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Fatigue in non-dominant hand
#2186498 11/21/13 06:10 PM
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To start off: I am left handed, so that may have something to do with this.

Anyways...My right hand fatigues much quicker than my left hand. Actually, it's not quite the hand that fatigues. What happens is, the area from my wrist (anterior side) to ~4-5 inches up my arm gets tired, as shown in this image http://i.imgur.com/kQO98qt.png

As you can imagine, this is extremely frustrating because most passage-work is done with the right hand.

Here is some info on what happens:
- It happens within seconds of playing a hands together scale.
- It happens at any velocity, even slow play.
- If I play just the right hand alone, and focus entirely on preventing the fatigue, I can sometimes manage to "suppress" it indefinitely (allowing my right hand to continuously play scales without tire). But I can lose the sensation (which feels absolutely great) of playing like that in an instant, and I also lose it right after stopping play.
- When it occurs, I can feel a loss of mobility/velocity/control in my fingers.
- If I continue to play though the fatigue, I begin to lose sensation from my hands.
- There is no pain and no numbing anywhere...just a feeling that I'm not getting the proper amount of feedback from the hand.

It's very strange. It's almost as if the default state of my right hand/wrist is tense. I've noticed that when I'm away from the piano and suddenly think about my hand, it's tense. Then, when I focus on entirely relaxing it, I can feel the sensations of doing so and they are very pleasant.

It's even more odd because my left hand has never had fatigue problems. It can play day in and day out and not get tired. It also gives me much more acute and sensitive feedback, but I guess that's what makes it my dominant hand grin

Any ideas? Nerve damage? Does the inverse scenario sound familiar to those that are right-handed?



"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186509 11/21/13 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys
the area from my wrist (anterior side) to ~4-5 inches up my arm gets tired, as shown in this image http://i.imgur.com/kQO98qt.png



If the linked image is what you really mean, it's the posterior side of your wrist and the extensor muscles proximal to the wrist that are fatiguing. (In anatomy, the anterior of the forearm is what you see in the mirror when standing with your palms facing the mirror, i.e. forwards.)

In which case, it's the muscles that raise your fingers off the keys and keep your hands raised (or dorsiflexed) off the keyboard that are being 'over-worked'. Which may indicate that you are over-using those muscles, or keeping them too tensed, maybe because you are trying too hard not to let your fingers rest on, or touch the keys when not playing, or raising the fingers unnecessarily high after key release.

Try to relax your fingers that aren't playing the keys, rather than consciously keeping them raised off the keys once they've released them. It's OK for your fingers to rest lightly on the keys when not playing them. And watch your wrist to make sure there's no dorsiflexion at the joint. The wrist shouldn't be lower than the knuckles of the hand.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186523 11/21/13 07:18 PM
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I've suffered from a similar ailment for many years. I don't know how similar our conditions really are, but I do know that I always described my problem not as pain, or tingling, or soreness, but as: fatigue.

In my case it was primarily my right hand and arm, and I'm right-handed, so I think the fact that this is your "non-dominant" hand may be irrelevant.

Large-scale, systemic solutions tended to help for me: posture, core muscle flexibility, yoga, Pilates, that kind of thing. Local solutions, which attempted to address the symptomatic area, were not helpful. Everything wound up being related to my shoulders, even though they were a good foot away from the nearest symptoms!

I know how frustrating this is. You have to find the right person to show you how to heal. Sometimes all it takes is the right exercise, applied over time. Talk to your teacher. If he/she doesn't think a lot about healthy playing, talk to a teacher who does. Methodologies like Taubman are not the silver bullet to virtuosity and complete comfort as they sometimes suggest, but they can be very helpful. Good luck.

-Jason

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186543 11/21/13 08:07 PM
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I sincerely would like to be able to help you with this, but in a brief conversation we had in another thread, you seemed to know more about how to play the piano than the real experts who posted there (greg being one of them). That makes it incredibly difficult to help. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Your cup is full?" If so, it would seem to apply. If not, I'll explain: the cup represents your capacity for learning; if it's full already (meaning you think you know everything), it's impossible for anyone to add knowledge (tea) to the cup.

