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Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 03:33 PM
I’m almost 73. Is this good advice or not? I am taking lessons from a very young teacher. He seems good, if a bit inexperienced. He is a Berklee graduate. We are focusing on improvising/solo piano. I have recently developed mild arthritis in my hands. Nothing too bad. But my fourth and fifth fingers especially get sore and weak. I use AspirCream or Bengay, as I don’t want to take pain killers every day if I don’t have too. I play scales for five minutes to warm up. At yesterday’s lesson he suggested I start doing finger exercises as he could see the weakness in my 4th and fifth fingers. The first exercise he showed me requires I hold down five notes in each hand, while lifting one finger at a time. For example; hold down C-D-E-F-G in both hands. Now lift and place my fourth fingers. Then the little fingers. I have read that Hanon is dangerous for older adults. I’ve been playing about 6 years. Most of you have lots of experience. Do you think this is good advice for me or could it actually cause problems?
Posted By: Learux Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 04:07 PM
I am not a doctor but if the exercises don't hurt I think they will be beneficial.

The exercise you describe can be done anywhere. I do this on my knee when waiting on a traffic light.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 05:29 PM
I would strongly recommend speaking with your rheumatologist.

I also suffer from the unwanted attentions of old Arthur, and my rheumy actually recommended piano to keep my afflicted finger joints moving. But there are different types of arthritis and everybody's situation is unique.
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 05:43 PM
On the whole it's lifting the fingers from the surface of the keys that is bad. The exercise is ok in my book.
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 05:45 PM
My GP said it’s just old age and to take Tylenol. My insurance is a PPO, so I can see a specialist if I want. But he didn’t think they could do much at this point other than perform a lot of test. He also agreed piano is the best exercise for it. The question I’m asking you teacher’s is about the exercises. Do you recommend them for “super seniors”?
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 05:48 PM
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
On the whole it's lifting the fingers from the surface of the keys that is bad. The exercise is ok in my book.


That’s what it is. Hold the other keys down and lift the target finger off that key completely.
Originally Posted by Learux
I am not a doctor but if the exercises don't hurt I think they will be beneficial.

+1. I think it's best to listen to your body. Do whatever makes your fingers feel good and avoid whatever increases pain.

Hanon exercises can be played in many different ways technically. You may need technical adjustments in order to diminish pain. Let your teacher know if something causes additional pain, I'm sure he'll understand.
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 06:48 PM
Originally Posted by TomLC
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
On the whole it's lifting the fingers from the surface of the keys that is bad. The exercise is ok in my book.


That’s what it is. Hold the other keys down and lift the target finger off that key completely.
Shouldn't be. You relax your finger and the force of the released key pushes it up. Good for young and old alike!
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 06:57 PM
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by TomLC
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
On the whole it's lifting the fingers from the surface of the keys that is bad. The exercise is ok in my book.


That’s what it is. Hold the other keys down and lift the target finger off that key completely.
Shouldn't be. You relax your finger and the force of the released key pushes it up. Good for young and old alike!


That makes since. Maybe he was lifting his to demonstrate and I misunderstood. Thank you,
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 06:58 PM
Or maybe he's a poor teacher? Most are.
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 07:02 PM
He’s young and he teaches mostly kids. That’s my concern. Maybe he isn’t aware of the issues many seniors have.
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 07:05 PM
You wouldn't know. If you leave the lesson punching the air you've got a good'n.
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 07:13 PM
✊🏽
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 07:17 PM
Don't waste your time not having fun try many other teachers.
Posted By: spartan928 Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/14/19 10:19 PM
I have experienced strain and early injury signs from piano practice and few things helped me. First, I try to be very mindful of tension. I find myself getting more tense when I'm pushing tempo etc and this tension really strains the muscles and joints so I have to consciously relax and avoid unnecessary tension from the torso all the way down through the fingers. Second, I try not to do too may repetitions without a break. Some stuff, especially exercises or small difficult sections one can play over and over and over trying to get down, but I try to move to other pieces or sections after 5 minutes to have a more rounded "workout" if you will. Lastly, I've notice how much good form can have on reducing stress and tension overall. Work with your teacher because everyone is physically different, but in general the relaxed slightly cupped hand and maintaining good posture, firm but delicate touch staying close to the keys helps me reduce the amount of energy to play sections and thus reducing stress on the hand. So, long and short, I don't think exercises are intrinsically "bad" for older adults, it's just how you go about using them in your practice routine as a whole being mindful of the physical aspects contributing to overuse injuries and stress.
Posted By: malkin Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/15/19 01:41 AM
I've done those hold down and lift exercises. Slowly. Staying relaxed. Staying in touch with how it feels. A little bit every day for a while. I let my teacher know when something is uncomfortable, awkward, painful, or impossible.

