Playing Piano with an Aching Back

Posted by: newbert

Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 02:40 PM

This isn't directly related to "Adult Beginners", but since I'm one of them, and also have a dodgy back, I thought that I might as well post here.

Even on my best days, my back aches after sitting on a piano bench after 20-30 minutes. Today is not a good day, as I woke up with a lot of lower back pain after helping my sister move over the weekend. So, sitting at the piano is definitely a no-go today.

My predicament has made me wonder whether there are piano benches or chairs of some sort specifically designed for those of us who suffer from frequent back pain? When my back pain really flairs up, it's painful to even extend my arms forward to the keyboard. Is there help for someone like me to either help prevent flair-ups caused by sitting on the bench too long, or even to allow me to play while my back is bothering me?

Thanks!
Posted by: dmd

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 02:44 PM

I would tend to go in the direction of improving my back strength instead of looking for support of some kind.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 03:09 PM

Unless you have a pre-existing condition, I too vote for strengthening exercises to firm up your back muscles. 30 minutes on the piano bench is a long time…

As part of my weekly exercise routine, I do about 600 sit-ups (50 at a time). That has helped to strengthen my back muscles considerably. However, I do have some residual pain in my right shoulder if I play my piano hard for more than 30 or 45 minutes.

Keep up the piano playing! It is worth the minor aches and pains we get as a result. smile

Rick
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 03:13 PM

Yes, there are any number of chairs designed to help people with chronic back problems.

Among my many other ailments, I also have had problems with the back.

One of the best things I did for myself was to start taking yoga classes. There are classes for all levels of activity. A person with limited mobility and back problems, needs to find a class at their level of fitness. A class full of 20 year old's won't be the right one, but there are classes for folks that aren't so flexible. Yoga has also helped me with tension in the shoulders and neck.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 03:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Rickster


As part of my weekly exercise routine, I do about 600 sit-ups (50 at a time). That has helped to strengthen my back muscles considerably.

Rick


I used to read about "Muscular Christianity," but I never related it to the piano before!
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 04:03 PM

"""...
This isn't directly related to "Adult Beginners", but since I'm one of them, and also have a dodgy back, I thought that I might as well post here.

Even on my best days, my back aches after sitting on a piano bench after 20-30 minutes. Today is not a good day, as I woke up with a lot of lower back pain after helping my sister move over the weekend. So, sitting at the piano is definitely a no-go today.

My predicament has made me wonder whether there are piano benches or chairs of some sort specifically designed for those of us who suffer from frequent back pain? When my back pain really flairs up, it's painful to even extend my arms forward to the keyboard. Is there help for someone like me to either help prevent flair-ups caused by sitting on the bench too long, or even to allow me to play while my back is bothering me?

Thanks!

_________________________
Bert
..."""

Bert,

If you love the piano as much as I do, I understand your frustration. I am 63 and had health problems where I couldn't sit at the piano for more than about 10 minutes. Here are some options and considerations I made. I bought a digital keyboard with weighted keys and put it on cinder blocks, concrete blocks, and layed on the floor and played the digital piano on my back with the piano/keyboard tilted so I could play it. I used clothes pegs to hold the music to the music stand at that angle. So it can be done. A digital keyboard with weighed keys costs about 500 dollars in Canada. You can look on the internet for a piano chair. They are very expensive. I bought a wooden high chair at IKEA that was the right height which was okay, but I am glad I am sitting and playing on my piano bench again.
Posted by: Mr Super-Hunky

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 04:23 PM

Speaking from experience and implemented daily, you must understand the biomechanics of your movement.

Your waist area is your 'hinge' between your upper and lower body. Several muscle groups are involved that enable you to bend over and upright yourself once again. Unfortunately, most people have become lazy and either don't physically work anymore (digging ditches etc) or they have a white collar job....and still don't physically work anymore (other than the effort it takes to sign a check). Even worse, the people who pay others to 'physically work' for them still won't work out at the gym or anything else because, well like I originally said, they are lazy.

So, if you are 'lazy' what to do?....simple work out. Correctly!

The most effrective exersize you could ever possibly do for your back is NOT to strengthen your back! Why?, because you are already OVER-taxing it to begin with. You MUST strengthen your stomach muscles as they are by far the most powerful and largest muscles group in the area. Unfortunately, it is just SO much easier to not work out and just complain that your back hurts right?

