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.
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:
- 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
- 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
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.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using various services designed to help give you long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.