Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I play the piano and teach lessons for a living. Lately I've been having more and more wrist and hand pain. I notice it doesn't bother me when I type on the computer, just when I play the piano. What's the difference? It seems like I'm using the same fingers in the same way.

Answer:

Hand and finger positions when playing the piano are actually quite different from using a computer keyboard. The piano keyboard is three times as big as the computer keyboard.

Pianists actually move their arms and hands much more than typists. Computer operators use different repetitive motions and keystrokes than pianists. On the computer keyboard, you will rarely stretch the thumb and little finger apart to reach the keys. But for some people, stretching an octave plus a chord on the piano stretches the hand maximally.

It's also true with most computer keyboards that the pressure needed to strike a key is far less than the pressure needed to depress a piano key to make a sound. The computer keyboard operator uses about the same amount of pressure on each key every time. The pianist is more likely to strike with power and force to produce the sound required by the music.

Finally, wrist motion is different between the two activities. On the piano, the player may have to tilt or rotate the wrist more and more often compared to using a computer. There's also greater risk of injury or overuse on the piano for players with smaller hand size or hand span. Naotaka Sakai, MD, et al. Hand Span and Digital Motion on the Keyboard: Concerns of Overuse Syndrome in Musicians. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. May/June 2006. Vol. 31A. No. 5. Pp. 830-835.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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