So what exercises should you do? If it were 1972, I would say do sit ups until you puke. Everyday. Fortunately, much better methods of isolating your individual muscle groups have been discovered making plain old fashioned sit ups completely obsolete. Instead, your stomach area needs to be broken down into two movements. 1.) is to hang (using straps) and slowly raise your knees up to your chest. Slowly lower and repeat into several sets of reps.

This works your lower abs (around your belly button and below). The second movement is to do the opposite which is to bring your chest down to your knees. This is done by doing 'crunches' (look up proper form someplace).

When you bend over at the waist and then upright yourself, you should be using primarily your stomach muscles aided with the help of your lower back muscles, serratus muscles, and obliques. Unfortunately, of the muscle group combo mentioned, most people use mainly their lower back muscles and hardly nothing else. Without overcomplicating this, a MASSIVE difference in your lower back pains will be experienced over time by just sticking with a proper exercise routine for your stomach/abs region. Again that means separating your ab exersizes into the two types as mentioned above.

If you do this properly, over time your back pains will go away since you will powering your movements correctly with very powerful muscles that you are currently neglecting.

If you don't do this, the pains you are currently experiencing will get worse. 100% due to the reasons I explained.

I MUST work out on a regular basis (all muscle groups) or I couldn't even move anymore due to a chronic illness (Lyme disease). It is not pleasant and I don't enjoy it but the alternative of not being able to do anything is so much worse.

If you don't do anything about it then how can you possibly get better? Pills? (you may want to consult your liver on that!).

You get out of it what you put into it. Finally, something that is actually fair!
Posted by: newbert

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 04:24 PM

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
..You can look on the internet for a piano chair. They are very expensive.


While I can appreciate what you went through, I don't feel that I'm at that stage (playing while on my back). I have minor, very tolerable pain on most days. But some days (like today) it can be bad. I just thought that there might be a chair that would be helpful in my circumstances.

I searched for "piano chair" on Amazon, but came up with nothing worthwhile. Can you provide a link to the type of chair you refer to?

Thanks!
Posted by: dmd

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 04:57 PM

Originally Posted By: newbert
Originally Posted By: Michael_99
..You can look on the internet for a piano chair. They are very expensive.


While I can appreciate what you went through, I don't feel that I'm at that stage (playing while on my back). I have minor, very tolerable pain on most days. But some days (like today) it can be bad. I just thought that there might be a chair that would be helpful in my circumstances.

I searched for "piano chair" on Amazon, but came up with nothing worthwhile. Can you provide a link to the type of chair you refer to?

Thanks!


I am afraid you are not paying attention. You may pay a heavy price for this.

Consider yourself lucky. You are getting a warning. Your body is giving you a gentle heads up that you are not treating it right. If you do not heed the warning your body may decide to make the message more clear.

At your stage of discomfort, all that may be needed is for you to do a few situps each day.

Ever heard of the phrase ... "Pay me now, or pay me later" ?

Good Luck
Posted by: newbert

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 10:04 PM

Originally Posted By: dmd
Originally Posted By: newbert
Originally Posted By: Michael_99
..You can look on the internet for a piano chair. They are very expensive.


While I can appreciate what you went through, I don't feel that I'm at that stage (playing while on my back). I have minor, very tolerable pain on most days. But some days (like today) it can be bad. I just thought that there might be a chair that would be helpful in my circumstances.

I searched for "piano chair" on Amazon, but came up with nothing worthwhile. Can you provide a link to the type of chair you refer to?

Thanks!


I am afraid you are not paying attention. You may pay a heavy price for this.

Consider yourself lucky. You are getting a warning. Your body is giving you a gentle heads up that you are not treating it right. If you do not heed the warning your body may decide to make the message more clear.

At your stage of discomfort, all that may be needed is for you to do a few situps each day.

Ever heard of the phrase ... "Pay me now, or pay me later" ?

Good Luck


Actually I am paying attention, but perhaps you're not.

I DO engage in back strengthening exercises, but still have the occasional bad day when my back goes out. Today's episode was caused by moving furniture the past few days.

I'm looking for suggestions on something to help me out on those OCCASIONAL bad days, so that I can play piano on those days.

Thanks for the advice.
Posted by: Mr Super-Hunky

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/25/13 10:44 PM

Newbert, I'm not saying that you're not listening to my advice, but if you re-read what I posted, no-where does it say to do more lower back exercises or work out 'occasionally'.

