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Hand Discomfort
#2863021 06/26/19 02:52 PM
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I am a 55 year old female. Over the past few months I have been waking up with VERY stiff hands. It is scary for a moment. It feels like it is the muscles and maybe the joints. As soon as I start to move my hands past the initial stiffness, they immediately move fine. My arms and hands overall feel a touch week but trying different pillows hasn't helped in case it is related to my stiff neck. I have been playing much more piano starting around the same time as this stiffness, yet I never feel pain playing, (unless it is my left thumb joint which probably has arthritis and reminds me to relax.) My regular Doctor kind of ignored it and said use aspercreme, it is arthritis but not Rhumetoid so not to worry. Other than a sense of slight weakness, I don't feel any pain so no use for Aspercreme during the day.

Could this be related to playing even though it only sneaks up at night? My level of playing has increased drastically in this time so it is possible I am building those tiny muscles in my fore-arms, but I am older and pretty thin boned---- Has anyone experienced this?

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863032 06/26/19 03:19 PM
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I went through a similar situation 3 years ago. Also due to substantially increased playing time. Saw multiple doctors and nobody had a definitive answer for me.
I spoke with a violinist friend who also experienced this and she told me she backed off practice time by about 1/3 and within a week or so the pain resided.
It worked for me. After I got control of it I slowly increased playing time - slowly - and it hasn't happened since.
Don't know if it'll work for you but might be worth a try. Best of luck.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863049 06/26/19 04:16 PM
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You are asking for medical advice from the anonymous public, something that is not a good idea. Please understand, doctors have to triage patient complaints and sometimes you have to be insistent for them to realize your problem is persisting and interfering with your daily life. I suggest you see your "regular doctor" again. Be sure to mention the weakness. If your doctor doesn't give you a satisfactory answer or path forward, see another physician. Also, consider seeing a chiropractor.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863063 06/26/19 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Anna123
I am a 55 year old female. Over the past few months I have been waking up with VERY stiff hands. It is scary for a moment. It feels like it is the muscles and maybe the joints. As soon as I start to move my hands past the initial stiffness, they immediately move fine. My arms and hands overall feel a touch week but trying different pillows hasn't helped in case it is related to my stiff neck. I have been playing much more piano starting around the same time as this stiffness, yet I never feel pain playing, (unless it is my left thumb joint which probably has arthritis and reminds me to relax.) My regular Doctor kind of ignored it and said use aspercreme, it is arthritis but not Rhumetoid so not to worry. Other than a sense of slight weakness, I don't feel any pain so no use for Aspercreme during the day.

Could this be related to playing even though it only sneaks up at night? My level of playing has increased drastically in this time so it is possible I am building those tiny muscles in my fore-arms, but I am older and pretty thin boned---- Has anyone experienced this?


Well any time I have increased by training in any kind of physical activity it has consequently created stiffness and/or sore muscles/joints. It is difficult to say if playing more at the piano is the exact and only cause but it is certainly a possibility. In fact to some extent most physical activities are always a trade off between working enough to reinforce the body and the risk of injury. In the case of piano, the issue is that if you are working too much and/or too hard you may end with a serious injury which will only manifest itself when it is already too late. Unlike minor muscle inflammation, a tendonitis in the hand is long to cure. So I would not be able to tell you if your symptoms are the result of a minor overtraining which has no consequence and will pass if you get a good rest or if you really need to back off. As I have been training for a long time, I usually know well my body and can identify when I am just temporarily sore or when I am developping something serious and I need to cut back and by how much.

In case you can not say, the safest is to reduce your playing for a few days and see if that has any impact on your symptoms; if it does you will know it is due to the piano; In general it is not good to have a permanent stiffness unless you are in a period of intense and temporary training. The stiffness should go away after one or 2 days of lighter piano routine. If you identify that indeed piano is the cause that is what I would recommend: if you have a more important training session one day and you are a bit sore(but not too much), have a lighter session next days until you are completely fine.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863070 06/26/19 04:50 PM
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One way to find out is to stop playing, perhaps for a few days or a week (difficult I know).

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863322 06/27/19 03:41 PM
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Thank you all. Darn, I've been so motivated but backing off (stopping for a few days) and seeing what happens makes sense. I am torn about seeing a chiropractor, but it may make sense also. I am so happy to hear others have had similar situations and recovered. Back in my weight training days it was a given that when you worked one part of you body you gave it a break the following day. If it gets worse with no playing, I will go see an orthopedic instead of going back to my other Dr., to get a second opinion. I also think I will take a few lessons (after resting) with one of the professional classical players in my area to observe my playing and see what they suggest.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863423 06/27/19 09:57 PM
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Some questions:

-Does your piano have a heavy action?
-Are you "keybedding" (pressing too hard on a key that is already down with the force intended to move it)?
-Have you tried adjusting the height of your bench (sometimes even a subtle change helps)?
-How do you warm up (too much or too little can cause difficulties)?
-What pieces are you playing?


