I think there has been an error somewhere. I have not been playing for 30 years and have just started on the keyboard a month ago. I think you are right about the fingers doing bulk of the work instead of using the weight of the arm. ( Technique issue )

I checked my hand once more and this is what I found

I have tenderness on the proximal phalanx ( lateral aspect) of the index finger in one hand and an ache in the web space between the thumb and the index finger of the other. ( probably lumbricals or interrosei )

The joints also were aching in the fingers in the morning with a kind of stiffness which resolved with warm water. This persisted throughout the day.

There was mild tenderness on the extensor muscle attachment in one elbow, not full blown tennis elbow but well , a warning I'm doing something wrong.

I figured out the elbow issue and the lumbricals but the aching joints after practice was not something I could put down a reason. Maybe over enthusiastic practice. I dont do very well with teachers, kind of figure it yourself kinda chap, anyway it's difficult to find someone good.

Anyway will avoid practice for a week and try stretching the forearm and hand muscles once the pain resolves before commencing any further practice with using the weight of the arm.

I do find the issue of simultaneous flexion and abduction quite interesting. Could you suggest how to go about as most playing involves multiple muscles to act in coordination. Will do some research regarding this issue. Hopefully can find something about this Thanks

  • Try adjusting bench's height, if it's keys not piano then try adjusting the stand's height May 3, 2020 at 16:43
  • At your age stiff hands may be arthritis setting in. It may be a coincidence that it happened when you starting playing piano, it might have happened anyway. You are using new muscles in a way you never did before but I'd expect that to happen when you first start and diminish as you get used to it. Are you taking lessons? If so your teacher should be able to help.
    – user50691
    May 4, 2020 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


This is not normal and should never happen. It is the result of improper technique. You need to find a teacher or, a better teacher.

There could be one of several things you are doing incorrectly. When you use two muscles at the same time to move one finger, or, when you press too hard into the keybed, or, if you play too much from the flexors, you can strain your tendons. Your tendons operate between your muscles and bones. When you flex a muscle it pulls the tendon which then pulls the bone, like a rubber band or pulley. The tendon is also encased in a sheath.

You could be creating inflammation (enlargement) of the tendon and it is stretching out the tendon sheath creating a tightness feeling. There is also a lubricant within the sheath called synovial fluid. You could be creating cracks in the sheath and the synovial fluid is leaking out creating an irritation. The lubricant could be forced out due to inflammation making it difficult for the tendon to glide within the sheath. The tendon can also adhere to the sheath due to lack of synovial fluid. When you move in the morning, the stiffness goes away as you "get the juices flowing."

If you are a weekend warrior, eh, you can probably play for thirty years but, TAKE HEED, this is the first, insidious and often ignored SYMPTOM of future injury. Other symptoms are cramping while executing trills, tremolos or octaves. It is because the pianist is using the wrong muscles and they ignore it because if shake their hands out, it goes away. But it didn't. It is CUMULATIVE.

It is like noticing uneven wear on your tires. You know they are wearing out but you think you can get another six months or year out of them. If you ignore them too long, you can skid off the road or one of the tires can blow. It wasn't just an accident, it was something which was becoming an increasing risk. You tempted fate.

Pianists do the same thing. They ignore these early signs of misuse until one day, something just breaks. They didn't suddenly injure themselves, they ignored warning signals for years.

Technically, you have early symptoms of tendonitis or, inflammation of the tendon. The next stage might be micro tears to the tendons resulting in the accumulation of scar tissue, which doesn't stretch. Tendons must glide and stretch. BTW, stretching can cause this, too. Many pianists are told to stretch. When you stretch, you are tearing tissue and warm blood rushes to the site of damage to begin repairs and it feels so good. But tendons lack vascularity and thus don't heal very quickly so the body places scar tissue there instead. Stretching = bad. I know, we've been taught the opposite for years.

Another symptom might be that the long flexor tendons become so inflamed that they press on the median nerve within the carpal tunnel resulting in Medan Nerve Entrapment. Also know as carpal tunnel syndrome but, it is MNE. Instead of fixing the problem of improper movement, most doctors and musicians treat the symptom of pain or numbness. We should fix problems, not symptoms. The problem is poor technique.

I'd have to see you play but the most common error pianists make is either pressing into the keybed, playing from the flexors instead of the elbow and gravity or, the MOST common error: abducting the fingers. You can't flex and abduct at the same time. Well, you can but shouldn't. When you use two muscles to move one bone the tendons play tug of war with the bone and one of them or both will strain. We feel cramps or tightness and just shake it off. Another symptom is uneven playing. Often, poor playing doesn't mean we lack talent or need more practice, quite often we are moving incorrectly and getting in our own way.


Yes, this is normal. It happens to everyone. To avoid a serious injury, however, I recommend you do some light wrist and finger warmups. Just move your wrists in circles and open and close your fingers regularly throughout the day. This will keep them agile and keep them from severely stiffening up.

If it keeps becoming stiffer and stiffer, just check with a doctor to make sure it is not anything major and he/she can give you further guidance.

  • It does not happen to everyone - for instance it never happened to me (43, playing piano for the last 36 years)
    – fdreger
    May 3, 2020 at 23:15
  • oh that's interesting. Now I think I know how I can help you. I have a friend who plays piano and lately his left hand has been having severe wrist pain and when I watch him play, I know one thing that he is doing wrong. His form. His hand position puts so much strain on his wrist that it came back on him. So I think, (I think), your hand position may not be completely correct. Make sure that your wrist is extremely relaxed and your fingers are at a little above key level. But I know that you have been playing piano for the last 36 years. So I am not exactly sure if this is the reason May 4, 2020 at 4:15
  • This is a non answer and a dangerous one at that. The hands should NOT be getting stiff as a result of practicing. Even with poor technique I'd expect numbness or pain but not stiffness.
    – user50691
    May 4, 2020 at 20:24
  • Yes, in the short term I agree. However, I know many people that had no pain in their all their piano career years. However, after about 15-20 years, some pain starts to kick in. After I watch them play, a similarity I see in all of them is that their hand form is not correct. For example, my friend, he has been playing for about 15 years now. His has severe stiffness in his left hand. Now, he has to constantly shake his left hand to relieve the stiffness. His form - high wrists, low knuckles, curved fingers. After years playing like that, it comes back and bites you. May 4, 2020 at 20:38
  • My other friend, he plays with completely tight flat fingers. Now, he can't even play piano anymore. That ís how much stiffness he has in his fingers. So incorrect technique is a completely solid and scary reason for stiff fingers. It is like the way you sit. Your parents have probably yelled at you a few hundred times to stop slouching. And they are right, after doing that for decades, your spine will start to harden into a slouched position. That is why you see a lot of elderly leaning while they walk. May 4, 2020 at 20:42

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