Now, there are some basic reasons why you might be experiencing fatigue.

1. Your movements aren't coordinated, so you use excessive muscle force in order to force the playing mechanism to play what you want to

2. Your movements go to extreme ranges of motion, most commonly seen in "twisting" movements

3. Through a lack of movement, you are isolating certain parts of the playing mechanism, which is most commonly seen in one of two places: "stiff fingers" and/or "stiff arms"


The fact that this happens so quickly makes me believe you might have some damage (tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc) that swells up when you try to play. Might be a good idea to see a doctor. There are some better medical people than me in here, so they may be able to advise you better than I can in that area. One question that helps: how acute is the sensation, and would you describe it as pain? Is it a general/large and dull ache, or is it a real sharp pain like someone's stabbing you with a needle?

Back to technique: I am guessing you have some pretty big gaps in your technique. Not based on this thread, but based on other posts I've seen. I never said anything, because you didn't seem to have any symptoms. But since you do, it may be beneficial for you to address it. If you can post a video of you playing something where you typically feel that fatigue sensation, it may be of great diagnostic help in terms of what movements/lack of movements may be causing your particular issue.

I do hope this helps. You were very closed off in the other thread in which we spoke, but it seems like you might be more open here. I certainly hope that is the case. smile


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186630 11/21/13 11:56 PM
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Your feet are jealous so they are robbing the blood flow from your right hand. Play with your toes for a few weeks and you should be cured.

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Derulux #2186861 11/22/13 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

If the linked image is what you really mean, it's the posterior side of your wrist
...
Which may indicate that you are over-using those muscles, or keeping them too tensed, maybe because you are trying too hard not to let your fingers rest on, or touch the keys when not playing, or raising the fingers unnecessarily high after key release.

Good catch! Silly mistake on my end. I do mean the posterior side. I think this may be the case, whether it's a symptom or root cause, I'm not sure, but it seems like my right hand is over using my extensors to lift my fingers (as you said) even though it feels like I'm not!

@beet31425
I think it's very interesting that you've had a similar issue, and that the root of the problem was systemic. I've noticed that when play (and even as I go about my day away from the piano) I carry tense (slightly raised) shoulders. This is likely propagating down through my arms and causing my central nervous system to overuse my extensors as bennevis pointed out. Something I've noticed, is that if I focus on really relaxing my shoulders during play such that my arms "hang freely" from the shoulder, it's a totally different sensation than I'm used to. In fact, the first time I tried this (maybe a month ago?), the sensation was so strong that it made me slightly nauseous! I'll explore some solutions on reprogramming myself to have more relaxed shoulders/arms.

Originally Posted by Derulux

I sincerely would like to be able to help you with this, but in a brief conversation we had in another thread, you seemed to know more about how to play the piano than the real experts who posted there.

I would never claim to "know more" about playing the piano than experienced pianists! However, I would claim that there is some misinformation that is sometimes spread (even by serious, world-class pianists and DMAs), and that understanding the physics and underlying science of the piano and its playing is of enormous value. It's all about optimization. i.e. "How can we best approach this instrument to achieve optimal results in the littlest time?"

Originally Posted by Derulux

1. Your movements aren't coordinated, so you use excessive muscle force in order to force the playing mechanism to play what you want to

2. Your movements go to extreme ranges of motion, most commonly seen in "twisting" movements

3. Through a lack of movement, you are isolating certain parts of the playing mechanism, which is most commonly seen in one of two places: "stiff fingers" and/or "stiff arms"

The issue is likely a viscous combination of all three, as well as other things mentioned in this thread. In short, my nervous system is underdeveloped and lacking an enormous amount of control. I also have confirmed that my excitatory reflex is more powerful than its inhibitory counterpart, and this is probably the root cause of why there is so much overuse of muscles happening. I will need to work on balancing the reflexes.

