RSI and piano

Posted by: ten left thumbs

RSI and piano - 05/31/09 06:25 PM

I'd like some collective wisdom on this one.

Recently I've been having symptoms I'm putting down to RSI in my right hand. From what I can tell this is related specifically to using the computer mouse, not to playing piano, or for that matter, guitar. NOt that I've been doing anything taxing with my RH musically anyway. I was just wondering if other people had had previous experience with this.

What I get mostly is pins and needles in the hand in the morning. It didn't hurt at all till the doctor examined it (grrr) but now using a mouse really sets it off. The doc did refer me on to the 'hand clinic' whatever that is, and made vague, doctorish noises about an operation - to release the tendon?. I said all I asked for was to see the physio to get some exercises and a proper diagnosis.

If anyone knows whether playing piano exacerbates RSI, or has played through RSI, or has had this operation, I'd be interested to hear what you can tell me.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: RSI and piano - 05/31/09 07:11 PM

Put both hands up at eye level with the palms facing outward
and wiggle all 10 fingers vigorously. If you can do that,
there's nothing wrong with your hands.

Your hands can take tremendous abuse. You slam them in
doors, dogs bite them, you sprain your fingers catching
balls, you cut your fingers on sharp objects, etc.,
during the course of your life, because they are
what we use to first investigate things with and
do things with. A computer mouse, or a piano, is
not going to be enough to seriously hurt them.
Posted by: jotur

Re: RSI and piano - 05/31/09 07:30 PM

Hey, tlt - I can only speak from personal experience here, but I once quit a job because a long spell of continuous hours of data entry threatened to mess up my wrists from RSI, and I thought perhaps playing my piano was more important smile

I went to a physical therapist, and ended up with upper-body strength, posture, etc, exercises and I thought it was a big help. During this time it always seemed to me that playing the piano actually helped, rather than exacerbated, the RSI - possibly because there was indeed so much more movement in other ways than just typing has. Possibly just because it was so much more pleasant that I was more relaxed laugh Lately I've been paying much more attention to the "easiness" with which I play - the lack of tenseness, and the fluidity, and that makes the piano playing more fun, too - you may not have as much trouble with that as I do because you're a more advanced pianist.

It also seems to me that it makes a difference at what height the mouse is - not so high that my wrist has to rest on the edge of the surface, and not so low that I put weight on the heel of my hand while I'm using the mouse, so maybe that check would help.

In my case I still occasionally get the tingly feeling - particularly if I've used my arms as a pillow while I'm sleeping - but I definitely don't have symptoms I'd feel I needed an operation to alleviate. Others may have different experiences.

But I think you're on the right track by looking for exercises.

Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: RSI and piano - 06/01/09 08:53 AM

You are quite right, gyro, the body has an amazing ability to heal. But only if we are sensible enough to let it heal without causing more injury. You let your hand get bitten by a dog every day of your life, your hand is going to be messed up. wink

Interesting Cathy that you think piano playing helped rather than hindered healing. I actually feel the same way, and it's not so far-fetched.

I once had a foot problem and felt that driving helped it. Soundes crazy. Then when I got sorted out with the right exercises I realised that one of the calf-stretches was exactly the same as the on-off of the clutch I did while driving. Not so crazy.

Also interesting what you say about upper body strength, because I have a dysfunctional shoulder on the other side (old war wound) and I have noticed my right shoulder gets incredibly tense when I play guitar. Beginner's tension.

Have decided to see an osteopath on this one. I need a proper diagnosis, and I need to know what to do, and I can't wait for the damn hand-clinic.

Originally Posted By: jotur

Lately I've been paying much more attention to the "easiness" with which I play - the lack of tenseness, and the fluidity, and that makes the piano playing more fun, too - you may not have as much trouble with that as I do because you're a more advanced pianist.

LMAO! smile

No-one else had RSI?
Posted by: Kymber

Re: RSI and piano - 06/01/09 09:52 AM

I have RSI and went to a physical therapist.
I do exercises with a resistance band and that has helped quite a bit. She said getting regular exercise in general is good for it too. Also, be careful of how you are sleeping. Make sure you aren't resting your head on your arms and you neck and spine are in alignment. I would definitely seek other opinions. I think surgery should be a last resort. Look into something like the Alexander technique - its good to be aware of you posture etc. at all times. I have a bad habit of slouching b/c of being at a computer all day.

I've also had acupuncture and myofacial massage and found relief with both.

Oh yes and I agree playing the piano actually makes me feel better. My PT said that there are tree groups of people that come in with good posture. Dancers, horse back riders and pianists.

Oh wait - I have the best idea. Win the lottery and quit your job!

Best of luck.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: RSI and piano - 06/01/09 12:18 PM

Your lucky being in the UK. BAPAM has free clinics, check them out. ISSTIP, who I am affiliated with, may also help.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: RSI and piano - 06/01/09 04:01 PM

This is all very good to know, thanks.

I especially like the idea about winning the lottery.

I've made an appointment with the osteopath - this guy I trust to point me in the right direction for exercises and posture and stuff.
Posted by: Sundew

Re: RSI and piano - 06/02/09 04:45 AM

Your GP may suspect carpal tunnel syndrome, hence the referral. They use a short series of painless electrical nerve stimulation tests to confirm the diagnosis. I have carpal tunnel, my RH worse than my LH. It has become no worse over the past months. I practice every day. I've been away over the weekend so missed 3 days. I noticed the pins and needles in my RH were worse than usual after a couple of days. Possibly coincidence with lack of practice, for, when driving, my RH frequently numbs, and the 3 hours driving there may well have exacerbated the condition.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: RSI and piano - 06/03/09 06:37 PM

Update: saw the osteopath today.

He pummelled, prodded, pushed and poked, gave me stretches to do, but said there was a limit to what exercise (posture, etc) could do. Apparently this carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common in women of my age (lol) and I have just the right anatomy for it (small hands). The issue is that the tendons and nerve go through the same small space, and holding and clicking on a mouse scrunches my carpel tunnel up even smaller.

Here's the important bit - stretching for an octave opens it out, which is why piano helps. I'm wondering now if the horrendous strecthes I do on guitar are protecting my left hand even more.

Anyway, the operation is very effective, he says, and I tend to believe him. It's in his interests to have me going back for exercises and therapy, so if he thinks that exercise just is delaying the ineviatble scalpel, then I tend to believe him.

In the meanwhile, I've worked out I can use the mouse with my RH, between fingers 3-5. All the time I stretch my thumb out. And now I'm waiting for the conductivty tests sundew describes to find out if I'm a candidate for surgery. My feeling right now is, if it's offered, I'll take it.