I'm a little less ancient than you, but klutzy and prone to injury so if I let that stop me, I would never move from my couch.
Originally Posted by Learux
I am not a doctor but if the exercises don't hurt I think they will be beneficial.

The exercise you describe can be done anywhere. I do this on my knee when waiting on a traffic light.


+1, on both counts.

Based on what I read here, there's a simple rule for finger exercises:

. . . If it hurts, _stop_.

Tendon overuse strains heal _really_ slowly.

If you're just learning piano, "finger independence" is one of the more difficult things to master. The movement in the "lift each finger" exercise is not used in _any_ normal activity. You'll be developing new neural pathways, in order to do it without excess tension. Be gentle on yourself.
Posted By: KurtZ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/19/19 05:36 AM
You can't exercise a finger because it has no muscles only tendons. I only point this out because right activity only follows right thinking and understanding.

My hands are wrecked from years of drumming and bicycling. Last year I had two cysts removed from deep in my wrist. The two exercises given to me by the hand specialist physio are: lay a hand towel down on a table top. Lay your hand on top of it and gather it into a ball with your digits. For the extensors: close your hand in a loose C shape just small enough to let the other hand wrap and trap the fingers. GENTLY try to open the trapped hand against the fingers. Just a few times on each side holding for a slow 5 count. Better to do 3 sets, 3 times a day than doing 15 sets once a day.

I do SLOW wrist curls both wrist up and wrist down. When I feel good, I use 5lb weights. When I'm not so good I use 2.5s. Slow up and slow down. The reverse curls with the back of the hand up are really important because they balance all the pressing we do with the flexors (grabber muscles) .

Diclofenac Sodium is the generic for Voltaren an expensive topical anti-inflamatory and analgesic. It's stronger than Ben-Gay( or aspercreme) but has the same advantage of not going through your gut ,kindeys etc. It works well on hands because the joints are just under the skin and not covered by lots of muscle. it also carries less cardiovascular risk than oral NSAIDS. It's still prescription only so your doctor will get to have their say.

kurt
I would imagine that you're taking lessons because you want to make music. And it's astounding what just loving making music can do. I have extremely small hands, and my right hand little finger is missing the top part after I caught it in a door as a child. It's quite obviously deformed. And If I put my hands on a flat surface and lift each finger independently, my fourth finger barely lifts off the surface. It's an "exercise" I personally feel is useless. Playing scales at various tempos is much more fruitful.

As I young student I went through those requisite scales and exercises ... plus Hanon ( which I do recommend because you can get a little "action" without having to read the notes.) I was aiming for a concert career and headed for Juilliard, where I played my entrance exam hitting many of the right hand octaves with my thumb and third or fourth finger ... a weird compromise which I mastered through sheer persistence. Either I was playing at such a speed, the adjudicators didn't notice, or they just accepted my solution. When I began classes, obviously my teachers noticed my limitations, but apart from not being able to play Liszt and some of the pieces requiring a great many chords and octaves, it never hindered me.

My suggestion is first of all ... RELAX your hands. Don't stiffen up. Shake your arms and hands now and then to relax ... but not too vigorously.. Just to get the circulation going. Never do an exercise which causes you pain.

Then see if you and your teacher can find "exercises" in the music you are learning. Repeating one or two measures can be an excellent exercise ... and you're learning the music at the same time. And the much maligned scales are one of the best exercises of all. Because you learn to pass the thumb smoothly under another finger while playing smoothly. Don't worry about lifting your fingers "high" ... it's not necessary. Some pianists do lift their fingers well off the keys ... but many do not. Relaxing is the key.

And most of all. ENJOY. grin
Posted By: malkin Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/19/19 01:44 PM
When I do those lift one finger exercises, I sometimes lift the wrong finger, so I think it helps that problem. My right hand is fine enough, but my left is considerably worse since a cat, whom I believe to have been rabid, tried to eat my left index finger.

