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Suggestions on overcoming piano injury?

piano injury

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#1 Lost_wanderer-1111

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 22:31

Hello, I am new here and the reason why I joined this site is because I am kind of worried about a hand injury that I have that was caused by playing the piano.

 

So my story in short is that I started playing the piano really late, at the age of 13, 6 years ago. I joined music school just for fun but turns out I was improving really quickly and so my teachers started to push me to do more and more and I worked even harder. I started winning at local competitions and I finished grade 8 of ABRSM with distinction. This year I've been applying for university auditions and wanted to do my best so you can guess I was really working hard on that. I also joined many ensembles which added on the workload. However this injury started exactly last month when I had a series of concerts, one after the other which drove me to practice about 7 hours a day when I wasn't used to that (I usually practice 1 to maximum 3 hours a day). I didn't feel any pain during practice but the day after my last recital, I started to feel not pain but slight aches in both hands in the 4th and 5th fingers, thumb and wrist (that sometimes moved to my forearms). I realise that this was partially caused by me lifting up my shoulders whenever I wanted to play more expressively (I've been told by my teacher about this many times but I had no time to actually sit down, relax and fix this problem). Now ( 1 month later), after I've visited a specialist, had a medicine and a gel, iced and rested for about 4 days with the rest of the month practicing for no longer than 30 minutes with light touch and no tension and working on fixing any non necessary movements in technique, I feel a lot better. Sometimes I don't feel anything but I still get those random days where I can feel a very slight dull ache in my wrist and thumb. I really want to prepare for my program for the first year at university but I don't want to push myself so this injury wouldn't develop into something serious. 

 

Has anyone had a similar experience? If so, what did you do about it that helped? And what would you suggest in general?

 

Thank you!

 

 


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#2 Digby

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 07:04

I had a really good article on this somewhere, a brief look online I can't find it but pretty sure I have a copy so will look it out for you. 

 

In the meantime:

 

  • Don't try and do too much use the Summer holidays not to push the stamina but working on small techniques making sure you are completely aware of any tension. 
  • Are there any Alexander Technique classes you can look at in the music department at uni.
  • Avoid heavy octave pieces for the time being e.g. Beethoven Pathetique, 10 minutes of LH octave tremolo not a good plan.
  • Please remember you're 18 don't jeopardise the rest of your playing career by getting too impatient now.

All the best and enjoy your summer.

 

D x


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#3 KathyB

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 07:26

Charlotte Tomlinson is an expert in this field. Her book Music from the Inside Out covers performance related injuries
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#4 BadStrad

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 12:19

If playing was causing that much pain, I would want to know what was wrong with my technique.


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#5 Banjogirl

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 20:54

I once went from hardly playing to practising two hours a day and I got a lot of hand pain.  I stopped playing so much and the pain went away. I would have thought that seven hours a day was excessive for anyone, and probably not very productive.


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#6 corenfa

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 23:20

I had RSI which I got from an injury not due to piano. When I was looking for a piano teacher, I picked her specifically because she had experience of helping pianists with injuries. I know that two years after I started with her, my RSI was gone. It flares up if I don't use my arms/hands/wrists in the way that she tells me to, but because I am a lot more aware now, the incidence of that is much less. In my particular case it starts again when I bend my hands at the wrist so my wrist is lower than the fingers. The problems start when I have my hands in this position for significant amounts of time (several hours) regardless of if it is at the piano keyboard or the computer keyboard (I am a computer programmer). 

 

My teacher has a website but I don't want to post it because of forum rules on advertising. If you want to know more about it I can send it to you in a PM.  I haven't looked at it for ages to be honest so I'm not even sure what exactly she has there but she teaches a method of playing that reduces tension a lot. It has been a slow process but over the last few years I have been able to play increasingly harder and harder technical things with no pain. We are currently working on the Chopin Op. 53 Polonaise and I have small hands that can just about make an octave. 


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#7 Orchestra_JJ

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 20:07

Am really sorry to hear about your injury... Must be very distressing.

 

Everything everyone's written so far is correct. You have to listen to your body and think of what you might achieve over decades and not just weeks. 

 

I think the right teacher can really help - basically a teacher that is aware of physical setup - and often pianists that have had problems themselves. My own teacher had this interesting theory where with the piano you should try to use larger muscle groups first and then go down the line using the smallest muscles as little as possible. So just as an example for octaves you'd try to use the tricep rather than the forearm (wrist) - but a teacher can usually see things far more clearly than the person themselves. 

 

I think one aspect that some pianists can neglect is their overall physical fitness. Muscles work by contraction - so all the muscles you use when playing the piano are highly trained - whereas muscles that aren't used with piano, if they're not kept in check, can become weakened and also stretch - and they don't support the strong muscles. Pianists often have very developed front body and inner arm muscles (chest, upper abdomen) and much weaker back and outer arm (lower shoulder, lower back). For some people this aspect - i.e. simply jogging (for the lungs) regularly and doing moderate back exercises, really end up supporting the piano playing muscles. 

