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pain in my right hand
#3015801 08/20/20 04:51 AM
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Hi all,

I have been practicing very hard a piece of Philip Glass for a couple of days (and I haver just resumed playing after 32 years without), and on the morning of the third day (yesterday) I woke up with a pain in my right hand that goes from the base of the little finger up on the palm near the wrist.

Reading around the forum, it seems that it is because I was too tense (and I was indeed). But I might be wrong. The piece is also quite repetitive.
The question is: is it likely to be the muscle or the tendon? should I now better not play at all, or do play a bit? Are there things I can do to feel better? When can I expect this to go away?

Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3015807 08/20/20 05:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ChiaraTor
Hi all,

I have been practicing very hard a piece of Philip Glass for a couple of days (and I haver just resumed playing after 32 years without), and on the morning of the third day (yesterday) I woke up with a pain in my right hand that goes from the base of the little finger up on the palm near the wrist.

Reading around the forum, it seems that it is because I was too tense (and I was indeed). But I might be wrong. The piece is also quite repetitive.
The solution is obvious.

It doesn't matter what you call it: RSI or tenosynovitis or whatever.

If you haven't done any running for three decades, and then you go do the Robin Hood Marathon (because it's there even if it isn't smirk ), what do you think will happen?

Stop playing immediately, and when you've recovered completely (however long it takes - days or weeks), you can start easing back gently with a nice piece of Bach Invention or Mozart sonata, maybe a few scales & arpeggios, and get your playing mechanism gently back into gear over the next few weeks, building up your playing time very gradually with non-repetitive stuff that uses all your fingers.

Incidentally, I returned to the piano in 2010 after several decades of barely touching anything resembling a keyboard (because I never had one), and did exactly what I advised above (I do as I say rather than just tell people to do what I say rather than do what I do) - gentle scales & arpeggios, K545, Arabeske and Arabesque......gradually building myself back up to Chopin and Rachmaninov etudes over a few weeks. All without strain or pain.

P.S. I see that you've also posted in the Piano Teachers Forum about how to restart. I highly recommend a good teacher - after you've recovered from your injury - and learn some basic technical stuff that you missed out on when you were a student.


"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: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3015809 08/20/20 06:02 AM
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It's not possible or right to try to diagnose a problem through a post, but the first thing you could do is to rest for at least three or four full days, maybe a week, without playing at all. If it's the muscle, the pain will go away. It's very dangerous to practice repetitive movements for a long time. Never persist on the same figure for more than a few minutes straight- you need to listen to your body well. Good and healthy practice is best when it's varied- work on one section or aspect for ten minutes, then another; it keeps your brain more engaged and your muscles more relaxed. Work on the same thing in different ways, but again never persist if the same groups of muscles are involved.

It's often true that if you have to repeat something so much, it means it's not in your mind yet; leave the piano and read the music silently. If it's a rhythmic place that you're struggling with, isolate it and learn it away from the piano: do things like speaking the RH rhythm (ta ti ta ti, or 1&2&3&, or any syllables that work for you) and tapping the LH; tapping the RH and speaking the LH; tapping both; singing RH and playing the LH, etc. Since the piece is quite repetitive, take only a very small chunk to the piano, also practicing it in different ways, and then read the rest with your eyes, maybe with a metronome running, to make sure your body is mentally experiencing the feeling of executing it from beginning to end- it will later know how to do it physically without you having to hammer it.

If your RH is playing arpeggios, make sure your wrist and elbow go slightly along, in the direction of the movement, giving support to the fifth finger.

Also, do you warm up before you play? Do some back, neck, arm, hand and finger stretching exercises, play slow scales and arpeggios. Make sure your mind is always fully engaged and that you are watching out for tension the whole time- we usually injure ourselves when we are not paying enough attention. Never sit in concentrated practice for more than 40 minutes straight without a couple minutes' break. Since you're back playing after years of break, aim for a short time of concentrated, careful practice every day (or two short sessions, e.g. 40 minutes each) and increase it very gradually.

It would also probably help if you share the piece or the section that caused the pain.


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
Arthur Schnabel

Re: pain in my right hand
Ainar #3015813 08/20/20 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Ainar
It would also probably help if you share the piece or the section that caused the pain.