There is no pain, but there is a sensation of "inflammation" which is causing constriction (which has ought to be caused by lack of control!). I am scheduled to see a hand surgeon in mid December (which, as you might imagine, has got my teacher all uptight!) so that he can have a look at my hand. I've suspected for quite some time there are some structural problems, and perhaps even issues with the infamous Ulnar nerve.

Thanks for the input so far!

Last edited by Atrys; 11/22/13 12:42 PM.

"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186870 11/22/13 01:09 PM
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You're probably feeling this fatigue because your muscle groups are working against each other. If you're actively tensing your flexor muscles, then your extensors have to work against them to lift your fingers.

I don't want to stir up this pot again, but this is exactly, precisely, what the drop-weight thing is all about. When your fingers are doing no more strenuous work than holding up your hands and arms, you get that amazing relaxed feeling as your fingers sink all the way to the key bed as you play.

Try it on a table-top. Just put your hands in piano position and slowly, consciously relax your shoulders, upper arms, forearms and fingers. Then tap the table four times with your thumbs together, twos together, threes together, etc. all while simply holding up your hands/arms with the non-tapping fingers.

This is what drop-weight is. I don't care if you think you hear a difference. When you can start to play with no tension in your arms and shoulders, and your really play all the way to the key-bed, your sound will change.

And you'll feel better too! smile


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Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186878 11/22/13 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys
The issue is likely a viscous combination of all three....

It is quite possible. Based on many of the comments you've made about "control" and "overuse of muscles", I tend to lean towards #3 more heavily. However, #3 can easily cause #1 and #2, because your hand won't be in the correct place to play a note, and then your entire playing mechanism gets misaligned.. which, in turn, causes you to reach/stretch (often twist) and/or use "extra muscle" to get back to where you needed to be.

If I could see you playing, I'd be able to help you diagnose some of the issues and how you can correct them. But short of that, I'd be stabbing in the dark. An educated enough guess to probably get in the right room, but the lights would still be out. wink

Let us know what the doc says.


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186890 11/22/13 01:44 PM
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From your description, I am going to guess that it's partly or fully a habitual muscle tension problem exacerbated by certain activities or even attitudes.

I shared from my experience on some other thread. I'm great at ignoring things that don't prevent me from doing what I want. The first time around, I ignored the fatigue and just tried harder. My problems became more serious -- numbness, tingling, and pain-- none of it directly related to piano technique. When I get stressed out, I hold tension in my shoulders and neck, even causing muscle knots in my back. At one point, it was restricting the radial nerve and causing my symptoms. Now that I know dehydration and stress produce problematic muscle tension, I can deal with those causes early enough to prevent pain. Practicing brought the problem to the foreground, but it was not the root of the problem at all. I have altered my technique, partly to accommodate my body's needs but mostly to produce the music I want. After lessons with a teacher who was in the "arm weight is the start all and end all" camp, I concluded that my technique must serve my music or I was simply not happy playing.

If it's a muscle tension habit, building it took time, and rebuilding the habit of relaxation will also take time. My current teacher has been an invaluable help to me in showing me it is indeed possible to get the sound and control that I want without slipping into the excess tension or hyper control, also in showing me the ways I try to compensate. I didn't tell him about my previous problems and we don't talk about "healthy playing." By the time I started lessons with him, I had done enough research and cultivated personal awareness to the level that following his instructions was not going to cause injury. I felt pretty stupid doing some very simple exercises, but retraining muscles to produce the sound I wanted was worth it to me. You will need a lot of self-awareness. The more you inform yourself about how muscles work and how that relates to piano technique, the better off you are. From your detailed description, you're well on your way. Alexander Technique may be helpful to you. In my experience, other than ruling out some very serious health problems, the medical community was almost entirely unhelpful. One physical therapist pointed me in the right direction.

I hope you find something that works for you.

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Pianist4ever #2186894 11/22/13 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Pianist4ever
In my experience, other than ruling out some very serious health problems, the medical community was almost entirely unhelpful. One physical therapist pointed me in the right direction.

