Whether you’re a piano novice or expert, you might struggle with back pain or shoulder pain while playing the piano. This can be very discouraging if you’re just starting out piano lessons or can be very frustrating if you need to practice for a concert or other event. Thankfully, there are simple solutions you can try to help you with your back and shoulder pain while playing the piano so you can be the next Beethoven, Tigran Hamasyan, Phil Collins or whoever it is you look up to without back pain getting in your way.
Breathe. During tense songs or even just from sitting for so long, your muscles tense up and cause some back and shoulder pain. Breathing while playing is a simple, yet effective, solution to help relieve some of that tension. If you find it difficult to focus on breathing while playing, try humming along as you play, which will force you to breathe. We promise no one will be able to hear you over the piano.
Try the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique, created by Frederick Matthias Alexander, helps pianists retrain themselves to practice better postural habits at the piano. But this technique influences even how you go about your daily activities. Research this technique to see if it helps you. Tip #1 (breathe) has a lot to do with practicing this technique. Try starting there.
Focus on posture. Keep your head aligned with your spine and your back straight as you play. This is sometimes easier said than done. To remind yourself to keep good posture as you play, start by sitting at the piano bench and hunching over, then slowly roll back up into an upright position. Feel the difference between the two and try to keep an upright posture. Focus on keeping your shoulders down and allowing movement to flow throughout your body. Before you play, you can even stretch your arms up to the sky, do some shoulder rolls, or twist your torso back and forth to release tension.
Try yoga. Practicing yoga poses on a regular basis can help relieve tension in your back and shoulder muscles and strengthen your core so you can practice correct posture without any pain. Try these poses to help with pain specific to playing the piano: Cat/cow, Downward dog, Deaf man’s pose, Camel pose, Child’s pose, & Upward dog/Cobra.
Roll out on the Chirp Wheel. The Chirp Wheel is a back pain relief device that is shaped like a wheel to fit in between your shoulder blades and reach deep muscle tension along the spine. Rolling out before and after you practice, or whenever you experience your back pain, can do wonders to help relieve your tension from playing the piano for hours at a time.
Sit at the front edge of the piano bench. Sitting at the front of the piano bench rather than the middle or back helps you use your abdominal muscles rather than lower back muscles to move, which will result in less back pain while playing the piano. Along with this, make sure you’re pressing weight into both feet evenly rather than putting weight in your butt.
Work out your core. Doing core exercises might not seem like it is directly related to playing the piano, but the more strength you have in your core, the easier it will be to keep correct posture and less back pain while playing the piano. Try doing core exercises frequently to see if it helps relieve your back pain.
Murakami, M. (2019, September 12). How to sit correctly at the piano to avoid lower back pain. Retrieved from https://galaxymusicnotes.com/blogs/mizues-blog/how-to-sit-correctly-at-the-piano-to-avoid-lower-back-pain#:~:text=If%20you%20get%20backache%20after,by%20your%20lower%20back%20muscle.&text=If%20you%20sit%20in%20the,the%20balance%20all%20the%20time.
Pianist. (2018, October 15). What is The Alexander Technique and how can it help me improve? Retrieved from https://www.pianistmagazine.com/blogs/what-is-the-alexander-technique-and-how-can-it-help-me-improve/
Poise Alexander Technique Studio. (2021). Alexander technique for pianists. Retrieved from https://www.poisealexandertechnique.com.au/for-pianists#:~:text=Alexander%20Technique%20is%20used%20by,framework%20for%20greater%20musical%20expression.
Wright, J. (2010, February 10). Overcoming Back Pain When Practicing Piano - Josh Wright Piano TV. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=808Y_yEkv84