playing style, both on- and offstage. The goals of such adaptations are to enhance health as well as performance.
  • Psychologists, who work with patients who need assistance managing stress, performance anxiety, adjustment issues and chronic pain.
  • Speech-language pathologists, who help performers improve vocal quality, resonance, and endurance. Therapists first identify vocal abuse or misuse on- and offstage, then develop treatments for vocal conservation. Speech therapies include strategies for reducing voice fatigue, hoarseness and loss of voice, and also teach healthy posture and breathing techniques for both speaking and performing.

The Medical Program for Performing Artists is located at RIC's flagship hospital at 345 E. Superior Street, in Chicago. The program offers physician consultations and therapy appointments. Please note that a physician's prescription is required to receive therapy services.

For more information, call direct 312-238-ARTS (2787) or use our Toll Free Referral and Information Line: 1-800-354-REHAB (7342).