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I am an older adult in my 3rd year playing the piano. I do have a piano teacher. I have back pain in the middle of my back only when playing the piano. I wear a back brace that helps some but I think I must be doing something incorrectly for it to hurt. My back is fine otherwise. Can do gardening, house cleaning etc. I've asked my piano teacher but she doesn't see anything wrong. I practice for a couple of hours at a time but take small breaks where I get up and walk around. I live in rural Montana, but there is a University about a 1/2 hour away. But I wouldn't know who to contact or if there is anyone that could observe me playing and know what to look for. Any suggestions? Thanks, Pat


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My immediate thought is to ask what you have learned about "posture", seating, movement, balance, while at the piano. I see that you play flute. When you learned flute, did you learn things about body use there? The issue of body use and balance isn't addressed nearly enough, and sometimes it's addressed badly in the other extreme when a person is told to sit up "straight" etc.

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You may also want to talk to your doctor and schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. A good PT can analyze where the pain is and any posture issues. The PT can also give exercises which strengthen any muscles and can correct any muscle imbalance.

For my lower back issues, the push cross pull exercises my PT gave me helps strengthen my lower back, and lets me maintain proper posture

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I have spine issues that cause pain when I sit for a while and I use an armless office chair while at the piano to lean back and get relief. Like you, I will get up sometimes too. Welcome to the forum.


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It's a posture to blame. You need to experiment with it in order to find one that best suits your body. Try sitting lower and higher, closer and further, pay attention to how your legs are positioned because many back issues are caused by legs position.

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I know this problem, I had this actually even when I was very young. I think it might have something to do with the general posture.


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What has worked best for me are Miranda Esmonde-White's exercises. There are dozens, by now maybe hundreds of them, designed for specific problems. Typically they take about 20 minutes.

If you get some of her DVD's, my advice is to watch them all the way through before trying to do anything. They're extremely complex and varied, so it helps to watch the ones you want to try a few times so you know what to expect.

Also, it's impossible for a beginner to get anywhere close to doing the things she does. But that's not a problem. Whatever you can do helps. In fact, the closer you get to doing it "right" the less you gain from each repetition.

https://essentrics.com/


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You could also search the internet (youtube) for back exercises and try some of them and see what happens.

You may just need gentle stetching exercises periodically.

Good Luck


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Everybody is talking about exercises, stretches, strengthening. How about the act of playing itself? There are a ton of things in piano playing that can cause lower back pain - esp. when doing so for a few hours, breaks or not. There is the way we can move then hands and arms, and how the body works together with that. How high and far away you sit from the piano makes a difference. If you're reading music and it is too low or too high, or you have bad eyes and have to jut your head forward. If you try to sit ramrod straight. If you don't know to rock on your sit bones, to shift your weight. If your legs are tense, and if you are not counterbalancing when leaning to far keys, including with the hips being part of the motion.

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FWIW and IMHO --

Try two things:

a) Breaking up your practice time -- into a morning session and an afternoon session, with some walking-around time (_miles_ of walking-around, not minutes) in between,

and/or

b) Reducing your total practice time.

Practicing for "a couple of hours at a time" -- relatively static posture, without real relaxation breaks -- might be part of the problem.

I second several people's suggestion of a physiotherapist, or kinesiologist. They have sharp eyes for postural problems.

If your disks are starting to degenerate, regular exercise and reduction in practice time might be as well as you can do. The vertebrae often develop bony protrubences [sp?], and those bear on the nerves coming out of the spine, and that hurts a whole lot. You can guess how i know this.


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I have the exact same issue. I restarted piano when I retired about 3 years ago. I would get burning pain in the upper middle area of my back after only about 15 minutes of playing. I have found taking a lot of breaks helps some, I also use a piano chair instead of a bench. Stretching also helps. But, the biggest thing that helps is to relax. When I’m working on something unfamiliar, I find that I intense up and there goes my back. But when I’m playing something I know, I’m relaxed and have no pain. I just have to remember to relax. I can now play for about 2 hours every day with little to no pain.

