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#2776568 10/29/18 06:22 PM
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I’ve been playing ten months, am very dedicated and I practice hours everyday. Apparently I damaged the ulnar nerves in my elbows because some of my fingers are numb and cold and I’m certain that it’s because my hands are so tense. I saw a neurologist and she prescribed physical therapy but I don’t think I’ll get better unless I learn to relax my hands. Does anyone know of an exercise that will help me do this? Thanks everyone!

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Follow your doctor's advice. The problem could well be from the cervical spine / elbow / wrist. (I'm a physician). Neurologic symptoms on extremities generally are the result of a more proximal nerve issue (which may be compression from muscle / ligament / etc...)

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I'm not a medical doctor, but I do have some familiarity with cervical spine injuries that can result in those symptoms. It could be, in my guesstimating opinion, that you previously had stenosis in your cervical spine but the nerve roots to your hands weren't being compressed. But when you took up piano you started sitting at the piano for long periods your shoulders and body lean/slouch forward whilst your neck bends backwards to keep your head up straight to look at the music desk. That can push a bulging disk into your cord according to a spinal model I've seen, and possibly the nerve roots to the hands. This MIGHT possibly be what's going on. Just something to ask your doctor about. Though I'm not sure anything could be determined definitively without an MRI of your cervical spine and EMG.

Good luck.

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Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney
I’ve been playing ten months, am very dedicated and I practice hours everyday. Apparently I damaged the ulnar nerves in my elbows because some of my fingers are numb and cold and I’m certain that it’s because my hands are so tense. I saw a neurologist and she prescribed physical therapy but I don’t think I’ll get better unless I learn to relax my hands. Does anyone know of an exercise that will help me do this? Thanks everyone!


I'm no doctor so I'll stay away from giving any medical advice.
As far as tension is concerned I'm a bit more familiar with it having suffered many years! Of course the tension could be just in your hands but it could also be a product of your whole posture. Frequently musicians have lower and upper back issues, shoulders are another important area to watch carefully. You might be well advised to get someone to review your whole technique from posture right through to hand position. Don't be afraid of going right back to basics and extremely slow practice. You have to train your mind to spot the tension in your body. You can only really do that with very slow methodical practice. It's rarely something that can be fixed in a matter of days or even weeks.

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Have you looked at your posture, especially elbow angle?

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Last edited by Learux; 11/04/18 10:47 AM.

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Ulnar nerve inflammation/injuries are pretty common among pianists - it's due to mis-use when you're working at the piano. Hammering away, pressing too hard, striking keys with force, endless repetition, playing pieces too difficult too soon etc are some of the main causes.
I'm not suggesting that you do any of the above, although I suspect that you probably do - and that is due to inexperience, alas.

You say you've only been playing for 10 months, yet you play for hours each day. With respect, that is way too long a time to be playing for. Think of stamina - it takes months/years to build up good cardio stamina - running a marathon too soon would cause injury. If I played tennis for hours every day, yet I had only been learning for 10 months, I'd probably be in hospital with tennis elbow and heaven knows what else. Piano is no different - it is physical - you have to learn how best to utilise your body - arms, hands, back - all of it. Posture, balance, tension, relaxation etc.

There are some great exercises for ulnar nerve issues - you could try some - or, indeed, work with a physical therapist for a while.

Loving playing the piano is great - but perhaps explore working with a teacher who can enable you to use your whole body correctly when playing - and that will build up stamina and prevent future injury. DO NOT work through pain!
Good luck smile

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You don't start an exercise program by running a marathon the first week. Similarly, you need to build up your playing stamina slowly (and correctly). Per your other thread, where you said you practiced up to 16 hours a day--that is just too much. Even for professionals, who have been playing for a lifetime.

Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney
I’ve been playing ten months, am very dedicated and I practice hours everyday. Apparently I damaged the ulnar nerves in my elbows because some of my fingers are numb and cold and I’m certain that it’s because my hands are so tense. I saw a neurologist and she prescribed physical therapy but I don’t think I’ll get better unless I learn to relax my hands. Does anyone know of an exercise that will help me do this? Thanks everyone!
Remember that anything--even remedial exercises--can be overdone. Some of something is useful; endless repetition is not and leads to injury.

There is a thread current on the Adult Beginner's Forum about tension and relaxation which you might find useful.


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I would advise looking into whether or not a musician's rehilbiltation clinic is close by. I know there are only a few in the country, but the doctors and therapists there excel at helping people through music based injuries. Feel free to PM if you want to know more about my experience at one.

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If you have difficulties with relaxation I think you firstly need to learn to distinguish between tensed state of a muscle and relaxed state. In order to do this you can take advantage of a natural process of relaxation that happens every time after the muscle has been strongly tensed. So if you tense a muscle in your arm or hand very strongly for 10 seconds, the muscle deeply relaxes after that. Note and try to remember this feeling of relaxation. Do this with all muscle groups in every arm and hand for 10 days. After that you'll easily detect
tension and you'll need just to imagine the feeling of relaxation to make a muscle actually relax.

Shaking your hands helps to relax them quickly, too.


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