Musicians Shouldn’t Play Through Pain: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinitits

Source: Central

Regularly playing a musical instrument — whether string, wind, percussion, or keyboard —- can result in a range of musculoskeletal disorders in the hands, wrists, and arms.

As the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) explains, long hours of practice, awkward postures, and repetitive motion all have an impact over time, increasing the risk for injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and bursitis, as well as back and neck pain, are common to musicians.

The Outpatient Rehabilitation Program for Musicians at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC) provides effective, evidence-based treatment for various musculoskeletal disorders experienced by people who play instruments.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves to the hand, is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist. For musicians, repetitive hand use and activities that involve extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist over a prolonged period are two of the biggest risk factors. Both can increase pressure on the median nerve, leading to symptoms that include:

• Numbness or tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers.
• Occasional shock-like sensations that radiate to the thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers.
• Pain or tingling that may radiate up the forearm toward the shoulder.
• Hand weakness.
• Decreased fine motor coordination.
• Clumsiness.

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically gets worse over time, and can lead to permanent dysfunction of the hand if left untreated for too long.

Tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon — the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. In musicians, tendinitis is most common in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists and is a result of a series of small stresses that repeatedly aggravate the tendon.

Symptoms of tendinitis include pain often described as a dull ache that typically gets worse with movement, tenderness, and mild swelling.

If you are a musician who is persistently playing through pain, talk to your doctor about how physical therapy can help alleviate your symptoms.
For more information about the Outpatient Rehabilitation Program for Musicians at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC), call 609-655-4586 or visit


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