Overcoming Back Pain When Practicing Piano – Josh Wright Piano Tv


hey everyone this is Josh with Josh right piano TV today’s episode I’m looking forward to a lot I got this question a few weeks ago from two different people within just a few days all dealing with overcoming pain when you’re practicing mostly back pain but I’ve also got this lady had some complaints about shoulder pain as well so today we’re going to address a few things that will help us to overcome pain I’m pretty passionate about this subject because at one point I was having such pain laws practicing that I couldn’t go for more than about 45 minutes to an hour without having to like take a pretty significant break and that’s just really taxing on anyone who’s trying to get ready for a recital or even just daily practice it’s really obnoxious and it’s something that we shouldn’t have to deal with and there is solutions I can promise anyone having pain that there is a solution for you you just have to be able to find it hopefully what I present in this video will alleviate a big portion of your pain you may have to do additional Studies on the things that I present though and I stand by these methods the two methods I’m going to talk about I’m not going to be doing all that much demonstrating today on the piano but mostly just talking our Alexander Technique and yoga I remember I always thought of yoga as kind of this this thing that people who were more in tune with themselves did and and I was just like oh that’s not for me but I remember I learned it from this singer I originally learned bit of yoga from a singer and also Alexander Technique and it was just amazing what kind of results I was having I was able to practice lots longer with less pain I wasn’t experiencing a significant amount of improvement but then I took a yoga class and then I read a book on Alexander Technique and now my back pain I only start getting a little bit of pain after maybe four hours of practice which for me is no big deal I mean I that’s completely acceptable because I think your back gets tired at times and so anyway mmm I just want to present a few different concepts of what Alexander Technique is and then just a few different poses in yoga positions that may help to alleviate pain that I’ve seen the biggest significance with I won’t be demonstrating them so you’ll have to go do your own research on the yoga so the Alexander techniques deals all with freeing yourself through mental healing and through holding your body in positions where they have the least amount of tension so my favorite exercise to kind of get into this thought process is first of all to breathe I think breathing is the biggest thing that people lack when they play when they when they’re sitting a certain way they’ll start holding their breath and one of the greatest ways to start breathing when you’re performing because it’s something that is really hard to consciously think about when you’re focusing all those all those notes is to start humming when you play you might sound think that sounds like the strangest thing in the world but you can’t really hear it it’s not like you’re really belting it out I’ve noticed I’ve started doing that and it helps me breathe and it helps my playing to become so much less tense so for example if I’m playing the ocean etude and I start to feel tense I was humming right there I don’t know I’ll have to go back and review this video but I doubt anyone was able to hear that I was really soft hum your and surely in the in a concert hall the piano is going to project a lot more than you do so humming is really good so first of all breathing one small thing I like to do this might look a little strange but I like to do like to reach above my head like this and then as I come down I feel my back stretch upwards so my spine I want you to imagine your spinal crumbled up and tangled and just really compacted and then as soon as your arms start coming down your spine does this we want to create the most amount of space in our spine and so another exercise that you can do that will really help with lower back pain and middle back pain is I like to kind of crumble up in a ball right here because you’ll notice a lot of pianists get down like this and that is just kills your back and so I like to do this and really I am feeling a lot of my weight on these under my thighs I’m feeling a lot of the weight kind of distributed all the way up then to my lower back rather I’m going to come up I’m going to rotate on to what what the Alexander people wrote the Alexander Technique teacher I had called it was your sit bones so right right on your butt pretty much it’s just right where you want to rotate up on to so you’re right on your sit bones and that way your back is in position you want your head to be aligned just with the rest of your body your head’s not forward like this a lot of pianists do this too and I know I do this sometimes too but that puts a huge strain on your neck you don’t want to do that so being up like this and then shoulders down a lot of times pianists do this causes a lot of shoulder tension causes way more back tension you want to release your shoulder so I like to do like some shoulder rolls then what I like to do is get into this mindset of everything is just kind of free to move in my body so I’ll just like move around a little bit like this and like up and down and that is letting all the tension go anyone watching this videos probably and who isn’t a pianist might be thinking this is absolutely ridiculous what what a wimp you know why are people even addressing this how painful could piano be but as you’re practicing for four hours every single day it’s really hard to continue through that pain and I remember I went to the chiropractor so many different times and they were weren’t able to really fix anything it was just a quick pop and then they do like some massaging stuff but it did never work well this is what really healed me is this Alexander Technique and yoga I’m just going to maybe suggest a few different yoga poses that are great for back pain um there’s a cat and cow position where you kind of you’re on all fours and then you invert your back and then you go up like this so your back you’re stretching out your back a lot like that I also like Child’s Pose a lot down dog deaf man’s pose de AF man’s pose camel pose all of those I’d say are an upward dog as well or Cobra some people call it all of those positions are really incredible and just putting all of those in a sequence so you’re kind of moving throughout all these different positions really has helped me greatly to overcome this pain if anyone has any other questions about back pain I’ll try to do my best to answer them but that’s what’s really helped me is what I’ve talked about today I hope this has been helpful if anyone has any questions email me at Josh at Josh right piano comm and I now have this on an i. Phone app so it’s in the i. Tunes Store so you can download it for free thanks for joining me today..

