Healthy Piano Playing

Focal Dystonia in Pianists


Focal dystonia (also known as Task-specific dystonia or Musician's dystonia) is a distressing condition in which the hand experiences involuntary muscle spasm leading to abnormal movements. Typical symptoms in pianists are involuntary movements of the fingers or thumb (either curling under the hand or sticking up in the air) and tremor. This can occur in one or more fingers. It usually tends to affect more advanced players, professional or amateur.

Focal dystonia tends to be task-specific. In pianists it is likely to occur mainly, or even exclusively, when they play the piano. It may only manifest itself in certain types of passage work, such as scalic passages. Initially the symptoms may just appear as unevenness or lack of control, which may later lead to more obvious involuntary movement (however, if you have unevenness or lack of control, there are many other possible causes for this. Dystonia is rare, and it is extremely unlikely that you have the early stages of dystonia).

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