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I have been a Tabla student for a decade. For those of you who don't know, Tabla is an Indian percussion instrument with a big language of rhythmic cycles of its own.

I wanted to know if playing excessive Tabla over a period of time can cause permanent damage, like tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome?

By excessive, like 4 hours of practice a day and Benares style of high volume playing on the Tabla.

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    It kind of seems like when taken literally, the only answer is yes; do anything enough and it can hurt you. The underlying question is how much tabla playing is excessive? Evaluation of any risks require assumptions about how the individual is playing, practice schedule, et cetera. Right now I think this is either off-topic as subjective/unanswerable/no-medical-counsel, or alternatively just severely lacking in detail. Abunickabhi, an edit that provides more specifics might be helpful in keeping this open. Also, I'm hoping for second opinions on whether this should be closed or not.
    – user45266
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 5:24
  • What is Benares style? Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 23:02
  • Benares is one style of tabla playing which emerged 200 years back in the city of Benares. There are a total of 7 tabla style that have emerged in the last century. Due to information age, they all are merging up. Benares can be identified by the frequent use of the left drum and the high volume and clarity of the phrases played with more emphasis on the resonance of the left drum. Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 9:53

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There are two questions here:

  1. Is it possible to play tabla to the point of injury?
  2. What kind of injuries can occur when playing tabla?

The answer to the first is "yes". The answer to the second, broadly, is that there are any number of injuries that can occur, primarily involving the muscles and nerves of the arms, shoulders, and back.

There are anecdotal reports of tabla-related pain: for example,

I discovered that [poor sitting support] was actually causing additional stress on my shoulders and back, which was leading to pain in my forearm. (SOURCE)

Whenever I play a heavy dose of ti-ra-ki-ta, my forearm and upper arm start hurting. (SOURCE)

NOTE: both of these sources also recommend solutions to their respective problems. These are not medical sites and remedies there should not be understood as medical advice for preventing or resolving pain or injury.

There are also a variety of studies related to tabla playing and pain or injury. These include:

  • "The effect of conditioning physiotherapy exercises on tabla playing related wrist pain in young tabla learners: a randomized controlled trial" by Punyaja Jani and Dr. Gauri M Afle. (LINK)
  • "Playing-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Indian Tabla Players" by Wricha Mishra, et al. (LINK)

NOTE: It is left to the reader to determine if these studies or any additional studies references by them are from reliable sources.

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  • Thanks for providing the links to the studies. The question that I wanted to address here is the second one, what kind of injuries can occur when playing tabla? Thanks for the detailed answer. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 8:12

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