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Hi there,

Most back pain is caused by being not relaxed. When I play a difficult composition of, for example a French suite of Bach, I put my shoulders high and after half an hour my back is very painfull. After that I have to do some streching. When I play some music that I play for years....no problem. So the more you have to be concentrated, the more there will be be some back pain......we have to deal with......arghhh

Best regards and try to relax.....
Johan B


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Retired? On Medicare? Is there a "Silver Sneakers" exercise class near you? My medicare plan includes it. I love it, wish I could go more often. Flexibility and balance designed for seniors. I have borrowed some of the exercises to do at home with stretchy bands. My problem was the muscles across the top of the shoulders.

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I was unable to sit for more than about 30 minutes without pain since taking most of last year off owing to illness. I've been reading a lot about the Alexander technique and bought "What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body" by Thomas Mark.

It took a lot of experimenting, but I can sit for two hours at a time now. It can take a while to find the right answer, but if you have no other back problems, I would be confident that you can find a solution.

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Originally Posted by MIchael
I have the exact same issue. I restarted piano when I retired about 3 years ago. I would get burning pain in the upper middle area of my back after only about 15 minutes of playing. I have found taking a lot of breaks helps some, I also use a piano chair instead of a bench. Stretching also helps. But, the biggest thing that helps is to relax. When I’m working on something unfamiliar, I find that I intense up and there goes my back. But when I’m playing something I know, I’m relaxed and have no pain. I just have to remember to relax. I can now play for about 2 hours every day with little to no pain.


I have that burning pain but only on the right hand side. I get the same pain when ironing and assume that it’s the fact I’m moving my right arm to the left of center of my body which I probably don’t do much in normal life other than when I’m playing piano ..... or ironing.

I have to consciously make an effort every so often to access what my body is doing and invariably it always turns out that my right hand side is stiff as a board and that I'm hunched over the piano.

Before reading this thread, I hoped that this was the same muscle pain that somebody might get after a gym session and that it would improve in time but now I realise that I need to take action.


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I agree with SamS, doing some kind of core strength, flexibility program really helps. I found that I was slumping at the piano when practicing piano. I instituted a daily core strength and weights program, and I found myself sitting up straight,with no back pain. Just doing 15 minutes of floor exercises, stretches, and hand weights everyday keeps us more limber and less achy. My husband and I have a routine of this, in addition to walking 4-6 miles a day with our dog, It really works to keep a lot of the aches and pains away and keep good flexibility.

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Originally Posted by johnstaf
. . . I've been reading a lot about the Alexander technique and bought "What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body" by Thomas Mark.

It took a lot of experimenting, but I can sit for two hours at a time now. It can take a while to find the right answer, but if you have no other back problems, I would be confident that you can find a solution.


A very good book! Not costly, either.

Quote
. . . .I have to consciously make an effort every so often to access what my body is doing and invariably it always turns out that my right hand side is stiff as a board and that I'm hunched over the piano.

Before reading this thread, I hoped that this was the same muscle pain that somebody might get after a gym session and that it would improve in time but now I realise that I need to take action.


+1. In the gym, you get injured by moving too fast, or over-working muscles and ligaments with excess weight or speed.

On the piano, you get injured by _not_ moving and developing tension, or by mis-positioning your body (or parts of it) and stressing muscles (etc) _statically_. And those errors repeat, until you consciously fix them.

Hence, my standing-height workstation . . .


Last edited by Charles Cohen; 02/02/20 03:53 AM.

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I was in a bad motorcycle accident and messed up my back. I do this for piano.


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Try raising the back legs of your stool by an inch or so. That will allow your lumber spine to be closer to its shape when you're standing.

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I want to thank everyone for the helpful suggestions. I definitely will try some of these suggestions. I was gonna try and comment on everyone's suggestion, but that would take me too long and I do need to get to my piano practice. I do have the book that a couple of people suggested, but haven't read much of it. I'll have to take another look. Sam_S I was not aware of the Silver Sneakers. There is a gym 15 minutes from me that offers this. Will have to see if my Medicare plan will cover that. Again, thanks everyone.


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