You want an accurate answer right? verifiable with both physical therapists, or personal trainers, then do what I suggest.

If you want to do nothing and keep experiencing lower back pain...'occasionally', then stick with whatever you are doing as you have already done a clinical test that repeats itself under the same conditions. The results will be predictable.

There is no short cut. Proper diet (33.3%), proper exercise (33.3%) and proper rest (33.3%). Screw any one of these three components up and your overall grade goes down.
Posted by: JohnSprung

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/26/13 02:14 AM

I've had great results from hanging upside down on the Teeter inversion table.
Posted by: newbert

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/26/13 08:31 AM

Originally Posted By: Mr Super-Hunky
Newbert, I'm not saying that you're not listening to my advice, but if you re-read what I posted, no-where does it say to do more lower back exercises or work out 'occasionally'.

You want an accurate answer right? verifiable with both physical therapists, or personal trainers, then do what I suggest.

If you want to do nothing and keep experiencing lower back pain...'occasionally', then stick with whatever you are doing as you have already done a clinical test that repeats itself under the same conditions. The results will be predictable.

There is no short cut. Proper diet (33.3%), proper exercise (33.3%) and proper rest (33.3%). Screw any one of these three components up and your overall grade goes down.



Mr. Super-Hunky,

Somehow I missed reading your earlier post - probably because I posted something at almost the exact same time.

What you described makes sense, and I plan to pursue that. I've already made progress regarding proper diet - having lost 11 lbs since Xmas. I also already belong to a gym but TBH, I've been concentrating on cardio and lower body (legs) strengthening because I ski (downhill) during the winter. When my back recovers, I'll start on a more core-centric workout, as you advise.

Thanks.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/26/13 09:40 AM

A lot of things can cause our back to hurt and muscles can get strained, pulled, etc…

When my mom passed away a few months ago, I was already stressed out to no end… my wife is severely disabled and in a wheel chair. Getting her in and out of the vehicle and her wheel chair at the funeral took a toll on my back, in spite of being in good physical shape. It (my mid-back/lumbar?) hurt, to the point of taking my breath away with sharp pains, for about 3 weeks. I was not able to exercise for about a week, and that hurt as much as my back. Of course, I still played my piano, in spite of the back pain. smile

Moral of the story… take care of your back.

Rick
Posted by: Kristina1

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 06:01 AM


Hello, newbert,

I would go to a medical specialist and find out
and if they find no medical reason for you vulnerability,
I would try to find a reliable medical Health Shop
and buy one of their "kidney/back-protector/warmers"
to support my back.

These medical "kidney/back-protector/warmers"
are produced by different medical companies
and they are like a wide & strong elastic belt
to protect your back.
They also keep the vulnerable area constantly warm and stronger
and remind you at all times to take great care of your back.

Best of luck and good wishes from Kristina.
Posted by: Charles Cohen

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 12:05 PM

Quote:

The most effrective exersize you could ever possibly do for your back is NOT to strengthen your back! Why?, because you are already OVER-taxing it to begin with. You MUST strengthen your stomach muscles as they are by far the most powerful and largest muscles group in the area. Unfortunately, it is just SO much easier to not work out and just complain that your back hurts right?


Super Hunky's advice matches what I've read in many "back care" books, and what I've experienced myself. A _regular_ program of core-muscle, and stomach-muscle exercise can be very useful. "Occasional exercise" is worse than useless.

I'm not sure of the value of a "piano chair". To play, your upper body should have freedom to move around. That probably means that your lower back should be _unsupported_ by a backrest. I've been using an office swivel chair (no arms). When I play, my back is a little bit forward of the backrest. And I pivot from my ass, not from my mid-back.

The height adjustment on the chair, and the height adjustment on my X-stand, let me get a position that's comfortable vis-a-vis the keyboard.

Not slumping in the chair, not rounding my shoulders, not getting stiffness (and nerve pain) in my shoulders and arms -- it all comes together, sometimes.

