While we’ll often speak to the ‘mind’ and ‘body’ as separate and distinct, we know our mental and physical health is interlinked and interwoven. Poor physical health can increase our risk of developing mental health problems, and similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact our physical health.

Arts Wellbeing Collective member organisation, Performance Medicine, are well-versed on the impact that the performing arts can have on our bodies. Here, they offer insight into managing the impact of heavy headdresses on our bodies.

Have you ever finished a performance where you’ve worn big hair, wigs, or headdresses and ended up with neck pain and headaches? There’s an old saying, ‘beauty is pain’, but it doesn’t have to be!

Big hair, big fascinators and big headdresses look incredible onstage. However, for your neck, bigger things resting on top of it can lead to tired muscles, less than optimal postures, and headaches.

Your neck muscles respond to load in the same way that all of your other muscles respond.

For instance, if you lift a heavy weight, you will be exercising your arm muscles. They are likely to feel sore if you are not used to this task, or if you have changed the way you lift, or if you lift the weight for too long, you may end up in pain as the muscles may not have adapted to this movement or load.

Normally, your neck and shoulders can support the weight of your head for a day. However, if the weight sitting on top of your shoulders increases because you now have a wig, or a hat or headpiece (or both), your neck and shoulder muscles may not be strong enough to cope with this. Then, if you add on an asymmetrical hairstyle, or a headpiece that extends sideways past the width of your shoulders, then you’ll be increasing the load on this area even more! Heck, that’s exhausting!

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help.

  • Focus on strengthening your neck and shoulders with specific exercises
  • Regularly stretch your upper back for the best possible posture
  • Pay attention to your posture when you are in costume
  • Standing tall helps to exude confidence, and help reduce the work on your neck, shoulders and upper back.

Performance Medicine pro tip: Shoulders and chest open, long neck, and feel and look fabulous!

If you’d like more information on exercises, posture, or any other tips, have a chat with your physio for recommendations.

For more information, visit performancemedicine.com.au

This article appeared in Spotlight, the Arts Wellbeing Collective magazine: