What Are The Most Common Piano Playing Injuries?
Piano playing is safe, as long as you don’t hurt yourself. Any repetitive motion can result in pain. Chronic damage appears if it’s carried over for long periods of time.
There was a series of surveys in the major music schools and universities of China. They found out that the highest proportion of pianist’s injuries happened in the wrist. That was followed by the arm and shoulder, and then the back and neck. Symptoms included soreness, fatigue, swelling and pain.
All these injuries fall in the category of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). That includes two types: repeating the same motions, and sitting in one position for too long. We are going to take a quick look at each:
We play piano with our fingers, but the muscles that move them go up the hand, through the wrist. They cross the forearm, and climb all the way to the shoulder in some cases. That’s why the majority of the injuries happen somewhere in the arm.
The first stop is the wrist. Tendons don’t have a lot of space to cross the wrist. If you use improper technique it can cause inflammation, and the formation of scar tissue. That causes joint stiffness and a loss of flexibility. Ultimately it results in muscle fatigue and pain.
The most common wrist problems are:
- Tendinitis (tendon inflammation)
- Tendinosis (tendon degeneration)
- Carpal Tunnel (nerve compression that affects the thumb, index and pinky fingers).
The friction can cause degeneration of tendons attached at the elbow. There are two common associated problems with it:
- Golfer’s Elbow (pain and discomfort on the inner side of the elbow)
- Tennis Elbow (pain and discomfort on the outer side of the elbow).
Maintaining the same posture for a long time
Sitting at a piano with bad posture for long periods alters the natural curvature of the shoulders and spine. This causes stiffness and irregular blood flow. It can get pretty ugly when it compresses vertebrae on the neck. A pinched nerve in that zone can cause pain and numbness all the way back to the hands.
Posture problems include the legs as well. If you sit too low you could get pain in your legs when pedalling, and hurt your lower back in the process.
A Word About Posture
Posture is highly dynamic. So is technique.
The human body is designed to move, not to stay seated. No matter how “good” your posture is, if you stay stiff for a long time, you will be in trouble eventually.
Your posture must be relaxed. There should be a holistic harmony of movement between the hands, the arms and the torso.
Remember that the movement of a finger starts in the shoulder!
That said, the number one priority when learning piano is to use proper technique. That includes posture as well. Even if you have been playing for a while, if something hurts, stop what you are doing. Let us help you re-evaluate your technique.
To learn piano playing well, learn with a professionally trained piano teacher. They will make sure you don’t get hurt doing what you love the most. If your pain persists, always consult your doctor about any persistent symptoms of pain, fatigue or numbness.