Any reason for, or help for "thumb under" pain? : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

During scale practice, my left thumb, "going under,"(down)has begun to hurt so that I cannot continue practicing those scales. Am I doing something incorrectly? (My teacher is temporarily incommunicado, and I am hoping that someone might help me.)

I have recently begun taking piano lessons again after about a 50-year hiatus, but to my knowledge I have no arthritis or other structural limitaions. I would truly appreciate any ideas anyone can come up with. Thank you!

-- Shirley C. Gibson (, November 25, 2001


A few thoughts: 1. The problem you describe is typical, because the left hand is turned in a more unnatural position toward the top of the keyboard. In order to remain parallel with the keys, the left hand must turn at an angle to the forearm. This creates extra stress on the left thumb - it's more difficult to pass the thumb under the hand when the hand is turned at an angle to the arm. 2. To alleviate this, try to "roll" your torso toward the top of the keyboard, and tuck your left elbow in front of your torso as much as possible, to get an angle with your arm that is more perpendicular to the keyboard.

Hope this helps! Jon

-- Jon (, December 01, 2001.

Dear Jon ~ Thank you so much for your answer and suggestions! I went down to the piano right after I received your answer, and I do believe you have hit on the answer to my problem. Unfortunately, my teacher is still recovering from a stay in the hospital, and unavailable to answer questions. (Also,we just arrived home from a beautiful performance of Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto, and while I may have wanted to, as they say, go outside and shoot myself, instead I found your note and decided to try again after all!) So thank you once again! Shirley

-- Shirley Gibson (, December 01, 2001.

I've heard great (published) piano teachers say that you must keep your fingers parallel with the keys and other great (published) piano teachers say to keep your fingers in line with your arm. However, it's impossible to have your fingers stay parallel to the keys at all times and trying to have fingers stay parallel with the keys creates tension. Tension kills pianists. Pianists need to think ergonomically with loose shoulders, elbows, wrists, and thumbs. There needs to be more unity on what's killing us rather than opposite schools of thought! Check yourself to see if you are supported by the keys and rest into them when you play rather than possibly holding your arms up above the keys and striking downward. When we walk we don't stomp into the ground with every step we shouldn't play piano that way either. See how close to the keys you are sitting. Is there enough room for your arms to have freedom to move? Shake out your arms and let them hang by your sides...dead weight. Keep that freedom in your elbow and wrist when you lift your hands to the keys. Try to keep that loose feeling when you play just 5 notes. It's a different feeling.

-- Sandy Wilkinson (, October 19, 2003.

Sandy - how can I thank you for taking time to answer my question that I posted so long ago? How thoughtful! And how helpful, too, since I still have the problem with scales. My teacher suggested that to learn, I play staccato, which did help, but I have trouble playing legato with the same arm-hand-finger allignment. I will carefully check out everything you suggested. Thank you!

Also, I am so glad you wrote, and that your response showed up on my e-mail, for I had lost the connection with this site somehow - perhaps it changed its URL? Anyway, I am happy to have found it again! Many thanks - Shirley

-- Shirley Gibson (, October 19, 2003.

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