Do you have back pain while playing the piano? Back pain when playing an instrument is unfortunately rather common. But you are not supposed to have pain when you play!
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I struggled with really bad neck pain when playing, I still do if I
don't take care how I sit, and balance my head. I was taught to push my
elbows outwards when playing- this became a pain so bad I couldn't
practice without painkillers.
learning about how to sit correctly, and how to balance my body, I have
learned that practicing can, and should be pain free.
Learn How to Play Piano The Right Way
There are several reasons for back/neck pain when playing the piano. Some of the most common are:
Sitting at the wrong height. The length of your upper arms decides how high or low you need to sit, not your height. Your upper and lower arms should form a 90 degree angle when you hold your hands in a cupped position on the keys. It is very important to have a comfortable piano chair. To avoid any neck or back pain the best is an adjustable piano bench.
Tense shoulders. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your arms should hang freely from the shoulders. Never, ever push your elbows outwards or press them against your body.
Balancing the body weight in the wrong way. Your body should have three places where the weight is balanced; your bottom, feet and fingertips. All the rest of your body should feel elastic, free and light. You should sit at half of the bench with the feet firmly on the floor by the pedals. Also, make sure to not to sit too close to the piano, you need space to use your torso to lean forward and sideways.
Craning your neck. Video
tape yourself to see if you are craning your neck when playing. Reasons
could be poor eyesight, not enough light and where the notes are placed
in front of you. A grand piano has the note stand higher than
that of an upright, it is also adjustable. If you are practicing at an
upright piano, and you constantly have to tilt your head forward to read
the notes, this might cause you pain. A remedy could be to put something under the notes so that they are lifted more in front of your eyes.
Too low or too high wrists.
This breaks the “balance” points, as I wrote above, and puts strain on
the wrists. This usually gets “transferred” as pain up your arms and
shoulders. Your wrist should be elastic and free, but unifying the arm
and the hand in an unbroken line.
Not taking regular breaks. It can be so easy to ignore the dull aches and to play just a bit more... This may build up to repetitive strain injury (RSI) and can be really hard to heal. Make sure to take short and frequent breaks while you stretch softly.
Sometimes an orthopedic ”tush-cush” can be of help, both to reach the correct height, but also because it helps you to sit
with a slight angle forward, which helps balance your weight forward.
are special piano pads that are made not to put pressure on your spine.
This is great if you have suffered from an injury, or have a lot of
Correct Seat Height
The Taubman-Golansky Institute is helping professional pianists who
experience different forms of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries)to
re- learn how to play piano.
I find this video about how to sit with the
correct height at the piano is very helpful:
Potentially Harmful Technical Habits
"Freeing the Caged Bird" is a great video (you can find online) where you will learn how to play piano with
Barbara Lister-Sink’s technique for injury prevention
is founded in the Alexander Technique, a great awareness technique not
just for musicians.
Get a Comfortable Piano Bench
Having an adjustable and comfortable piano bench is essential for sitting with a correct posture when playing the piano.
Your local piano store most certainly has a range of great quality piano benches. You can also check out
Adjustable Piano Benches
for some recommendations of the best piano chairs.