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Piano-related finger pain that's not healing (Read 121 times)

Offline avocado10

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Piano-related finger pain that's not healing
« on: March 20, 2020, 03:17:48 AM »
I'm posting here because I'm getting desperate, dejected, and am really hoping to find other piano students who may have had a similar experience. I've seen several doctors and so far none have been very useful, so I'm hoping to find some first-hand experience from other piano players.

I suffered what I believe was a piano over-use injury. I bought a new piano around two months ago, and started playing very intensely after not playing for several years. Roughly two weeks of intense playing later, I started experience a lot of pain in all my fingers. It was (and is) primarily a throbbing pain along the fingers and fingertips, and a bit of soreness in the palms of the hand. I figured I was playing with too much tension and bad technique, so I stopped completely and waited for my hands to get better. In the meantime I started looking for a teacher that could help improve my technique and doing my own research on reducing tension while playing.

Fast forward two months and several doctor visits and I'm still unable to play. The pain is definitely not as bad as when I first injured myself, but it seems to be extremely slow to heal. First, it's a constant, irritating soreness even when I'm not playing the piano (typing, cooking, tying my shoes). Second, there seems to be this cycle where I don't touch the piano at all for 2-3 weeks, feel a little better, play (very lightly and as relaxed as I can be) for 30ish minutes, and then wake up the next day with the pain completely back again.

It's extremely frustrating and demoralizing, especially when piano is currently my main source of stress-relief, and I'm starting to have this nagging fear that I might never be able to play again.  :'( :'( :'(

I've seen a hand doctor who told me that he didn't know what was wrong and that he doubted piano could cause injury (which I disagree with.) I've also seen a rheumatologist, who told me it was unlikely that I had arthritis as a 20-something year old, but recommended I get a checked up on it. Early results seem to show nothing serious, although I still have some more follow-ups. I've also seen a physical therapist, but who didn't know much about musician injuries and just suggested that I rest and massage my hands some more.

Some friends have suggested that maybe I just have to wait even longer for my hands to heal ("maybe a couple of months") which is awful to hear but still better than imagining some kind of permanent underlying issue. The idea that I might not be able to play again makes me feel physical sick.

I'm looking for some encouragement and hoping to find someone who may have had a similar experience in the past.  Similarly, are there people who specialize primarily in musician related injuries that can give better advice than the doctors I've seen?

Hoping for some help and advice. :(

Offline attempt3

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Re: Piano-related finger pain that's not healing
«Reply #1 on: March 20, 2020, 04:28:37 AM »
my best advice is for you to rest for the while as your hand heals, practice on your other hand in the mean time. Don't go overboard and cause more serious injury. '

good luck with your healing :)

Offline quantum

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Re: Piano-related finger pain that's not healing
«Reply #2 on: March 20, 2020, 04:36:22 AM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet,

Have you seen doctors specializing in performing arts medicine?  Sports medicine would also be another possibility.

I do know at least one pianist with hand arthritis which seems to come and go.  Although it can cause great discomfort at times for her, she is able to go on playing. 

Have you considered singing as a second instrument?  It could provide an outlet of musical expression on the days where your hands need a rest.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline ranjit

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Re: Piano-related finger pain that's not healing
«Reply #3 on: March 20, 2020, 04:42:30 AM »
Most doctors are not aware of pianist-related injuries. Carpal tunnel is one of the most common injuries that occur due to piano playing. Ignore anyone who says that playing the piano can not cause injury -- that is flat out wrong. Try to find a doctor who knows about injuries which affect musicians.

Maybe check if your hands are tense normally? A common suggestion is to raise your hands above your head, and then let them drop naturally to your side. If you are still young, it's rather unusual to injure yourself on the piano (unless you are consistently attempting to play difficult repertoire with really poor technique), so it may well be something else.

I have heard similar stories from pianists, but don't really know how to find doctors who specialize in injuries related to musicians.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Piano-related finger pain that's not healing
«Reply #4 on: March 20, 2020, 04:55:48 AM »
It would be interesting to experiment if you still get pain on a unweighted keyboard as well. Practice easier pieces, don't tax your energy so much, listen to your body.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."