Rather than just masking the pain and hoping it doesn’t happen again (which it will) you can grab our free audiobook on outwitting the back pain industry and getting on the road to recovery and thank me later. As someone who has been stuck on the coach, the floor and the road in the middle of Vietnam without warning I know how bad it can get. The sooner you deal with it, the better.


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  • This is SO important for people to get into, of any instrument. I have chronic tendonitis in my right forearm due to over practice of crazy fast pieces back in high school and early college. Totally wiped me out and ruined my dreams of being a ‘great’ pianist. Unable to fully let my need to play go, though, I began seeking out knowledge on technique which lead me to alexander technique and andover educators. I bought the book “what every pianist needs to know about the body” by Thomas Mark and “what every musician needs to know about the body” by Barbara Conable. Both great books. I’m still not the best with this stuff, but it has definitely helped immensely as far as how I approach playing the piano. In practice, I’m ALWAYS seeking out the most efficient (for me) and ‘balanced’ way of moving from note to note. The tendonitis is chronic and still flares up (and I’ll probably never be able to play certain pieces, or replay some that I played back in the day) but I do believe I’ve prevented it from getting any worse and I do enjoy daily work and play at the piano.

  • You should tell some band directors about Alexander technique. That’s the position you need to get the air you need to play.

  • Thank you Josh! It finally just clicked that my back pain started becoming more and more frequent after I stopped regular yoga practice. It makes so much sense now!

  • I had trouble with disks in the neck after over-doing it on the piano. A physical therapist gave me exercises including running a ball up the wall as high as I could and pulling a bar down from the ceiling. It makes a big difference. I wish I had consulted with a physical therapist early on when I started having trouble with stiffness in my back after practicing back in my 20’s. I also like a stool with adjustable height.

  • Josh, I’ve been told taller people should sit towards end of bench with weight on the forward part of the hips (in front of sit bones). Do you agree, or should it just be on the sit bones?

  • I don’t know if this has anything to do with my height but, I’m 6’3, and its very uncomfortable for me to play…I can’t even play 30 minutes without my back hurting and feeling too tired to hold me…My teacher always urges me to stand up straight but it’s so hard. I just think it would be weird for me to join a yoga class when I’m 17 haha, i have such a bad back…

  • The first time I tried the ball position and raising arms, my tension was instantly relieved, it was amazing. Unfortunately, readjusting myself closer to the piano made the pain come back again. Every other attempt of these exercises did not do anything, except make my spine confused as to where it should be. I really dont know what to do…

  • I Play the piano on a drummer stool is that alright? the seat is only a little soft so ii cant lean TO hard, nothing super far. but i had even worse back pain when i used a chair with blankets stacked up super high

  • hello, Thanks !
    this video help me a lot, i practice piano daily, so I have the pain, and It hurts my brain, and somehow I feel dizzy and sleep.
    but I follow your guide along with another yoga practice, It did help me a lot . Thankss