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#3163554 10/12/21 09:51 AM
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For about a week, I've experienced early and worsening signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Obviously I'm devastated. I'd like to ask people here that also have to manage that, how do you handle it?

I've read up on it all morning, this article sums up what I've read everywhere pretty well, but obviously it's also geared towards selling their product:
https://www.mycarpaltunnel.com/carpal-tunnel-treatment/for-musicians/

I've already tried the extensors workout with a rubber band and felt immediate, if short lived, relief. So that's encouraging.
I've also done the stretch exercises in the video and I think they'll help too.

The brace they recommend though, is very expensive. Has someone had a positive experience with a cheaper product?

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Do you have a teacher you could talk to? It is probably important to try to get to the root cause of it. Braces/stretching may only get you so far. There could be something in your technique, practice regimen, or repertoire that is giving you this overuse.

spk #3163582 10/12/21 12:05 PM
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No I don't have a teacher. I would love one but that's not really a possibility for me right now. I know a lot of people will say that's why I have carpal tunnel, maybe they are right. In my case there are definitely other lifestyle factors involved that can't be eliminated though: I suffered another type of wrist strain injury in my teens (long before taking up the piano) , I earn a living typing at a computer all day, and I have a 1yo son that picking up and putting down has possibly been the biggest strain of all. I am not prepared to giving up playing altogether, which some will say I should do. I want to find a way to live with this.

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I am really sorry that you are going through this! I am not a medical professional however I am a professional musician and had very many close colleagues struggle with injuries, partly threatening their careers and disrupting their daily chores.

The best advise I have gotten on this topic is to remove the aggravating factors as soon as possible. That means to practice as little as possible- not at all for now if you can live with it- and get a good, high quality chair-wrist support for your computer usage if you don’t have one already. In the case you are describing, I think the computer work is a larger risk than the piano playing.

Definitely see a doctor as soon as possible and make your return to piano playing very, very lightly. Not playing over a certain dynamic (mezzoforte for example) helps a lot.

It seems that your symptoms are not too bad for now. This is great news, there are chances that you can make a full recovery rather quickly. These things tend to come back easier once it happens. It might be worth looking into Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais to facilitate your movements while playing (and using repetitive movements- say computer work.)

Good luck and I hope it gets better really quickly.


"Schubert's music brings tears to our eyes, without any questioning of the soul: this is how stark and real is the way that the music strikes us."
Adorno
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Definitely agree with above, check your computer typing ergonomics and optimize as much as possible. There are ergonomic keyboards and wristrests to look into

Last edited by spk; 10/12/21 12:24 PM.
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Yes I've stopped playing for now but that's not something I accept as a long-term solution. I've booked an appointment at my GP surgery in a couple of weeks, and I've taken all sorts of ergonomic measures around my workspace too now. I'm still not sure about wrist braces for night time though.

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As someone who's had Carpal Tunnel in both my wrists, let me suggest a few things:
1. See a doctor about the problem. Not your piano teacher. Do you ask your doctor for opinions on piano playing??
2. Don't talk to just-any-old surgeon. You need a surgeon who specializes in hand surgery. This is truly a specialized field and only the best surgeons can do hand surgery well.
3. Carpal tunnel is generally the result of pressure on the wrists, so it's a lot more likely that the problem is a result of your computer usage, not the piano. But make sure your surgeon knows about your piano playing to rule it out.
4. Google ergnomics for computer usage. Some things that have helped me include: mousing with my off-hand (or switching between hands); typing with my wrists lifted above the keyboard, not resting on the edge of the desk; using an ergonomic keyboard where the keys are oriented at an angle. The night-time wrist braces never helped me much. But, there are no doubt other options, too.

I ended up having Carpal Tunnel Release surgery on both wrists, one at a time. It's much better to get the surgery done (if you need it) early, rather than after irreparable damage is done. Both surgeries were out-patient and I was back to playing the piano with both hands within a couple of months. In the interim, I practiced my other hand alone, including explorations of some of the one-hand-only repertoire.


Good luck.
Mary


Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman. -- Beethoven
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I used dictation software a lot when I was dealing with RSI. This is difficult if you're working in a space with other people, but if you have a private space it can take the strain off your hands.


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For the piano playing side of things:

My teacher's teacher was Arrau, who put a lot of focus on minimising wrist usage when playing piano, and doing as much as possible with the weight of one's arm. He mentioned that a number of injured pianists came to Arrau (and his disciples) to study and many found they could still play piano, and Garrick Ohlsson was the famous example. My teacher himself (German Diez) had had a few students referred to him after they'd developed carpal tunnel.

You might check this book out: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Piano-Lessons-Claudio-Arrau-Philosophy/dp/0199924341. I've not read the whole thing, but it does go quite a bit into his technique, and it's a pretty interesting (though long) book anyways.

I've transferred a lot of what I learned from studying under my teacher into my computer usage as well (I've been typing into keyboards my whole career) — I think it's helped me avoid a lot of potential issues, but that's just my anecdotal sense of it.

I wish you all the best in finding a way to make it work.


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