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Topic: Poll: Pianist's Injuries  (Read 6253 times)

Offline jazzyprof

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Poll: Pianist's Injuries
on: January 14, 2005, 01:21:25 AM
Every now and then we read statistics like "over 80% of pianists have suffered some form of repetitive stress injury".  I have often wondered how valid that statement is.  I doubt that anyone has ever gone around polling pianists.  Besides, it is not clear what qualifies as an injury: pain that goes away the next day or pain that puts you out of commission for a week or more.  Last year I became a statistic...I suffered a stress injury that made it impossible for me to play for about four months.  Since then I've been studying with a teacher trained in the Taubman method and I am much more conscious of how I get around the keyboard.  So now I'm curious and would like to do an unscientific poll: 

(a)  Have you ever suffered a repetitive stress injury (e.g. tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome,....etc.) that made it impossible (or extremely painful) to play the piano for a week or more?
(b)  Do you know what led to the injury?
(c)  What did you do to heal, and are you approaching the piano differently now?

(edit:  By the way, I found this article quite informative https://pianomap.com/injuries/.)

 
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke

Offline allchopin

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #1 on: January 14, 2005, 01:49:36 AM
No [knocks on wood]..
A modern house without a flush toilet... uncanny.

Offline chopinguy

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #2 on: January 14, 2005, 03:03:45 AM
lol, same here.

My piano teacher does warn me alot on some passages to never practice it more than two or three minutes straight, so that I prevent myself from getting tendonitis.

Just out of curiousity, is tendonitis the most common repetitive injury?  I know that string players can get it pretty easily, but what about pianists?

(edit: oops, sorry, i read that article and i do have to agree that everything there is really helpful.  questions answered!)

Offline donjuan

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #3 on: January 14, 2005, 03:06:43 AM
a) yes - I went to physio for 2 months to treat my right wrist that would get sore and stiff while playing piano or writing notes at school.

b) yes - it came up while studying Liszt's Totentanz along with Hungarian Rhapsody No.6.  I guess my octave technique just wasnt up to par to take the beating.

c) It took a couple weeks break from the piano before my wrist was feeling normal again.  It was so frustrating trying to play with the bad wrist because it seemed to get all tight and exhausted almost as soon as I touched the piano.  I didnt go back to HR6 or Totentanz afterwards either, deciding it would be better to develop octave technique so I can learn to relax my wrist between each octave in the fast passages (esp. in HR 6 oh man was that tough!)  

I havent really changed anything, but instead am working my way to the tough pieces.  For example, as an introduction to Liszt's opera transcriptions Im doing Rigoletto and Waltz from Faust because they are not quite as demanding and will act as stepping stones to works like totentanz.
donjuan

Offline Brian Healey

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #4 on: January 14, 2005, 05:56:32 AM
A) Yes, I had (still somewhat have) tendonitis in my right thumb that was a result of two things: repetitive stress with less-than-optimal-technique and what's called an aberrant tendon in my thumb. Basically, an aberrant tendon means that the tendon in my thumb is attached slightly irregularly, which means that the tendon "pulls" at a slightly irregular angle. This condition makes me much more vulnerable to repetitive stress discomfort unless I'm careful about how I use my hand. When it first began bothering me, it was pretty painful. I didn't stop playing entirely, but I cut way, way down and I had to be very selective about it.

B) Well, the reasons above were the main causes, but I was also doing a ton of playing at the time. I was in my first year of grad school, and between my classes (most of which involved playing), ensembles, practicing, and gigs, I was playing for an average of 11-12 hours per day, sometimes less but sometimes more. That certainly didn't help at all, and it became a reall challenge to deal with an injury while trying to juggle all those responsibilties as well. I had to prioritize and drop certain things. Like I said, I had to be very selective.

C) The best thing I did was see an outstanding hand doctor. The first guy I saw was competant, but he didn't diagnose it right. He thought it was tendonitis, but then he later thought it was osteo-arthritis. After that I went to Kleinert and Kutz in Louisville, KY, which is one of the best hand care practices in the country. Dr. Kutz recognized it as an aberrant tendon, and he showed me specific stretches to do before I played so that the tendon would be flexible. He also put me on a regimen of vitamins (E, C, and B-6), and initially an anti-inflammatory medication as well. That treatment helped a ton. Beyond that I began working on technique and relaxation methods with a second private teacher who had also dealt previously with tendonitis, and working with her has made me much more conscious about how I use my hands, arms, and body (and lungs) while playing. The tendon still feels stiff and tight occasionally, but as long as I stay conscious of how I play, it'll be alright.