WhoDwaldi
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Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863554 06/28/19 09:55 AM
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I might do the keybedding! I will attempt to figure that out. I also don't warm-up at all. It just didn't occur to me. I have my bench so my forearms are slightly up from my wrists, I will also try changing that. I took yesterday off and last night they still hurt but not as bad. I will force myself to take today off (this is killing me---I had an entire free day to play as I wish) to see if they improve anymore tonight compared to last. I look forward to experimenting with this to see if it helps! Of course I need to examine what a proper warm-up would be.

I just replaced my old digital piano after almost 20 years which I found out does have a bit heavy action and also was very sluggish. I replaced it about a week ago with a Kawai ES8, which from what I understand has decent action. I thought because it feels so much quicker and lighter than my last piano it would make things better for me. Just to be clear my hands did start having these issues before the Kawai though.

I play a combination of light classical and then do a lot of improvisation on classic rock tunes. (Mozart Sonata in C, Fur Elise, a couple of Chopin Nocturnes for classical for example). For the improv, I do a lot of 'wide' playing with base notes, high melodies, and then filling in the middle. It does seem like a lot of physical 'work' since I have been expanding on this style. Very chordal and rhythmic would be a good way to explain it.

I have noticed in the past that when I do a lot of cleaning, or during a move when I have been packing, I have had hand pain. Not sure if it is related, this pain is slightly different, but my hands have a history of being sensitive in that way also.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863560 06/28/19 10:09 AM
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A would suspect it's a combination of factors, changes. Some lessons to check your technique and some medical supervision will probably do the trick.

Sometimes I attribute hand discomfort to piano when it is "everyday" stuff. Once I was getting mild thumb spasms only to realize that I was stressing my hands twisting plastic ice trays for cubes from the fridge. 😁

Take care and keep investigating where the discomfort is coming from!


WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 5' 10"
Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863571 06/28/19 10:33 AM
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You also need to take note of your shoulders/upper back posture. Sometimes it can have a knock on effect.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2863769 06/28/19 10:14 PM
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I will pay attention to both of those. I do notice other things bother my hands at the moment I do them a bit, like carrying large items with one hand. I do have chronic neck pain in general, even when I don't play, but when I used to perform I recall it being much worse than now. ---- I will set up some lessons and meet with a chiropractor to see where that goes before I see an orthopedic hand specialist. Thanks so much for your observations and suggestions!

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2865635 07/03/19 03:04 PM
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I though I'd pop in with an update in case anyone else has this issue. I tried all of the suggestions here:


I stopped playing, (but only for two days) my hands were still stiff at night.

I went to a chiropractor, he said it could be my messed up neck, which he fixed. My neck feels great, (Yay) but my hands are still stiff at night.

I recently found some warm-up exercises but hadn't been consistant because I don't sit down for one long practice session. I tend to just sit down multiple times on days I can so although I warmed up for one or two times playing, I haven't for all of them.

So this morning I just went to a hand specialist Orthopaedist. He X-rayed my hands and did some nerve/carpel tunnel tests. There is no arthritis or anything wrong at all and everything looks good! (as opposed to my gen. practitioner telling me it was arthritis and to use Aspercreme, I am so happy I didn't switch to insurance that requires my Primary to refer me!). The Hand Doctors diagnosis is: I need to warm-up properly. My tendons etc. are irritated by shortened muscles that need to be stretched regularly, like what was suggested here. He is sending me to a physical therapist so I can learn proper warm-ups and stretches for what I am dealing with. I honestly think now after taking those days off that it isn't all the piano's fault. I think some other things I do kind of set things off also, as suggested here, so I probably need to stretch often throughout the day.

I also got in contact with the piano professor at the local college near-by and plan to meet with her when we are both available.

Thanks for the ideas here, I appreciate it:-)

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2865667 07/03/19 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Anna123
Thanks for the ideas here, I appreciate it:-)

I sent you a PM.


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Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2865749 07/03/19 06:56 PM
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Nice to hear back from you. That is good that you have at least located the cause of your discomfort. I always do a thorough warmup before starting exercising. Keep us in the loop. Kind regards.

Re: Hand Discomfort
Anna123 #2867720 07/09/19 03:15 PM
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Anna, I'm the same age as you and have some similar problems. Full disclosure, I'm not a doctor so what follow is worth every penny you paid for it.

Every time I've been to a doctor to complain that "my joint X hurts", the answer is always, "yep, your joint X hurts, take some Advil." The best remedy I've found is full body strength training. Now, by that I don't mean you have to be hoisting tons of metal over your head. Use light-ish weights, just enough to stress your muscles a bit. Do exercises carefully and try to exercise each joint in all directions. That gets tricky with the shoulders since they go in every direction, but the goal is to get the muscle forces on each joint pretty well balanced. Try to include barbell squats, even if it's with an empty bar and you only go half way down, or dead lifts. Also include situps to balance your strengthening back muscles.

The end result, hopefully, is it provide a strong, stable, and flexible platform for your arms and hands. Maybe it's more like a crane or gantry from your ankles all the way up to your shoulders, and even back down to your elbows. That frees up your wrists and fingers to be pure artists, they won't have to do any other work at all. Consequently, if my theory is correct, they won't get as sore.


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