How am I like a baseball pitcher?

Nov 03, 2022

You often hear about the hazards of artists working with toxic paints and mediums.  I agree. We must be careful with paints like the cadmium colors and be aware of keeping good air quality in our working environment. Keeping a window open while painting or getting a good air purifier are logical precautions for the painting studio.  Today, I want to mention something I’ve never heard a warning about, as it pertains to painters.

Artists, and all people who use their body in their work, are susceptible to chronic pain. Repetitive motions or overuse can cause stress, inflammation, and injury to our body.  If I were you, reading this a few years ago, I may have passed it off and said, “yeah, right. I’m a painter, not a pro baseball player.”  But I can now tell you this is true.  5 years ago, I opened my art studio on 30a and began painting much more regularly.  I’ve been having increasing pain for the last 5 years. First it started with pain in my hips and is now also in my right shoulder. I didn’t put this all together until recently.

My physical therapist asked me this week if I painted with my brush and hand very close to the canvas or if I painted at arm’s length, with my arm held out straight in front of me. I proudly said, “Yes! …at arm’s length”. That’s the right answer if an art teacher was asking me but causes concern in this way. The repetitive painting motion – especially when stretching my right arm out over the left side of by body to reach the left side of a big canvas is possibly wearing on my rotator cuff, just like happens with baseball pitchers. It is causing minor but constant pain in my arm from the front of my shoulder to the side of my arm, weakness, and an inability to sleep comfortably.

I also just realized that I dip my right shoulder when painting.  I’ve been doing it for years. How do I know?  Well, because my right bra strap falls down my arm when I paint ALL the time.  I curse at my it, thinking the strap is somehow loosening, and I adjust it. Now I know this is my doing, not my undergarments.

I've got to straighten up!

So, this is my public service announcement to you. If you have chronic pain, are you possibly doing something repetitively that is causing it?  I am still learning and taking steps to get better. I continue to stretch, strengthen and now I am super aware of how I hold my body and am practicing side-stepping to the left to paint those left sides of the canvas instead of reaching over my body. Hazards of the job!