I must say that after all is said and done, the whole experience was really a blessing in disguise. The injury caused me to rework my faulty technique, and I play much better now than I ever have. I find myself much more relaxed and fluid at the piano. In a way, I'm glad I got injured, as strange as that sounds.

Peace,
Bri

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #5 on: January 14, 2005, 01:13:05 PM
Every now and then we read statistics like "over 80% of pianists have suffered some form of repetitive stress injury".  I have often wondered how valid that statement is.  I doubt that anyone has ever gone around polling pianists. 

I think the music world does actually conduct such polls. In the U.S., for example, symphony musicians are unionized, but there are not that many pianists in symphony orchestras to give a good statistics. Anyway, since I am myself someone who constantly puts out those numbers, I'd be interested in that poll too.

Quote
(a)  Have you ever suffered a repetitive stress injury (e.g. tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome,....etc.) that made it impossible (or extremely painful) to play the piano for a week or more?

Yes. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis in both thumbs and wrists.

Quote
(b)  Do you know what led to the injury?

A combination of rock climbing, computer work in an inergonomic setup, piano playing with flawed technique and a bad sleeping habit (hands tucked under my head).

Quote
(c)  What did you do to heal, and are you approaching the piano differently now?

I wore splints for months, stopped climbing, eliminated the sleeping habit, got myself a freekin' awesome chair at work, and replaced the mouse with a trackball. However, I accomplished the most profound changes after I started to look into human anatomy and physiology and learned the basic principles of how the body actually works. I have since applied all this to piano playing, but I must stress that this is generally not enough. One has to apply these principles to everything one does throughout the day. Piano playing is not isolated from other activities. In many cases, it is not the piano playing itself that causes injury, but it will definitely aggravate it and bring it out, or make it chronic. One has to change all bad habits. For example, healthy piano playing is impossible if one does not know how to sit correctly. Sitting correctly requires one to know how to stand and walk correctly. One must know how to lift things correctly, and so on. It is not enough to concentrate on hands only, but similar and beyond to what Brian said, one must apply this to everything one does to prevent bad things from happening. It spans the entire gamut from brushing teeth to sex.

I do conduct such mini-polls myself by asking pianists around me for their experiences and advice. I have yet to see a concert pianists who didn't have at some point a serious injury from doing stupid things. If big names are important, here is the advice Andre Watts dispensed: "If you have an injury, do not play through it!" He had done this once, and it almost ruined his career.

Offline Brian Healey

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #6 on: January 14, 2005, 09:13:12 PM
A similar thing happened to the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. As a teenager, he practiced from 12 to as many as 18 hours per day, and developed arthritis. Imagine getting arthritis as a teenager! He ignored the pain and played through it, and it's a wonder he didn't ruin his career, although he did have to deal with the pain for the rest of his life. Of course, Oscar is the exception that proves the rule. For every pianist like Oscar who "dealt with it", there are countless others who developed crippling hand injuries this way.


Don't Eat the Yellow Snow,
Bri

Offline anda

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #7 on: January 14, 2005, 09:53:45 PM

here is the advice Andre Watts dispensed: "If you have an injury, do not play through it!" He had done this once, and it almost ruined his career.

exactly!

i have never had serious piano-caused injuries, just very mild ones - but they would have developed into serious ones if i hadn't stopped any potentially dangerous activities (that includes pianoplaying) until symptomes bettered.

also, i  think it would be useful if one could know if s/he is proned for certain injuries - knowing would get you interested in finding ways to protect yourself from these, thus decreasing the chance of ever finding out what it really feels like to...

Offline HomeSchooler

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #8 on: January 15, 2005, 12:37:11 AM
Yes....
Right now......
it is left pinky and extending over to thumb.....

Piano wise:  I over-practiced.......I think basically arpeggiated  things did it.....

I was practicing (learning) *Mazurka (Clara Wieck Schumann, op.6, no.3.........in particular and also..........re-learning:Rondo Alla turca...........plus: Chopin *Two Preludes..*....
Also playing:  Valse Caprice.......(R.A. Newland) Op. 7........I love it.........but probably not one on here ever heard of it??
??
..................I decided for relaxation..........to do ALL  the scales.........minors too with Arpeggios..................and..............would do that for relaxation...........hour at a time.................that was the week I went under..............I did not cease when first felt the hint of soreness....
:-(
:-(

Also:  adding to this.........
I ride *Dressage*................
I think is at least aggravating this......
I have a new horse at the moment............

just halting squarly puts a drag on that wrist.....

so glad this thread was started.....

