Tips for Preventing Piano Tendonitis

Posted by Gordon Bolton

Being able to play the piano opens up a wonderful musical experience. It is also something that can be shared with friends and family. But, anyone who has ever taken piano lessons as a child remembers it takes hours of practice to play well. 

Concert pianists and other professional musicians often practice for several hours each day. The repetition improves skill but can lead to arm, wrist, hand, and finger pain. Fortunately, following professional tips and using proper techniques can prevent Injuries and ensure that piano playing is a pleasant experience.  

Playing Should Be Relaxing and Fun 

Learning to play the piano is a chance to master a valuable new skill that can also be a source of relaxation and enjoyment. While learning takes work, the process does not have to be painful or cause injuries.  

The first step for beginners is often finding an instrument that is comfortable and meets their needs. Suppliers offer a wide range of instruments, and there are specialists who provide fast piano moving. Whether you have acquired a used instrument, need a family piano moved, or buy a new piano, experienced movers have the resources to provide safe delivery and set up in any type of home. 

When it’s time to begin practicing, it’s essential to do it correctly. While there is no way to avoid the hours of playing required to become skilled, proper techniques help prevent repetitive stress injuries. 

The good news is that anyone can learn to play piano at any age, without pain. As a bonus, those who learn to play as adults often reduce stress, improve coordination, and sharpen motor skills.

What Is Piano Tendonitis?

Learning to play the piano requires making the same movements over and over thousands of times, which puts stress on the fingers, wrists, and arms. These repetitive movements may cause pain, especially in those who are older and have arthritis.

Piano players of any age can develop tendonitis. Sometimes called tendinitis, the condition occurs when repetitive motions cause muscle and bone connective tissues to become inflamed.

According to The Richman Music School, piano playing does not have to lead to tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other type of painful condition. Playing should feel effortless and automatic. In many cases, discomfort results from poor teaching methods and players developing bad habits. 

Some experts feel that combining the “German School” and the “Russian School” of teaching helps minimize injuries. The Russian School is focused on relaxation and gravity, while the German School teaches fingering efficiency and hand placement. Using the best practices of both methods can result in a more effortless experience. 

Warm-Up Before Playing 

Per Thrive Piano, warming up the body before playing the piano can help prevent injuries. These are some simple exercises that will help: 

  • Forearm stretches:  With both hands together and placed in front of the chest, point fingers down and stretch out the forearm, which will also stretch hands and wrists. 
  • Wrist and arm circles:  Ease joints into preparation for playing by slowly and carefully rotating them in one direction and then the other.
  • Shoulder raises:  Standing straight and shrugging will help relax the neck, back, and shoulders.

Good Posture Is Essential 

Sitting and playing correctly is crucial to avoid pain due to poor posture. Begin each session by sitting for a minute, stretching the spine, and getting accustomed to a seated position. Then check bench position. 

Bench distance plays a critical role in pain-free playing. Sitting too close to the piano is a common mistake. Someone who constantly raises their shoulders or wrists when playing is too close because their body blocks their arms’ mobility.  

Ideally, the elbows should touch one another when the hands are placed on the white notes. If a player can’t do that, they need to move back.  

Height is also a crucial factor. Some people have longer legs and shorter bodies, while others have shorter legs and longer bodies. Players must adjust their seats to accommodate their needs. The elbows need to be below the keys’ level regardless of body type. Unfortunately, standard piano benches are designed for people with short torsos. 

Players who consistently sit too high or low are at risk for pain, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Those with long waists can tower over the keys, stressing the tendons. The hand, wrist, and forearm must be in a straight line to minimize friction. 

The best way to get the ideal height is to use an adjustable bench that can be changed for various players’ needs. Each player can also use a chair that is the correct height.

Take Breaks While Playing

Give the body a break from playing. Resting hands, wrists, and elbows frequently helps guard against injuries. 

Professional musicians often take 20-minute breaks for every hour of playing. That gives the muscles a chance to recover and provides a mental reset.

It’s also a good idea to avoid playing the same notes repeatedly since forcing the body to repeat identical movements over long periods can cause damage. Instead of playing a difficult passage repeatedly, change to something different for a while.

Massage and Stretch Fingers 

Stretching and massaging the fingers before and after playing and during breaks increases oxygen flow to the muscles. It also helps players with small hands avoid strain. 

Teachers can explain massage and stretching techniques. There are also online videos that outline various methods.  

Consistent Practice Helps 

Just as skipping several trips to the gym can result in sore muscles when you begin to exercise again, so inconsistent practice can make piano playing less comfortable. Muscles in the hands need routine exercise to stay in shape. 

Basic technical exercises are enough to maintain finger strength and help prevent injuries. A good rule of thumb is to avoid skipping more than two days of playing, and to make up the lost time at the next practice. 

Professionals recommend creating a detailed schedule that includes practice days, times, and breaks. A plan can accommodate days that may need more breaks, such as times when you are playing a more challenging repertoire.

Ensure the Piano Is in Good Condition

Playing a poorly maintained piano can cause injuries. For example, there is more stress on fingers, forearms, and wrists when playing the piano with heavy action. If the piano’s action is too light, the hand muscles do not develop correctly. 

Experts recommend using a digital piano with hammer action if an acoustic instrument is unavailable. Acoustic pianos must be tuned regularly, and instruments require routine piano voicing and action adjustment to keep them in good working order.

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