Shoulder Pain from Practicing : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hello, I hope you will be able to help me with my problem.

I have been studying piano for 4 years, and around a year ago, I started to experience a pain in my left shoulder if practicing for over an hour. This problem gradually became worse, because I would have to stop after 20 minutes as a result of this. The pain then spread to the neck area, and I even discontinued piano for a week as a result of the increasing intensity of the pain (this was around 7 months after the pain began). Now I have found ways to manage time more wisely, so I am able to avoid it somewhat. However, the problem still shows itself because I can feel my shoulder muscles tightening after 30 minutes of practicing. In fact, if I rotate my left shoulder, I can feel creaks and cracks, sounding like it's 'resettling' (yes, I can even hear it). This does not happen to my right shoulder.

It would be greatly appreciated if help can be provided.

-- John Smith (, April 18, 2001


We pianists have a habit of using all kinds of muscles that don't need to be used, and we don't even realize we're using them. There is no quick fix to your problem, but I would suggest the following: 1. Stand up, away from the piano, with good, tall posture; let your arm hang from the shoulder loosely - let it swing from the shoulder joint gently. 2. Think of your arm as a "swinging bridge' supported loosely at the shoulder at one end, and by the fingers on the keyboard at the other. Let it hang from the shoulder, and let the firm fingers support it at the keyboard end. Swing the elbow sideways slightly and make sure it isn't "tight." 3. Make sure you sit with good posture on the bench, and don't hunch; hunching puts extra pressure on the shoulder and neck muscles (you can experiment with this). These are very basic and preliminary things, but maybe can be of some benefit.

-- Jon Ensminger (, April 18, 2001.

John, i've found that to my practicing pain is greatly reduced, even after hours at the piano, if when i first start to practice, i 1. make sure the bench is not too low (or too high) 2. sit with good, relaxed posture 3. warm up with scales.

also, when you are practicing, stop often to put your hands in your lap and check your posture and relax. you may have to do this once a minute for a while until you get used to being relaxed. also, make sure you aren't sitting too close to the piano. these are just general things. your teacher should be able to tell you if you are doing anything specifically that is bringing on the pain.

-- Julie2 (, April 20, 2001.

That doesn't sound too good. I would recommend a book to you: Seymour Fink's "Mastering Piano Technique." Fink emphasizes correct position and motion in piano playing. He offers many exercises which help you to get more relaxed and also to stretch and strengthen your shoulder/neck/ arm muscles. Some of his exercises take place away from the piano (which might seem strange to a pianist), but they are very helpful. There's also a video coming along with the book.

-- Christian (, May 07, 2001.

STRETCH!!! Before you sit at the piano, make sure you stretch your muscles. Do your neck, arms, shoulders, back, fingers, wrists, and even your ankles and toes (remember those pedals??). Especailly your wrists. I have found this to be very valuable. Also, make sure you are mentally relaxed. If you think that you are relaxed, it is much easier to actually be relaxed. Remember: everything is connected. If you want one part of you to be relaxed, all of you must be relaxed.

I hope this helps.

-- Claire (, September 23, 2001.

Many of the responses are on track. Most pain like yours is the result of years of accumulated playing habits which include tension in muscles that have no real role in sound production, and posture at the piano which maximizes tension and wasted effort. I own Fink's book and video, and while it has some useful advice, it has one fatal flaw: it tells you many motions to produce, but not how to be aware of your own body while you are producing them. That awareness is the first step to progress and relief. I strongly urge you to buy the remarkable, beautifully produced video by Barbara Lister-Sink, Professor of Piano at Salem College in NC, called "Freeing the Caged Bird." Its 2 1/2 hours long, and a revelation about how to approach the piano with body awareness, from basic movements to virtuoso literature. It costs about $45, and worth every cent. You can order it on the web, which I did, from the company called "Wingsound". Good luck. It could change everything for you. (The website gives a lot of information about the video, the author, and comments from distinguished musicians.)

-- (, September 23, 2001.

Since this is a year after the fact, I don't think it will help but here goes. I had the exact same problem. Only I have been playing 15 years. I too get left shoulder pain. I had permanent numbness in it, pain and numbness in my left arm and hand after playing for 1 1/2 hours or more, and lower back pain, neck spasms, etc... My dr.'s thought it was early symptoms of MS or Lupus. So, before going to a neurologist, I tried one last ditch effort....chiropractic care. It has been the best thing for me. Since all medical tests have been normal and my x-rays showed nerve damage and spinal compression from sitting for prolonged periods and having poor posture, it made sense that chiropractic would help. Now, I see my Chiropractor regularly since I teach piano lessons, I also do Yoga and warm up exercises before playing. THis is sooo common and in my studio I really stress to my students the importance of proper posture and relaxation, warm-up exercises and rest periods. I would suggest that if you still are having problems, a year later, that you seek alternative care. It really did help me! (I am very skeptical about so called Natural therapies also) Hope this helps!

-- Amy (, November 08, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