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Injury cause and prevention

Posted By: A Guy

Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 04:01 AM

Hi, so I hear a lot of people talking about injury at the piano. What are some causes of injury at the piano, and how do you prevent it?
Posted By: ChopinAddict

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 05:08 AM

Try Freeing the Caged Bird by Barbara Lister-Sink. It should answer your questions.
Posted By: pianorigami

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 05:28 AM

Over practicing did it for me one summer. I couldn't play full caliber for a while...
You need to warm-up every day, take breaks, and stop when you feel tension. Otherwise, you build up muscles as you practice, so if you build up slowly to more/longer hours, it isn't detrimental to your health!
Posted By: Orange Soda King

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 05:43 AM

Originally Posted by A Guy
Hi, so I hear a lot of people talking about injury at the piano. What are some causes of injury at the piano, and how do you prevent it?


I'm not an expert, but I can give a few pointers and explanations that may help:

-Make sure your physical approach to playing the piano is good. Yes, this is incredibly broad and incredibly vague, and I can't explain everything perfectly by typing to you on this forum. (If I could, nobody would need teachers anymore. Or, it actually is possible, and I'm just not that advanced yet. I'm still a student! wink ) This includes good posture, being able to relax your shoulders, elbow, forearm, and wrist, while still being able to keep a good bridge/curl and firmness to your knuckles and fingers. This also includes a good approach to other technical difficulties: playing octaves? Don't let yourself tense up; practice legato with the upper fingers and keep your thumb as relaxed as possible as much as possible, for example. Chords? Make sure you're thinking about the voicing and voice leading of chords in a bigger line, and once again, don't allow yourself to tense up. If tension is an issue, I probably can't help you anymore online. A good teacher is your best bet.

-SLOW PRACTICE, EVEN AFTER YOU CAN PLAY PASSAGES FULL TEMPO. It keeps it solid, it keeps you focusing on all the inner workings of the passage. You do need to occasionally (NOT often) go through passages at full tempo, and you should also try other tempi in between, but slow practice is the best bet. Getting tired of slow practice? You should be making music slowly, not just practicing slowly to build character and build discipline and say you practiced slowly a lot.

-Don't bite off too much. Take a step back after wrestling with something difficult for a while and analyze what kind of progress you have made. Analyze what you have been able to do, and what is still tricky for you. Since we're discussing injuries, think a lot about what you notice physically. Once again, this might be really difficult to do if you haven't been taught how to do this and don't have a lot of experience doing it, so a good teacher is your best bet.
Posted By: Derulux

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 06:04 AM

1. Tension due to incorrect playing
2. A fallboard that won't stay open
3. A small child who heavily closes said fallboard while you're hands are still there
4. Sharp-edged keys
5. Keys that won't press down, and/or require different amounts of force
6. Rotten fruit and vegetables thrown very hard by audience members
7. Closing the lid on your hands
8. Running over a toe when moving the piano
9. For that matter, a piano falling on you
10. Mostly, the tension thing

EDIT: Oh yeah, prevention...

Uhh. Don't have tension. Yep. Or children. wink
Posted By: Pathbreaker

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 12:27 PM

Originally Posted by pianorigami
Over practicing did it for me one summer. I couldn't play full caliber for a while...
You need to warm-up every day, take breaks, and stop when you feel tension. Otherwise, you build up muscles as you practice, so if you build up slowly to more/longer hours, it isn't detrimental to your health!


