As a Massage Therapist, I’ve begun to detect patterns and compensations that a body makes when it is faced with a certain stress. These adaptations or compensations can occur in a side to side, front to back or a rotation based compensation. Many times you are able to make changes to reduce the stress that a body is put through. Examples may be changing your chair, position of your computer and keyboard, walking patterns ect. Then there are times when you are only able to make changes to a certain degree given the activity you are doing. An example of this is playing the piano. Generally the position of the piano is fairly constant given the dimension of the instrument. A piano player will then find themselves in a slightly head forward position to see the music and keys. Playing for up to an hour and beyond can cause a lot of stress on the back as it supports the weight of your upper body for this extended period of time. At the same time, the muscles of the front of your torso can become shortened and over time remain in that tightened position. This can affect Body Systems like Digestion, Breathing and the Nervous System. When you are playing the piano, often your shoulder will be turned inwards causing muscle imbalance and reducing the efficiency of the shoulder movement in any “overhead activities arm movementâ€?.
Engaging in an exercise and stretch routine away from the time that you are playing piano will help to strengthen the muscles that are fatigued during the time that you are playing, namely the neck muscles, mid back muscles and muscles between the shoulder blades. Posture that you maintain during playing, but also importantly away from playing, is important as a reminder to the body what a normal balanced body should be so the body will not deviate into a position that may manifest in a pathological way later on. Effects on the body may be, as mentioned before, effects on Digestion, Breathing, and include muscle pain that can refer to other areas of the body, headaches, impingement of nerves causing numbness and function difficulties in the arms and hands, TMJ (jaw), dizziness, nausea, fatigue to name a few.

A fantastic treat for the hands (as an often overlooked area of the body, even with piano playing) is a Hydrotherapy treatment called Contrasting that you can do at home. Contrasting uses Heat and Cold to bring in new blood to the area, then allows Oxygen to go to the Muscles and Muscle Metabolites to the Blood in exchange, then pushes the old blood back to the heart.  This treatment involves:
-placing your hands in warm-to-hot water for 3 minutes and emerging up to your elbows
-then placing your hands in cold water up to just above the wrists for 30 seconds
-repeat this 3 times.

If you have any circulatory disorders or other illness, please contact your Doctor to confirm that this is safe for you to do.

As each person compensates differently, and therefore presents differently, it is difficult to arrive at a Universal Strengthening program that is fit for everybody.
Having said that, the muscles that tend to become weakened the most include:
-The muscles that rotate the shoulder outwards (including the Rotator Cuff muscles)
-The upper/midback and neck muscles at the back
-The muscles that travel from your spine out to the shoulder blades

There are Muscles that do the opposite to those named above than will become shorted and unable to lengthen that need to be released /stretched.. Muscles that become shortened often lose their ability to release the metabolites they create and put unnecessary stress on the joints they cross and can cause pain and imbalance as a result.

Generally, I find that making simple posture changes are adequate to help strengthen the necessary muscles and to balance the body.

Call Simon James R.M.T. at 818-1640 to make an appointment to review your current posture and incorporate some exercises/stretches to help to strengthen and balance the body to the specific activity of Piano Playing.

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