This was my experience too. The established medical community was basically useless (they were almost salivating to operate); most physical therapists were on the right track, but happened not to help out my specific set of circumstances; it took the right exercise suggestion from the right person to set me on the track to recovery.

-J

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
TimV #2186929 11/22/13 03:27 PM
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This is great! I think we are getting to the crux of what I've been struggling with for so long.

Originally Posted by TimV

Try it on a table-top. Just put your hands in piano position and slowly, consciously relax your shoulders, upper arms, forearms and fingers.

Here is something I've never understood, perhaps because I take it too literally...When I place my hands/fingers in playing position on a table (or keyboard) to hold up the weight of my arm, and I relax my arm all the up to and including my shoulder, there is far too much weight being delivered to my hands and fingers! My fingers have to try very hard to hold up my arm and I cannot imagine that any amount of finger work (scales, etc.) can be accomplished this way. What am I doing wrong? Am I taking it too literally? I find that if I suspend my arm (but relax my shoulders) such that my arm "floats" over the keys, allowing my fingers to move freely/lightly, the sensation is much more pleasant...however, then I believe I am not using my arm enough!

@Derulux
I will make a recording tonight and post it here. Hopefully some problems can be diagnosed from that.

@Pianist4ever
It sounds like I'm in a position very similar to yours! Maybe the years of archery and other things that are demanding of power from my right hand have programmed it to activate muscles (in "preparation" of being able to perform) when they are not needed to the degree that they're prepared. I think the same is true of my shoulders (actually, my trap muscles on my upper back, responsible for lifting the shoulders).

Anyways, as shown in my response to TimV, maybe I'm taking "hold up your arm weight with your fingers" too literally?


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186935 11/22/13 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys
When I place my hands/fingers in playing position on a table (or keyboard) to hold up the weight of my arm, and I relax my arm all the up to and including my shoulder, there is far too much weight being delivered to my hands and fingers! My fingers have to try very hard to hold up my arm and I cannot imagine that any amount of finger work (scales, etc.) can be accomplished this way. What am I doing wrong? Am I taking it too literally?

Sounds like you found your problem. I sympathize as I've struggled with the same thing and sometimes have to re-learn it. Yes, one finger should be able to support the weight of your arm, not just when the arm rests but when the arm pushes down enough to play fortissimo. This is the most efficient way to play scales or anything else because you are using all your energy to play, not half to play and half to pull up away from the keyboard. My teacher describes this as "hanging on to a subway strap with one finger." If the hand muscles are too weak to do this at present, try some grip strength exercises like squeezing a ball or holding a coin against the palm of the hand with one finger at a time. Find a way to exercise those muscles in the palm of your hand and palm side of the forearm that isn't painful or stressful but makes the muscles work.


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Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2186943 11/22/13 04:02 PM
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More likely it's your wrist extensors that are giving you gip. They're busy preventing your wrist from rising (flexion) while you do your passage work.

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2187425 11/23/13 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Atrys
Here is something I've never understood, perhaps because I take it too literally...When I place my hands/fingers in playing position on a table (or keyboard) to hold up the weight of my arm, and I relax my arm all the up to and including my shoulder, there is far too much weight being delivered to my hands and fingers! My fingers have to try very hard to hold up my arm and I cannot imagine that any amount of finger work (scales, etc.) can be accomplished this way. What am I doing wrong? Am I taking it too literally?

Based on this description, yes, quite possibly. But I'll wait for the video before giving you anything concrete, so that I don't say something that might mess you up even more. smile


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2188413 11/26/13 01:34 AM
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Never mind the recording...I've been able to get rid of the tension that was causing the fatigue!

It turns out that I, without being aware of it for 20 years, live my life with slightly raised shoulders. Not enough to see, but enough such that if I catch myself, I have to focus to relax them. The sensation is very strange! Since I've got the awareness of it now, I've been spending the last few days being as aware of my shoulders as I can, and relaxing them as often as possible to reprogram my body.

At the piano, if I focus to relax my shoulders before play, I get no fatigue in my right forearm anymore! Playing is much easier and much less exhausting. I've noticed I make less mistakes as well. At this point, I think it's just a matter of reprogramming my body so that relaxed shoulders become the normal.

