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I want to start taking piano lessons but arthritis runs in my family and I already deal with joint discomfort. Will doing an activity that requires more use of my hands make the discomfort worse and/or increase my risk of arthritis?

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I suppose that time will tell. In general, specialists are recommending exercises that BEAR WEIGHT on joints, stating that a little weight can help increase blood circulation to the joints and aid symptoms caused by arthritis. In this case, it would be important to train the hands before learning to play the piano. So, you can try some inverted weight-bearing exercises, like Downward Dog in yoga class. Here are some simple instructions for this posture:

Start on your hands and knees, with the hands just in front of the shoulders and the knees right under the hips. The hands should be should-distance wide, and the knees should be hip-distance wide. Turn the back toes under. Inhale a full breath, and exhale to lift your hips into the air. The idea is to form an inverted "V" pose, with the tailbone lifting to the sky. You should push hard into the hands and engage the legs. You don't want to bear all of your weight in your arms, so gently push the heels to the ground to distribute the weight. Also, it's important to SPREAD THE FINGERS. This way, you are increasing the length of the tendons and muscles of the palm. Eventually, you're aiming to get your index finger and thumb to look like an "L" as you push into your hands. The index finger point forward, and all the other fingers fan out from there. This will help you with piano!

The spine is long, and the inner arms are rolling to the center. Stay here for 5 full breaths. Then, return to your hands and knees, and sit your hips back to your knees for a rest. Try this pose 3-5 times to increase strength in the arms, and to increase flexibility of the finger joints. Good luck'!
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