My teacher and I call this "rabies hand" and laugh when the wrong finger goes somewhere surprising.
Posted By: wszxbcl Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 11/22/19 06:59 PM
I'm an older student and my teacher told me not to do finger lifting exercises because I can hurt myself. I have to tell you that my teacher knows my personality and that I may overdo it to achieve at something. That's probably why she's careful what she tells me to do.
Posted By: RogerRL Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 12/02/19 09:37 PM
Hi Tom,
Not a teacher, but plenty of experience with a lifetime of various joint/tendon/nerve issues, and I can say: don't listen to ANYBODY about this stuff but your own body and a qualified doctor (preferably not just a GP). I'm not at all trying to be mean, but you don't have a future at Carnegie hall ahead of you given your late start, why take the slightest risk at injuring yourself when at your age repairs come slowly if at all?

Now, to some specifics. A lot of pain come from nerve injury or tendons. For example, tendons swell and they do not slide through the channels as they are supposed to. It will be hard to press with authority, and it will be painful as well. This is not evidence of "weak" fingers, and it will not be helped by practice. It's a biological issue generally only relieved by rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, etc. Nerves get compressed. In that case your fingers will seem truly weak - as it not able to exert force (many times in piano people use 'weak' and 'strong' to mean skilled or not, which just terribly conflates 2 different things). The last thing you want to do in that case is push harder, take on more exercises, etc. Again, in general (I'm being vague because I am not a doctor and couldn't diagnose and offer advice on the internet even if I was), the thing to do is rest, etc.

These finger exercises are, IMO, terrible and potentially injurious. Just one example. Your 3rd and 4th finger are controlled by the same tendon. There is NO amount of practice that will change that. This raising one finger at a time is highly likely to lead to injury.

I'm prone to all of this stuff, and you just have to tune out the naysayers. I used to rock climb. Well, I couldn't grip very hard, but everyone just says "grip harder, do pullups", on and on. Terrible advice if the issue is bio-mechanics and not due to being out of shape.

Your suspicions are right on in my experience, and even if not, so what? You leave a bit of skill 'on the table' so to speak. Big deal. Play. Have fun. Rest when you want to. In another thread on here people are discussing whether to yell at a child whose mother is dying. it's crazy. None of this matters. It's pushing some keys and hopefully enjoying the process and results. This teacher is not your boss, they do not get to control your life, just ignore them or fire them if you need to, and get what you can from them otherwise.

Sorry for the passion, but I've spent a lifetime (I'm 53, been dealing with this since age 10 or so) getting terrible advice from people that aren't doctors, and don't understand or accept that not all bodies are equal. Some can 'push through the pain', in others that just breaks you in a very real, biological way. I had to listen to it through cello lessons, through classical guitar, and now piano. They aren't doctors, they aren't qualified to give medical advice, don't listen to them. Nerve damage is real, and it is permanent, while the teacher just signs up another student when you drop away.

And, for what it is worth, be very suspicious of all the 'just relax' posts. Yes, being tense will make things worse, but there is overuse. It doesn't matter how loose you are, tendons run through channels, and if your biology is such that things are tight in there, you are going to do damage with overuse no matter how relaxed you are. Relaxation sometimes gets sold on here as the panacea for all ills. It ain't true. Carpal tunnel (for example) is not fixed by relaxation, you just might be able to go a bit longer with relaxation.

Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 12/02/19 10:52 PM
I appreciate all the advice and suggestions. Due to the holidays, I haven't seen my teacher since I opened this thread. My thoughts are that I will explain to him I did not have weak hands all of my life. I also played drums professionally for a few years after high school band, orchestra. etc. I have always been in good shape, sailing, golf, even hot yoga. It is only now that I am experiencing mild arthritis. So it has become more difficult playing bass notes in my left hand. He did suggest I start using my ring finger instead of my little finger. I plan to start trying that. My technician is going to lighten the action on my piano this weekend. As an aside; the issue of my age and late start at the piano came up. Yes I am 72, started piano at 67. So close to six years now. A good friend and another teacher both asked me "what do you want?" What they mean is: just play the standards and show tunes you like from easy to intermediate arrangements. Be happy! Maybe they are right.
FWIW --

I'm not sure of whether this will help, or not:

. . . Have you tried playing on a touch-sensitive, non-weighted ("synth-action") keyboard ?

Some are quite light in their action. The problem I've had, is getting good control over dynamics. And it's not easy to find 88-key instruments.

You might discuss this with your teacher.
Posted By: ˆTomLCˆ Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 12/05/19 11:04 PM
Thanks, Charles. My technician is coming Saturday to regulate the action on my NV10 so that it will have a lighter down weight. That should help. I decided to forgo those exercises. I think that playing scales and arpeggiated chords as I have been doing are better exercises.
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Can finger exercises cause injuries? - 12/07/19 05:48 PM
Try cutting out wheat.
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