I was learning Philip Glass "The Hours" (first 4 pages out of 10), which essentially has two types of movements.
I miss the vocabulary to describe what I was doing but here is the piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heu9tD0dzkY&t=2165s

I think I was very tense on the arpeggios on the right hand, and the rhythmic movement of the left, as that is a polyrythm and was trying hard to play it properly.
I felt very tense, and even the left hand was exhausted as it only basically does the same movement all along (I tried to change fingers though and probably this was more trained for this type of movement), but I was too enthusiastic to stop....

Thanks for the suggestions on other ways to practice, I didn't think about it...

Last edited by ChiaraTor; 08/20/20 06:27 AM.
Re: pain in my right hand
bennevis #3015815 08/20/20 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
P.S. I see that you've also posted in the Piano Teachers Forum about how to restart. I highly recommend a good teacher - after you've recovered from your injury - and learn some basic technical stuff that you missed out on when you were a student.

Bennevis, thanks for the suggestions...and also those for the other post.

Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3015821 08/20/20 06:37 AM
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ChiaraTor
I heartily agree with complete hand rest until your pain is resolved. Is order to minimize RSI occurrence, consider adding another tool to what has been suggested: work on two pieces which are completely different in the technique needed rather than one repetitive piece.

Monitor your tension: if you notice tension, stop, relax your hands. If necessary, stop after every note. Feeling tense is not a good sign


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3015823 08/20/20 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by ChiaraTor
I was learning Philip Glass "The Hours" (first 4 pages out of 10), which essentially has two types of movements.
If your main interest is minimalist music like Glass (and I believe, also Einaudi) which is based on a lot of repetition involving arpeggios and similar figurations, it's imperative that you learn the correct technique of playing them without strain. Your wrist should be 'loose' and mobile, for instance.

Unvarying repetitive movements (especially at the same unvarying dynamics) with unduly tensed joints are what will predispose you to injuries.

Make sure your teacher, when you get one, is suitably qualified with a teaching diploma from Trinity or ABRSM etc, and that he/she knows what kind of music you're interested in playing.


"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: pain in my right hand
bennevis #3015845 08/20/20 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Your wrist should be 'loose' and mobile, for instance.
This is the most important thing. Tight wrists is the cause of the majority of injuries.

I start feeling tension in the wrists if I don't play for several days, and after 32 years your wrists may be hard as stone, it will require some work to make them relaxed and flexible again. I suggest you firstly find some gentle piece with many non legato notes and intervals (not staccato, just non legato) and start playing it slowly with your wrists working as shock-absorbers, let your wrists sink below keys level with every note and emerge again. It's what helps me best after a break.

Good luck! Feel better soon!

Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3015883 08/20/20 11:53 AM
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You're in England? I know it's a big country, but you might consider contacting Marina Petrov http://www.marinapetrov.co.uk/cv.php. Marina is part of an organization called ISSTP (I once wrote an article on Tai-Chi/QiGong and piano practice that they published). She specializes in helping pianists with injuries.

Yes - STOP PLAYING until completely healed. It might be too late, but for the 1st 24 hour, ice is good. After that, heat. I'm not a physician, but.... it is my experience, that ice reduces inflammation in the acute phase of an injury. After that, heat stimulates circulation. Exactly how that contributes to healing I leave to the physicians who might be lurking here on PW as well as those with detailed knowledge of the physiological effects of cold and heat for trauma.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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I Make Music that Lifts People Up & Brings Them Together
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Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3016150 08/21/20 03:00 AM
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Thanks everyone, great suggestions...

(and Marina Petrov has also great advice on her website)

Chiara

Re: pain in my right hand
ChiaraTor #3016151 08/21/20 03:19 AM
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I am also restarting practice the piano after many many years. (because COVID)
I have started with Bach and Mozart and play them very slowly for the firsts weeks, maximum 1h per day. Recently I have started with Liszt's Paganini Variation max 2h per day. I also felt some pains on the little finger so I slowed down with Liszt practice to 1/2h maximum per day and the pain is almost all gone now.

Last edited by zonzi; 08/21/20 03:20 AM.

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