Would love to hear from as many people as possible..
I am thinking could be Spring before I can play..............
and typing is not a good thing on that left pinky right now either..
:-(

I am wearing wrist splints on both hands (some).....

Nan

Offline janice

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #9 on: January 15, 2005, 01:19:56 AM
Ok, so apparently you can give yourself arthritis.  (Sorry if I should be posting somewhere else, but it was mentioned up above.)  Can you, yes or no?  If so, how?  Be specific.  Thanks!!
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Offline vivacelife

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #10 on: January 15, 2005, 01:31:59 AM
I read in the newspaper that this one young promising pianist practiced Totentanz like 10 hours per day and now she totally lost her hands and her ability to play. How sad, she's still very young (not over 21)... :-\
Phoebe

Offline Brian Healey

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #11 on: January 15, 2005, 02:34:59 AM
Yes, Janice, you can give yourself arthritis. Joints contain a fluid-like substance that acts as a lubricant for movement. With prolonged, excessive movement in a particular joint or set of joints, that substance can get worn away. Of course, "normal" piano playing won't do that. Pianists who practice for extreme amounts of time on a regular basis will generally develope early arthritis. Like Oscar Peterson (who I mentioned in an earlier post), who practiced 12 hours per day, and sometimes up to 18. There also different types of arthritis, so this type of arthritis shouldn't be confused with the type that "naturally" occurs with many older people.

This isn't something I would worry about unless you routinely practice for several hours at a time, like Oscar or the Totentanz lady that Vivacelife mentioned. But if you are concerned, you could look into taking a Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement as a preventative measure, which helps to rebuild joints.


Harassingly Yours,
Bri

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #12 on: January 15, 2005, 06:57:56 AM
Well, this one isn't in the tendonitis category, but it is repetitive in that I'll probably do it again.  I was working on the glissandos in Suggestione Diabolique and caught my middle finger cuticle by accident and got a HUGE infection in it!  It took 2 weeks to heal and now I can start practicing it again!  Does anybody make "pianists bandaids" or anything such thing for practicing things like this?
So much music, so little time........

Offline tocca

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #13 on: January 15, 2005, 02:12:50 PM
Yes i've had Carpal tunnel syndrom in my right wrist, it started in my late teens when i did a huge increase in practisehours (went from less than an hour per day to six-seven hours per day,trying to improve to get into music school.

It never stopped me completely from playing but i had a problem for a looong time afterwards, i took it easy for a time and as soon as i felt ok i started practising more again and it came back.
After a couple of times, i visited a doctor and as a result i took a two month rest from Piano and started off very easy afterwards. I thought i'd get rid of it, but it came back again.

I don't think i got totally rid of it until i was around 30 years old.

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #14 on: January 15, 2005, 03:15:50 PM
I'll also answer for my girlfriend, who doesn't participate in this forum:

She got tendonitis in fingers 2 and 3 of the right hand when she was 20 years old by overpracticing Grieg's Concerto (the cadenza of the first movement). Put her out of commission for four weeks. Took about four months to go away (had help from a physical therapist). She still occasionally has problems, i.e pain, when using those fingers a lot (e.g. long trills).

The injury appeared "out of the blue", which means it was most likely building up slowly over time and manifested itself in that particular passage.

She re-evaluated her technique with a different teacher, somewhat follows the guidelines of the  Alexander Technique, and it is going better now.

Offline HomeSchooler

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #15 on: January 15, 2005, 03:55:47 PM
What I am getting our of this is that *some* of you went ahead and practiced before healed..............but trying for better technique......

But did you still heal??

Each time I *try* just a bit with this left hand...........in particular left pinky..........does OK.........for just a *bit*............and then sore again......
even typing at the moment...................does that...............seems just the pinky.....

wondering...............

I am thinking maybe six weeks off??

but then I am reading.................never entirely goes away...

:-(
:-(

and I brought this on myself....

I hope more people post their opinions and experiences..

Well I can offer this..................in the horse world............takes a horse six weeks off work to recover from a strain.......

Nan

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #16 on: January 15, 2005, 04:25:48 PM
Each time I *try* just a bit with this left hand...........in particular left pinky..........does OK.........for just a *bit*............and then sore again......
even typing at the moment...................does that...............seems just the pinky.....

