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Can you play piano with arthritis?

By Scott Houston
As we age, arthritis becomes a real concern for much of the population. In fact, the CDC reports that nearly half of adults aged 65 and older have arthritis. This common but painful condition can unfortunately cause us to give up some of the activities we once enjoyed or stop us from pursuing new hobbies.

You might feel limited by your pain and wonder what your options are for fun and stress-relieving activities that won’t bother your joints. While yoga and massage are often suggested for pain relief, adults can learn piano and enjoy this fulfilling option for easing symptoms that comes with a ton of other perks.

Yes, you can play an instrument with arthritis

Playing the piano strengthens the joints and muscles in your hands. The dexterity involved in playing music on the piano keeps your hand muscles developed and slows the weakening of small bones. And unlike instruments like guitar that require a lot of stretching and hand strength, you can play many of the songs you love on piano using smaller movements and less pressure. 

The regular movement from playing gentle and simple songs on the piano is a good way to keep your fingers active. As long as you’re not training to become a concert pianist and playing for hours upon hours each day, piano can be a great option to exercise the hand muscles and joints. 

Piano exercises for stiff joints

There are several small steps you can take to loosen your joints and get you on your way to playing. The video below shows piano practice you can try at home to prepare your hands and fingers for the movements. Keep in mind, these exercises may feel difficult at first. With daily practice, even beginners will quickly improve hand eye coordination, fine motor skills, and overall mobility in the fingers.

Mental health effects on physical pain

The benefits of playing the piano on arthritis pain don’t rely solely on physical changes. If you’ve lived with arthritis, you’ve probably noticed how the stress of daily life can trigger inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation can make you feel more physical pain and worsen your symptoms over time, especially for older adults. 
Two of the most effective stress relievers out there are expressing yourself and hearing music that you love. When you learn how to play the piano, you’re giving yourself both of these powerful brain benefits. Whether you’re playing to entertain friends and family, a church, or just for fun, piano is an incredible outlet that can provide a strong sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Mental health effects on physical pain

If you find a particular movement difficult or uncomfortable, you may need to try a different type of piano or keyboard, as some may be better for people with arthritis than others. A digital piano with weight sensitivity may be more comfortable for you if you have pain when playing a traditional acoustic piano. 

Visit your local music store and try different piano and keyboard models to find the right instrument for your needs. Keep in mind that everyone’s arthritis is unique and requires different adjustments. You can try different keyboards, exercises, and adjustments until you find what works for you.

Choosing the right lessons for you

We’ve talked about why piano can be a better choice for adult beginners than other musical instruments, but the way you learn the piano when you have joint pain may also be different. Classical pieces from sheet music may require movements that aren’t suitable or even possible for some arthritic hands. Try piano lessons that teach you how to play by learning chords rather than reading music. This method allows piano players to be able to improvise parts of the song to meet the needs of their hands while still sounding great and having fun.

Try it out

If you’d like to try out a piano teacher who’s experienced in teaching adults–even those with arthritis–how to play piano, I’d love for you to try a class on me. My 45 minute lesson will show you how I teach and get you playing your first song. Simply click the button below to sign up and get started in your first online piano lesson.