 

7h a day is a LOT of practise...!!! I know every one of us is unique, but I think it's also very important to try to practise as efficiently as possible. If you do make it to be a professional you might find that you actually have far less time to practise than you'd wish - I think all the way through college you learn to become more and more efficient. I do sometimes really need to practise a lot, but as soon as I feel pain I stop - even if I feel I can't. But at the end of the day it's better to lose out on 2h on that day than weeks afterwards because of recurring injury... 


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#8 Lost_wanderer-1111

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 20:08

I had a really good article on this somewhere, a brief look online I can't find it but pretty sure I have a copy so will look it out for you. 

 

In the meantime:

 

  • Don't try and do too much use the Summer holidays not to push the stamina but working on small techniques making sure you are completely aware of any tension. 
  • Are there any Alexander Technique classes you can look at in the music department at uni.
  • Avoid heavy octave pieces for the time being e.g. Beethoven Pathetique, 10 minutes of LH octave tremolo not a good plan.
  • Please remember you're 18 don't jeopardise the rest of your playing career by getting too impatient now.

All the best and enjoy your summer.

 

D x

Thank you, it will be great if you can find it! Yes you're absolutely right and this is exactly what I am doing at the moment. And yes I've found out they have Alexander Technique classes where I am going. I am done being over ambitious, it doesn't help in the long run. Will just take things slow and gradual from now on. You too, enjoy your summer :) 


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#9 Lost_wanderer-1111

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 20:18

I once went from hardly playing to practising two hours a day and I got a lot of hand pain.  I stopped playing so much and the pain went away. I would have thought that seven hours a day was excessive for anyone, and probably not very productive.

Yes it wasn't productive at all. Most was "boring mindless practice to just compensate for days I haven't had the time to practice in" type of practice. Yes one shouldn't ignore any signs the body gives.. and also never practice more than one is used to, especially if it's a big jump from 1 to 7 hours. I realise I am crazy  :rolleyes:


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#10 Lost_wanderer-1111

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 22:03

I had RSI which I got from an injury not due to piano. When I was looking for a piano teacher, I picked her specifically because she had experience of helping pianists with injuries. I know that two years after I started with her, my RSI was gone. It flares up if I don't use my arms/hands/wrists in the way that she tells me to, but because I am a lot more aware now, the incidence of that is much less. In my particular case it starts again when I bend my hands at the wrist so my wrist is lower than the fingers. The problems start when I have my hands in this position for significant amounts of time (several hours) regardless of if it is at the piano keyboard or the computer keyboard (I am a computer programmer). 

 

My teacher has a website but I don't want to post it because of forum rules on advertising. If you want to know more about it I can send it to you in a PM.  I haven't looked at it for ages to be honest so I'm not even sure what exactly she has there but she teaches a method of playing that reduces tension a lot. It has been a slow process but over the last few years I have been able to play increasingly harder and harder technical things with no pain. We are currently working on the Chopin Op. 53 Polonaise and I have small hands that can just about make an octave. 

Oh great! Yes please send me the website when you have the time. Thanks :) 


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#11 Lost_wanderer-1111

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 22:14

Am really sorry to hear about your injury... Must be very distressing.

 

Everything everyone's written so far is correct. You have to listen to your body and think of what you might achieve over decades and not just weeks. 

 

I think the right teacher can really help - basically a teacher that is aware of physical setup - and often pianists that have had problems themselves. My own teacher had this interesting theory where with the piano you should try to use larger muscle groups first and then go down the line using the smallest muscles as little as possible. So just as an example for octaves you'd try to use the tricep rather than the forearm (wrist) - but a teacher can usually see things far more clearly than the person themselves. 

 

I think one aspect that some pianists can neglect is their overall physical fitness. Muscles work by contraction - so all the muscles you use when playing the piano are highly trained - whereas muscles that aren't used with piano, if they're not kept in check, can become weakened and also stretch - and they don't support the strong muscles. Pianists often have very developed front body and inner arm muscles (chest, upper abdomen) and much weaker back and outer arm (lower shoulder, lower back). For some people this aspect - i.e. simply jogging (for the lungs) regularly and doing moderate back exercises, really end up supporting the piano playing muscles. 

 

7h a day is a LOT of practise...!!! I know every one of us is unique, but I think it's also very important to try to practise as efficiently as possible. If you do make it to be a professional you might find that you actually have far less time to practise than you'd wish - I think all the way through college you learn to become more and more efficient. I do sometimes really need to practise a lot, but as soon as I feel pain I stop - even if I feel I can't. But at the end of the day it's better to lose out on 2h on that day than weeks afterwards because of recurring injury... 

Yes you're absolutely right. I've been watching videos and practicing to use more stronger/bigger muscles to support smaller ones. It really does work. And yes, 7 hours a day isn't effective at all, it's just stupid. It was just boring and mindless practice to compensate for days I haven't had the time to practice in. It works for a while and I seem to achieve a lot in a short period of time, until it no longer does. It works counterproductively in the long run. Well what to say, at least I learnt my lesson. Thank you for your comment! :) 


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