Your problems likely come from you constantly typing "." with your left pinky. Just look at your posts. It' the well known PPS (Pinky Period Syndrome). It's aggravated by the coloring of text passages, which requires unnatural movements in the meta-carpals. I am convinced, if you get rid of those two things, you will feel a lot better (and everybody else too)  :D :D :D

Seriously, some injuries require years (!!!!!) to heal. This is true for example for rotary cuff problems (shoulder) and other injuries where ligaments and tendons are involved. No serious pianist or athlete or worker will wait this long. Athletes and workers usually get help through injections of cortison and other drugs that accelerate the healing process.

Everybody is kind of hoping that low activity will not hurt the injured part. Of course, this can work only if one corrects the movements and gets rid of what caused the injury in the first place. In reality, however, people won't manage and will be stuck forever with problems that may or may not be so severe as to jeopardize their careers. Take top-athletes as an example. They get some of the best medical attention of anybody. Yet, at some point, they are worn out and have to quit. A big part of this is that, when they are injured, they usually get patched up haphazardously and are then thrown back into the game. No wonder. Piano playing at a professional level is akin to an athletic activity. There is little help for pianists from the medical side, so the general situation is a lot worse compared to athletes and even compared to workers. Pianists usually patch themselves up by wearing bandaids, splints or simply wrapping their wrists with bangades to stabilize them. it's no wonder that so many are plagued with constant pain.

Offline Brian Healey

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #17 on: January 15, 2005, 04:45:28 PM
Quote
It' the well known PPS (Pinky Period Syndrome).

I know you were joking, but it's possible you're onto something there.

Offline HomeSchooler

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #18 on: January 15, 2005, 10:17:03 PM
Quote
It' the well known PPS (Pinky Period Syndrome).
*********************************************************
Quote:  I know you were joking, but it's possible you're onto something there.  
**********************************************************
Boy I wished it were that simple ..........I would never type a *....................*again............but they are automatic.......just hold the key down..........but I think the " " signs I tend to use for quotes................yes they use the left pinky for the shift.............and I do think typing is part of this..................just so many things I do that aggravate it..

:-(
:-(

I am thinking:   Play Piano in the Spring.....................and in meantime study a lot of theory

Nan

Offline HomeSchooler

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #19 on: January 15, 2005, 10:37:46 PM
Quote
Your problems likely come from you constantly typing "." with your left pinky. Just look at your posts. It' the well known PPS (Pinky Period Syndrome). It's aggravated by the coloring of text passages, which requires unnatural movements in the meta-carpals. I am convinced, if you get rid of those two things, you will feel a lot better (and everybody else too)



Hey, Now I am an honest-to-goodness member............!!!

:-)    :-)

Someone criticized my Post!!  That  obviously means acceptance and I have only
eight posts so far.........!!
   

Quote
Seriously, some injuries require years (!!!!!) to heal.

Depressing thought............
Hope breathes eternal.



Quote
This is true for example for rotary cuff problems (shoulder) and other injuries where ligaments and tendons are involved. No serious pianist or athlete or worker will wait this long.

I am certainly NO concert pianist, but it is serious part of my life..
:-(


Quote
Athletes and workers usually get help through injections of cortison and other drugs that accelerate the healing process.

You sound like you know something about this...................I think I should see a Sports Injury person......................wonder if that might mean I could get back playing more quickly?

Quote
Everybody is kind of hoping that low activity will not hurt the injured part.

Yes, I get to thinking it is better and then BOOM  it is right back...

Thanx much for writing..................

I am convinced a long rest is in order.

Nan
************************************************


 Of course, this can work only if one corrects the movements and gets rid of what caused the injury in the first place. In reality, however, people won't manage and will be stuck forever with problems that may or may not be so severe as to jeopardize their careers. Take top-athletes as an example. They get some of the best medical attention of anybody. Yet, at some point, they are worn out and have to quit. A big part of this is that, when they are injured, they usually get patched up haphazardously and are then thrown back into the game. No wonder. Piano playing at a professional level is akin to an athletic activity. There is little help for pianists from the medical side, so the general situation is a lot worse compared to athletes and even compared to workers. Pianists usually patch themselves up by wearing bandaids, splints or simply wrapping their wrists with bangades to stabilize them. it's no wonder that so many are plagued with constant pain.
Quote

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #20 on: January 15, 2005, 11:08:59 PM
Quote
Boy I wished it were that simple ..........I would never type a *....................*again............but they are automatic.......just hold the key down..........