It seems so simple but taking frequent breaks is really important. My injury in the past was from marathon practice sessions. Not to mention taking breaks will actually increase your progress so it's a win-win.
Posted By: A Guy

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 12:52 PM

Originally Posted by Derulux
6. Rotten fruit and vegetables thrown very hard by audience members


Number one cause of injury while playing the piano smile thanks to everyone who have answered so far.
Posted By: A Guy

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 12:56 PM

I had a past teacher who spent years on getting me to play relaxed. However, in hard pieces, many times at full tempo I still feel tension after playing for a while. On this case, should I stop completely, or is it possible to just go back to slow practice. The reason I ask this is I will be gong on a vacation, and every day I will not have a 2-hour timeframe to practice, if I feel tension, and I stop, I would've wasted the rest of the 2 hours.
Posted By: Derulux

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 06:51 PM

Originally Posted by A Guy
Originally Posted by Derulux
6. Rotten fruit and vegetables thrown very hard by audience members


Number one cause of injury while playing the piano smile thanks to everyone who have answered so far.

It is for me.. at least when I actually used to perform in public, anyway. grin But I've actually had most of those happen to me, which is how I came up with the list...

Quote
I had a past teacher who spent years on getting me to play relaxed. However, in hard pieces, many times at full tempo I still feel tension after playing for a while. On this case, should I stop completely, or is it possible to just go back to slow practice. The reason I ask this is I will be gong on a vacation, and every day I will not have a 2-hour timeframe to practice, if I feel tension, and I stop, I would've wasted the rest of the 2 hours.

Most tension is caused by either poor alignment, poor coordination, or a combination of the two. If you discover which one, you can correct it. smile
Posted By: Bob Newbie

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 07:12 PM

nothing worse than a cowardly tomato, one that hits you and runs! smile
Posted By: jdw

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 07:22 PM

I think if you start to feel tension, you can slow down and analyze it as Derulux suggests. Or, if you can't identify the cause right away, you could shift to playing that feels good (either slower or other stuff altogether) so you don't lose your time.
Posted By: Arghhh

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 08:47 PM

No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).
Posted By: Pathbreaker

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 08:53 PM

Originally Posted by Arghhh
No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).


It's a good point. I think repetition is the culprit more than overall duration. Especially if it's repetition with tension. As long as you are not doing this I don't see 2 hours as being much of a concern.
Posted By: A Guy

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 09:30 PM

Originally Posted by Arghhh
No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).

Oh... I actually do this quite a lot on difficult passages...
Posted By: Pathbreaker

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 09:37 PM

I recall my teacher's advice being that it's supposed to feel good when you play. Most passages, even the most difficult, have a right way to do it. If you are doing many repetitions and it's still not getting under the fingers it might be better to do more analysis and make some changes to how you physically approach the passage. Getting it right before doing those repetitions will save you time and damage.

I used to spend hours hammering away at difficult sections trying to beat them into submission. It wasn't the time that was the problem but the methods I was using.
Posted By: Louis Podesta

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/13/13 11:24 PM

Originally Posted by A Guy
I had a past teacher who spent years on getting me to play relaxed. However, in hard pieces, many times at full tempo I still feel tension after playing for a while. On this case, should I stop completely, or is it possible to just go back to slow practice. The reason I ask this is I will be gong on a vacation, and every day I will not have a 2-hour timeframe to practice, if I feel tension, and I stop, I would've wasted the rest of the 2 hours.


One thing my coach, Thomas Mark (www.pianomap.com) teaches in private lessons is that every movement for every piece should be choreographed just the way a dancer does.

That means that, specific to the morphology of not just your hands, but also your arms, shoulders, upper and lower body, you should make certain adjustments for each and every movement that occurs while you are playing.

If you look at films of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Arrau, etc., they are in total control of every movement they make while playing a piece.

If you desire further information, you may access, through most libraries or Amazon, Dr. Mark's book, "What Every Pianist Needs To Know About The Body."

Having been taught the mental conditioning of relaxation, early on, you are way ahead of the game, when it comes to performing at a very high level.
Posted By: A Guy

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 01:45 AM

Ok, thanks for the advice! I will be sure to buy the book.
Posted By: hreichgott

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 01:53 AM

Originally Posted by Louis Podesta
[quote=A Guy]One thing my coach, Thomas Mark (www.pianomap.com) teaches in private lessons is that every movement for every piece should be choreographed just the way a dancer does.