On another note, my consultation with the hand surgeon cannot come soon enough. I think I've reached a point in my "development" where my right hand is completely blocking my progress. It seems there are some structural issues (tendons? bones? cartilage?) that make certain movements and positions completely impossible. Octaves with my right hand are very strange...the position the hand goes into to play octaves is visibly very awkward and the pinky sticks out flat...

Hopefully the surgeon is able to identify the problem(s) and is able to correct them, otherwise I will likely stop playing the piano since this hand cannot progress any further.

Thanks for the responses! You all gave me enough awareness to get rid that nasty tension smile

Last edited by Atrys; 11/26/13 01:35 AM.

"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2188428 11/26/13 02:13 AM
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What you're just going to stop playing? What the heck are you playing for now then?

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2188479 11/26/13 07:24 AM
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I sincerely hope that no one will go cutting into your hand to fix problems that seem almost certain to be matters of technique, like the fatigue. (Many surgeons will not know this, though.)

I think you said even your teacher is horrified at the idea of surgery. IMO you need an expert in ergonomic piano technique, not a surgeon (or at least before a surgeon). First, do no harm.


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Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
Atrys #2188532 11/26/13 09:17 AM
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^seconded

Surgery sounds a bit extreme

Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
stalefleas #2188614 11/26/13 11:50 AM
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^Thirded.

Seriously, unless you have an injury there's no reason to go see a surgeon. From what you've said just relaxing your shoulders has made a huge difference for you. Getting your shoulders down will also help with the weight thing, and allowing you to play with a more relaxed hand, so you're not *gripping* the keys.

Also, based on the description of your octaves, you *MIGHT* have some hand-position issues as well. Under normal playing circumstances, the back of your palms should be more or less level. Are you rotating your hands "outward" to get an octave?



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Re: Fatigue in non-dominant hand
TimV #2188678 11/26/13 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TimV

Are you rotating your hands "outward" to get an octave?

Not at all! My left hand can form and play octaves just fine. The position is comfortable and strong, and the pinky looks as it should (the back of the hand is level as well). With my right hand, even with the back of the hand being level, the position is just not correct because I cannot get my hand to form the same position that my left hand takes up.

I assure everyone that this is not a matter of technique, and that there are truly structural issues preventing me from playing. As a small child, I slammed my right pinky in a car door. A few years later, I broke my right arm somewhere near the elbow. I was also an avid archer for quite some years. I believe that all of this has screwed up my hand right enough to cause these issues.

Here are the specific problems I have with my right hand (as you will see, it is not a matter of technique):
- When straight out, the pink curves inward a bit. When in playing position, the pinky curves inward a lot. So much that it often gets in the way of the 4th finger.
- The pinky collapses at the 2nd joint when playing (but I do know a good number of pianists with this same issue).
- The pinky is rotated outward such that the back of the pinky faces to my right (instead of upwards) when in an idle position with my palms down.
- The 4th finger also curves inward and slightly outwards, similar to the pinky.
- The first joint at my thumb is enlarged such that the tendon has a very difficult time sliding over it. This causes all sorts of locking and "jumping" of the thumb.
- I cannot position the hand in playing position such that the back of the hand is facing upwards...the hand always has a slight outward rotation to it.
- When in playing position (even if I force my hand to vertical so that the back is facing upwards), all of the fingers slant to the left.

The sum of all of this makes many positions and movements outright impossible. Even if I totally relax my hand, and let my teacher(s) manually manipulate it, the positions cannot be achieved, and certainly cannot be held by my own person.

I suspect there may be some issues with the ulnar nerve, and that I may have a condition called "trigger thumb", but only the surgeon will know for sure. Also, the issues above may or may not be related in some way.

If he is only able to correct one or just a few of these problems, and if that helps enough, I will continue to play. If he isn't able to solve any of the issues, I will definitely cease playing.

Last edited by Atrys; 11/26/13 01:45 PM.

"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
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N3X Lid Pin Sticking Out?
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