Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

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Home » Articles » Piano Playing and Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Piano Playing and Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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by Brent Wells, D.C.

For piano players, the possibility of developing carpal tunnel is a real concern. Most people who play the piano, professionally or as a hobby, play every day or multiple times per week. While this is a great way to get better at the craft, it also means that your chances of suffering from this syndrome increase. That is because carpal tunnel develops when you use your hands in the same repeated motion.

However, just because you are at an increased risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome, it does not mean there aren’t things you can do to prevent it. While there is no surefire way to ensure it does not happen, you can reduce the likelihood.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is both a simple and complex issue. It occurs when your median nerve squeezes and compresses at your wrist. This nerve is located in your forearm and connects to your hand’s palm.

carpal tunnel
Carpal tunnel develops when you use your hands in the same repeated motion. If you begin to develop carpal tunnel, the ligaments in the area grow thicker, which causes a narrowing of the tunnel. When it narrows, your median nerve will begin to compress and squeeze, creating pain and other symptoms.

The carpal tunnel is made of different bones and ligaments that creates a narrow tunnel at the base of your hand. This tunnel helps bend your fingers and allows sensation in your palm and fingers—except your little finger. It also controls some smaller muscles in your thumb.

These areas of the hand are exceptionally important for playing the piano since you need fine tune motor skills to play effectively.

If you begin to develop carpal tunnel, the ligaments in the area grow thicker, which causes a narrowing of the tunnel. When it narrows, your median nerve will begin to compress and squeeze, creating pain and other symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of this syndrome are:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Swollen feeling in the fingers
  • Useless feelings in fingers

Even though your fingers may feel swollen, they are not swollen in appearance. Symptoms develop over time and get worse gradually. You will begin to feel the above issues in the fingers and the palm and symptoms may appear in one hand or both.

As the condition progresses, you will find it challenging to grip objects and move your hands normally. Since playing the piano almost solely relies on your ability to move your fingers, hands, and wrist in a precise and graceful way, developing carpal tunnel can be devastating to your career or hobby.

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Before any symptoms start, you can incorporate
the following into your
weekly routine:

  • Keep your wrists straight.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Shake out your hands.
  • Stretch your hand, fingers, and wrists.

For more stretches and strengthening exercises to help prevent carpal tunnel, read the helpful article at WebMD, “What Exercises Help for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

What to Do When You Feel the First Symptoms

carpal tunnel
Some of the most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are burning, tingling, itching, numbness, swollen feeling in the fingers, and useless feeling in the fingers.

According to a 2009 study in the International Symposium on Performance Science, which analyzed both men and women pianists with carpal tunnel, the authors found that a delayed diagnosis of carpal tunnel resulted in two ways. Either surgery was needed or the fear of diagnosis and possibility of surgery lead to late diagnosis and prohibited early treatment. 

This study suggests that the fear of diagnosis and the potential for surgery means many people do nothing about symptoms when they first appear. If you let your symptoms progress without intervention it will become worse, hence surgery is more often necessary. However, with early intervention, less invasive treatments often were administered and doctors were able to effectively treat symptoms without surgery.

These findings show us that early treatment is imperative to quick recovery and stopping the progression of the syndrome. The key to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome is to immediately seek treatment when you feel symptoms.

In the end, remaining in-tune with your body will be the best tool for preventing carpal tunnel. At the first signs of an issue, speak with your doctor in an effort to stop symptoms before they even start. Maintaining proper form and doing stretches and exercises will also go a long way for prevention. 

Brent Wells, D.C., graduated from the University of Nevada with a Bachelor of Science. He completed his doctorate at Western States Chiropractic College and moved on to start his own business in Anchorage, Alaska. He’s now considered one of the most trusted Anchorage chiropractors. As a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians, his knowledge continues to evolve through learning and education in neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.







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