That means that, specific to the morphology of not just your hands, but also your arms, shoulders, upper and lower body, you should make certain adjustments for each and every movement that occurs while you are playing.

Both of my most recent teachers teach this way as well. Not using that book though. Oddly this is a great process to go through in order to play relaxed and naturally!
Posted By: Arghhh

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 05:03 AM

Originally Posted by A Guy
Originally Posted by Arghhh
No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).

Oh... I actually do this quite a lot on difficult passages...


I suppose if you get through 10 perfectly on the first or second try, it wouldn't be that bad. But if you're like me, I find that I don't have the focus necessary to get through 10 and often ended up doing probably 60 attempts at once. My recent practice is to do 3 perfectly, and then come back multiple times in my practice session for 3 more. I'm not positive this is a better method, but it makes sense to me...
Posted By: PianoWhisperer

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 04:11 PM

I agree with ChopinAddict. Watch Freeing the Caged Bird by Barbara Lister-Sink. I am currently studying with her and she definitely knows what she is talking about. Her DVD lists the common causes of injury and how to prevent/correct those habits. Hope this helps!
Posted By: A Guy

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 04:15 PM

Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by A Guy
Originally Posted by Arghhh
No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).

Oh... I actually do this quite a lot on difficult passages...


I suppose if you get through 10 perfectly on the first or second try, it wouldn't be that bad. But if you're like me, I find that I don't have the focus necessary to get through 10 and often ended up doing probably 60 attempts at once. My recent practice is to do 3 perfectly, and then come back multiple times in my practice session for 3 more. I'm not positive this is a better method, but it makes sense to me...

The problem is that with me, I'll try and get 5 or 10 in a row, but if I don't get it, I get really frustrated and lose my cool. Then there's basically no way I can get it now, but I'm not calm enough to know to quit... Hmm seems like there's multiple recommendations of the caged bird DVD, I'll see if I can get it...
Posted By: PianoWhisperer

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 04:43 PM

There are excerpts from the DVD on youtube. Here is the link to an excerpt where she talks about potentially harmful technical habits. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjOGk3TtG0M
Posted By: Louis Podesta

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/14/13 11:39 PM

Originally Posted by A Guy
Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by A Guy
Originally Posted by Arghhh
No one has mentioned doing too many repetitions of something in one sitting. My teacher made a remark to me that the students of hers who ended up with injuries were often also the ones who practiced things obsessively (like trying to play a passage 10x perfectly, with multiple failures causing me to restart my counting at 1).

Oh... I actually do this quite a lot on difficult passages...


I suppose if you get through 10 perfectly on the first or second try, it wouldn't be that bad. But if you're like me, I find that I don't have the focus necessary to get through 10 and often ended up doing probably 60 attempts at once. My recent practice is to do 3 perfectly, and then come back multiple times in my practice session for 3 more. I'm not positive this is a better method, but it makes sense to me...

The problem is that with me, I'll try and get 5 or 10 in a row, but if I don't get it, I get really frustrated and lose my cool. Then there's basically no way I can get it now, but I'm not calm enough to know to quit... Hmm seems like there's multiple recommendations of the caged bird DVD, I'll see if I can get it...


The one thing that is so difficult for most pianists is what they call "slow practice." The big secret is that it does not mean playing some passage at a very slow tempo.

What it does mean is to take into consideration Dr. Thomas Mark's recommendation. That is you portion off a particular passage that is giving you trouble, and then you practice it deliberately and slowly, looking at each and every finger, the shape of your wrist, the height of your body, the bench height, and every other factor associated with that passage.

As I said before, this is what the famous concert pianists do, and have done for centuries. Playing it over and over, as I have done on many occasions (which is the natural tendency) does not further the process, and often times results in injury.