LOL - That's called "static force", and it's bad with any type of keyboard instrument, dwelling for too long and with too much force in the keybeds, that is. What concerns the computer keyboard, you will find that replacing the "................." with a SINGLE (!!) return is not only very easy and smooth on the eyes of your readers, but is also a very fluid movement. The staccato return is efficient and quick, whereas the repeated ".", even when using proper technique, i.e. using fingers 4321-4321-4321, will not yield a satisfactory result  ;) ;)

Seriously, if you are having constant problems, it is best to start the search for a knowledgeable hand specialist. They are hard to find, so the earlier you start the better. Ask around if any of them is playing the piano.

Offline richard w

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #21 on: January 16, 2005, 01:22:24 AM
Quote
Have you ever suffered a repetitive stress injury (e.g. tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome,....etc.) that made it impossible (or extremely painful) to play the piano for a week or more?


I've certainly had issues with specific passages which have caused me to cut back my practising of them, but I've never required treatment nor been prevented from practising for prolonged periods.

Quote
My piano teacher does warn me alot on some passages to never practice it more than two or three minutes straight, so that I prevent myself from getting tendonitis.

The implication of a comment like this is that certain passages will inevitably lead to injury, regardless of quality of technique. In other words an important part of playing the piano is to know your own limits. Views anyone?

Quote
A combination of rock climbing, computer work in an inergonomic setup, piano playing with flawed technique and a bad sleeping habit (hands tucked under my head).

I'm the most rubbish rockclimber in the world, so I don't engage in that pursuit - I tried it once and that was enough!

Quote
Piano playing is not isolated from other activities. In many cases, it is not the piano playing itself that causes injury, but it will definitely aggravate it and bring it out, or make it chronic. One has to change all bad habits. For example, healthy piano playing is impossible if one does not know how to sit correctly. Sitting correctly requires one to know how to stand and walk correctly. One must know how to lift things correctly, and so on. It is not enough to concentrate on hands only, but similar and beyond to what Brian said, one must apply this to everything one does to prevent bad things from happening. It spans the entire gamut from brushing teeth to sex.

Whilst driving back from work the other day, it occurred to me that the way I generally hold the steering wheel doesn't seem good for my arms and hands. The 'textbook' recommendation of holding the steering wheel at ten to and ten past, (probably recommended for safety) is actually the best way to keep the hands lined up with the arms.

In terms of my use of computer keyboards, I took the trouble to learn how to touch type with all my fingers a number of years ago. Before that I was a finger-two typist (with two hands). There is no question that typing in this way is not good for those fingers. Learning to type properly is one of those things that really doesn't seem worthwhile at the time, whilst you are struggling to find any of the letters, but when you have mastered it the rewards are massive.

Quote
I must say that after all is said and done, the whole experience was really a blessing in disguise. The injury caused me to rework my faulty technique, and I play much better now than I ever have. I find myself much more relaxed and fluid at the piano. In a way, I'm glad I got injured, as strange as that sounds.

I am fairly relaxed at the piano, but I am taking certain sensations I get with certain types of playing as the warning signs that if I don't make completely sure I've got everything right it could all go horribly wrong. I'm looking forward to the improvements in my playing too.

Offline redhead

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #22 on: January 18, 2005, 05:59:17 PM
I've had a dull pain in my right wrist.   This was caused by a combination of :  poor tennis technique, years of holding the heavy oboe on an extended right thumb, years of computing with poor posture and typing technique, and poor piano technique.

The right hand was noticably colder than the left.

I got physical therapy about 5 years ago, and stopped playing the piano (and oboe and tennis).    The physical therapy exercises and stretches helped a little, but the main thing that fixed the pain was removing my arm rests on my chair at work and teaching myself to touch type.  Prior to that, I'd always look down at the keys, and hold lots of tension in my shoulders.

Last year, I had no more pain, so I decided to integrate piano back into my life. 

The pain (lesser this time, though) started almost immediately.  I fixed my piano technique (sandor, lister-sink) but this only helped minimally.

The clincher was my posture.  I didn't have any tension in my shoulders, but I slumped forwards.  I really needed to keep my back straight and shoulders back ALL the time.   So I fixed the way I sit at work, sit while driving, sit while eating, sit while practising, sit while watching tv.  I've changed my "posture" while sleeping.

The improvements are tremendous.  I've been at this for a couple months, and the new posture almost feels natural, and the pain is nearly gone.   

Offline holden4th

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Re: Poll: Pianist's Injuries
Reply #23 on: January 19, 2005, 08:00:17 AM
The Taubman method was mentioned early on but has anyone had experience of the Alexander Technique which benefits more than just pianists?

ciao

Holden
 

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