I've been playing / teaching the piano for years with no problem but recently started a new piece; two days in and I have a swollen and painful injury just above my wrist, which I can feel across the back of my hand and further up my arm and it's definitely connected to the 2nd finger. I need to remedy whatever I'm doing to make this happen so any suggestions? It's getting iced but in the long term I think I need to know what has caused it, plus I'd like to pass this information on to pupils.

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    What piece was it? And when in the piece did you start feeling the pain? Both of these would be helpful for any pianist wanting to answer your question.
    – Caters
    Oct 2, 2019 at 21:10
  • Summertime by Gershwin. The pain started after playing for a good few hours on and off. It was when I went back the next day ( or this evening ) that I realised how bad my arm is, it's quite swollen so I've shut the piano lid. Which is hard! Oct 2, 2019 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


Find a really good physical therapist, preferably one who works regularly with musicians. I had tough issues 18 months ago with (what I thought was) tendonitis. I play sax, clarinet and guitar. It was severe enough to cause me to take a break from playing.

I initially saw one specialist who thought it was carpal tunnel, and recommended various exercises. However this diagnosis turned out to be incorrect - the issue resurfaced recently when I tried to start playing regularly, now in both hands. I found another therapist, and the problem turned out to be the weight of the sax strap on the vertebrae messing with the nerve, combined with various postural bad habits. After several sessions I have a new sax strap, am doing various exercises for my upper back, and am much more attentive to posture (also while driving, typing and so on). I'm playing more and more easily as a result (and stand better too).

Your particular problem is likely different, and noone can tell you what it is without a lot of experience and seeing you in person. But get it checked - its probably less of a big deal than it seems, once you find and rectify the cause. These things can come on suddenly and severely, and are a sign that you need to change something.

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    I hadn't thought about seeing anyone, but it's a good idea I guess. I have exams to play accompaniment for later in the year so it's worrying. I did look up carpal tunnel but that seems to be a different area and lots of symptoms which thankfully aren't presenting themselves. Many thanks Oct 2, 2019 at 21:26
  • right. Carpal tunnel is common one (that is a problem where the nerves pass into the hand at the wrist I think), but there are others. Mine was the nerves going to pinky and ring finger. When it turned out to be both sides, that pointed to the neck as common cause (also apparently it is common with sax). That's why it's good if you can find someone that knows the problems that typically afflict the various instruments, and remedies. My advice is to do this sooner, not later.
    – danmcb
    Oct 2, 2019 at 21:33
  • @DebbiePike If you can't find someone who specializes in musicians, try to find someone who specializes in sports injuries; there are many similarities. In general, it's okay to ask about health issues here, but the best advice we can give will probably always be to see a medical professional in person. Oct 2, 2019 at 22:43
  • I did have a look and can't see anybody locally so I'll see how it looks in the next few days. I'm sure it will heal but just looking for reasons why it may have happened. Many thanks Oct 2, 2019 at 22:49
  • Very good advice. @DebbiePike, you also might see if you can find a good chiropractor.
    – BobRodes
    Oct 11, 2019 at 23:18

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