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pianomap: Pianists' Injuries

Movement Retraining is the Key to Recovery

By Thomas Carson Mark

  1. Introduction
  2. Four Causes of Injury
  3. How Injury Develops
  4. Cure of Injury
  5. Why Many Pianists Do Not Recover
  6. Two Obstacles to Understanding
  7. Conclusion

4. Cure of Injury

Dreadful as all this is, the good news is that we can be cured. Our bodies have an amazing capacity to repair themselves. Injuries will heal, provided that they have not been allowed to progress to the point of permanent damage. Even the tendons, despite their limited blood supply, will recover in time. In the acute phase of an injury, treatment may involve rest, anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and swelling, and massage, which can stimulate circulation (producing some of the benefits of exercise without actually having to work the injured structure). What these "treatments" really do is to provide conditions in which the body's own healing powers can do their job.

Unfortunately, in far too many cases the cure is only temporary because the person returns to the same activity as before and performs it in the same stressful way, causing re-injury. A permanent cure requires identifying and removing the cause of the injury. Now, we know that piano playing need not be injurious, since many people, including some fabulous virtuosos, do it without ever injuring themselves. Therefore, the fact of someone being injured does not prove that piano playing is dangerous in itself. What it does prove is that there was something in the technique that was stressful, something that with constant repetition over years of playing, resulted in injury. The person must learn to play the piano using non-stressful movements to perform the tasks that were formerly performed with stressful movements. In short, a permanent cure for pianist's injuries requires movement retraining.

To summarize

We can avoid injury by maintaining good physical health and fitness, getting sufficient rest, and--by far the most important--eliminating stressful movements, those involving awkward positions, co-contraction, static muscular effort and excessive force. We can cure injury the same way.

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