Thomas Mark teaches that, after a couple of days, if it is not improving, then you tear it down to the basics and re-analyze the situation. Further, the old adage of "put it aside and then come back to it later," is very good advice for a whole lot of reasons.
Posted By: Atrys

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 12:11 AM

Doing "too many repetitions" of a passage won't cause injury...

What will cause injury, is if you're so distracted while performing the repetitions, that you forgot to play in a healthy (relaxed, etc.) manner.

Nothing about healthy repetition will cause injury.

Originally Posted by Louis Podesta

Thomas Mark teaches that, after a couple of days, if it is not improving, then you tear it down to the basics and re-analyze the situation. Further, the old adage of "put it aside and then come back to it later," is very good advice for a whole lot of reasons.

This is brilliant advice! Often (actually, always), your CNS needs idle time to settle new stimuli (new passage work, etc). This is why "coming back to it later" gives great results!
Posted By: Arghhh

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 06:03 AM

Originally Posted by Atrys

Nothing about healthy repetition will cause injury.


Are you sure (honest question)? Wouldn't there be some friction within the body (i.e. in the carpal tunnel), that repeated motions would have some sort of degenerative effect on the tissues? I know I'm probably not using the right terminology here...
Posted By: Atrys

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 06:26 AM

Originally Posted by Arghhh

Are you sure (honest question)? Wouldn't there be some friction within the body (i.e. in the carpal tunnel), that repeated motions would have some sort of degenerative effect on the tissues?

Generally? Yes. At the piano? Not necessarily. The human body is extremely resilient. If the motion does not cause any amount of degeneration or stress, then it follows that the sum of doing the motion 10000 times will not cause any amount degeneration or stress.

However, this is the trick! Playing in such a way that minimizes risk of injury (you're probably thinking of Repetitive Strain Injury).

Everyone here knows this of course, and it's a very broad statement, but it bears repeating: if you play in a healthy, natural manner, you will have minimal to zero chance of injury (no matter how many repetitions, etc.).
Posted By: jdw

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 01:03 PM

Originally Posted by Atrys
[

Everyone here knows this of course, and it's a very broad statement, but it bears repeating: if you play in a healthy, natural manner, you will have minimal to zero chance of injury (no matter how many repetitions, etc.).


But of course, the excessive repetition is bad particularly for those passages that aren't yet nailed down--because there's a technical problem that hasn't been worked out.
Posted By: Derulux

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 05:46 PM

Doing too much of anything has the potential to cause injury. Even if you do it right. There is no way to completely eliminate stress on the body while performing any kind of movement, whether at the piano or not. Minimize, yes. Eliminate, no.
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/15/13 05:58 PM

Well, speaking from first hand experience (I am currently suffering from ulnar nerve entrapment and medial epicondlyitis) over using the same muscles with excessive repetitive motion is surely a reason for injury.

Therefore, avoid over repetition, and stop playing the moment you feel some pain.

If you continue, there is a possibility that a micro level of tear can occur in your tissues. Which will cause some inflammation in that area and probably pain due to compression on the nerves.

If you experience such symptoms, stop playing immediately and preferably go to a physician.
Posted By: hreichgott

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/16/13 02:26 AM

Perhaps if typists and industrial workers were trained as carefully as pianists, they wouldn't get carpal tunnel from their work either!

With most of my students, if I can get them to slow down enough to play a difficult passage slowly, calmly and correctly ONCE, with no stopping or stuttering or physical freaking out or extra movements, it becomes much easier in a hurry, often playable at tempo correctly right away.

Posted By: ChopinAddict

Re: Injury cause and prevention - 12/16/13 09:51 PM

These days my arms ache (it is not really a very sharp pain, but it is still unpleasant) because I bought myself a telescope smile and I move it around a lot (I go on the balcony, downstairs etc. - and I will soon also go to the beach with it!). It weighs about 6.5 kilos, so it is not really light... I hope I will get used to it because at this early stage it is slightly affecting my piano playing. frown
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