Playing piano can help manual dexterity

Gatti R, Tettamanti A, Lambiase S, Rossi P, Comola M. Improving Hand Functional Use in Subjects with Multiple Sclerosis Using a Musical Keyboard: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Physiother Res Int. 2014 Jul . doi: 10.1002/pri.1600. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Playing an instrument implies neuroplasticity in different cerebral regions. This phenomenon has been described in subjects with stroke, suggesting that it could play a role in hand rehabilitation. The aim of this study is to analyse the effectiveness of playing a musical keyboard in improving hand function in subjects with multiple sclerosis.
METHODS: Nineteen hospitalized subjects were randomized in two groups: nine played a turned-on musical keyboard by sequences of fingers movements (audio feedback present) and 10 performed the same exercises on a turned-off musical keyboard (audio feedback absent). Training duration was half an hour per day for 15 days. Primary outcome was the perceived hand functional use measured by ABILHAND Questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were hand dexterity, measured by Nine-Hole Peg Test, and hand strength, measured by Jamar and Pinch dynamometers. Two-way analysis of variance was used for data analysis.
RESULTS: The interaction time × group was significant (p = 0.003) for ABILHAND Questionnaire in favour of experimental group (mean between-group difference 0.99 logit [IC95%: 0.44; 1.54]). The two groups showed a significant time effect for all outcomes except for Jamar measure.
DISCUSSION: Playing a musical keyboard seems a valid method to train the functional use of hands in subjects with multiple sclerosis

ABILHAND (click) is a measure of manual ability for adults with upper limb impairments. The scale measures a person’s ability to manage daily activities that require the use of the upper limbs, whatever the strategies involved.

Jamar dynanoneger measures grip strength this wasn’t affected

Pinch dynamometers measure pinch

In this study practising on a piano can help manual dexterity, maybe try a grip master but not as much fun. Turn on the sound and it becomes less of a chore

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  • This is actually helpful. When I was diagnosed, I stopped playing my violin, thinking, "why bother?"

    I saw it as just a barometer of my failing abilities…hearing, dexterity, etc. I've gone back to it now. If I can consider it therapeutic, I'll go back to it!

  • Before I had my first relapse in Jan 2013 I used to play piano alot. Now it hurts my back to sit and play even for five minutes. My MS went to my spine when I started steroids. I felt it go there.

  • Thank you for this blog. A teenager with MS just registered for piano lessons with me and I am doing research on teaching piano to MS sufferers. If anyone wishes to share their thoughts / advice, I would welcome all! Thanks – GMP, Houston, TX

    • Marie,
      I just had a piano student with MS sign up for online piano lessons with me. I am looking for information and advice, and would love to hear what you learned in your research. Also, I’d like to hear from anyone who has knowledge or experience in this. Thanks!

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