. Charles
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 12:42 PM

I found Stott Pilates to be very helpful in freeing me from 20 years of chronic back pain. It taught me how to support my back correctly (and effortlessly!) using my core muscles, and how to notice when I was putting my back in a harmful position.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 12:52 PM

Here is an odd thought which may not apply, but since it's not mentioned often and helped me, I'll throw it out there. We get this advice to sit at the front portion of the bench. The implied part which isn't mentioned, is that the weight is also borne in the feet and legs, and you redistribute your weight as it were as you play in different areas of the piano. If you don't have that part, then your back has the entire burden. What you do with your arms will also affect your back, because the arm muscles go into the torso.
Posted by: malkin

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 08:57 PM

Ride your bike!
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 09:22 PM

Quote:
At your stage of discomfort, all that may be needed is for you to do a few situps each day.


Dear God NO! Sit-ups are THE WORST thing
to do your back. Stick to piano advice, please.

OP: See someone qualified to access your problem
before it gets worse. AND DO NOT DO SITUPS!!!
Posted by: stumbler

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/27/13 11:35 PM

I second that. Sit-ups can put a lot of stress on the lower back.

If your low back problems are becoming chronic, seeing someone qualified is a good idea.

Strengthening the abdominal muscles is good. Increasing flexibility is also good. Just don't start off too aggressively.
Posted by: newbert

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/28/13 08:36 AM

Originally Posted By: malkin
Ride your bike!


LOL! I'd love to, but it's winter here right now! But spring is just around the corner, so I hope to start with my bike riding again in about a month. That said, I had been riding the stationary bike at the gym during the winter, and skiing, but both of those activities are out until my back recovers (sigh).

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I have taken to heart the suggestions to strengthen the abdominals. Of course, that's not done overnight and won't get me back to sitting comfortablu on the piano bench immediately, but I'm sure that it will help long-term.

Thanks again!
Posted by: HalfStep

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/28/13 10:45 PM

newbert,

On the occasion that I am so engaged with trying to figure out a piece of music I can spend hours practicing. That coupled with being tense prompts me to get my desk chair. It is adjustable and if I lock the tilt in place it would help. I get ample lower back exercise as I am an avid runner but sometimes long periods of sitting and focusing on the music as opposed to posture can bother my back smile

The desk chair is a an Ikea special around 100 USD

Edited to add. 99.9 percent of the time I use my adjustable piano bench but if I need added support, I will get it.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 02/28/13 11:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Plinky88
Quote:
At your stage of discomfort, all that may be needed is for you to do a few situps each day.


Dear God NO! Sit-ups are THE WORST thing
to do your back. Stick to piano advice, please.

OP: See someone qualified to access your problem
before it gets worse. AND DO NOT DO SITUPS!!!




Well, you are absolutely right about this.

I used the term SIT-UPS mistakenly. I was just thinking in terms of strengthening the abdominal muscles. I do not do sit-ups either. I do leg-ups while supporting myself on a leg-up device. My bad.

BTW ... It is not a bad idea to do a few back exercises as well.

I do both.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 03/01/13 10:13 AM

Originally Posted By: dmd
Originally Posted By: Plinky88
Quote:
At your stage of discomfort, all that may be needed is for you to do a few situps each day.


Dear God NO! Sit-ups are THE WORST thing
to do your back. Stick to piano advice, please.

OP: See someone qualified to access your problem
before it gets worse. AND DO NOT DO SITUPS!!!




Well, you are absolutely right about this.

I used the term SIT-UPS mistakenly. I was just thinking in terms of strengthening the abdominal muscles. I do not do sit-ups either. I do leg-ups while supporting myself on a leg-up device. My bad.

BTW ... It is not a bad idea to do a few back exercises as well.

I do both.




Most back pain like this is caused by tight
hip flexors and/or glutes. Stretching those
a few times a day (after the pain subsides)
usually helps a bunch.....
again still best to see a doc 1st.
Posted by: PaperClip

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 03/06/13 06:54 PM

Hi,

I just want to share a link.

According to a recent study, active walking is as effective as a strength training by a physiotherapist for chronic low back pain.

Link to research
Posted by: malkin

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 03/06/13 10:53 PM

Originally Posted By: PaperClip
Hi,

I just want to share a link.

According to a recent study, active walking is as effective as a strength training by a physiotherapist for chronic low back pain.

Link to research


I wonder what the result would have been for a beer drinking & TV watching group or better yet a bicycling group!
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 03/07/13 03:40 PM

Originally Posted By: malkin


I wonder what the result would have been for a beer drinking & TV watching group.....!


I'm doing fine, thanks.
Posted by: ahhsmurf

Re: Playing Piano with an Aching Back - 03/07/13 08:32 PM

It is worth the minor aches and pains we get as a result.