#1
I play bass with a pick, and I've developed a bit of a problem. After playing for 15 minutes straight or so (like practicing with el band or playing a show) I get severe, cramps/pain in my strumming hand and lose feeling in my thumb, sometimes so bad I can't hold my pick and have to play finger style (which doesn't work since my picking is far faster than my fingers). According to the doc, I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and I should avoid any repetitive hand/wrist motions (i.e. strumming). Unfortunately, this is not an option as I have a huge show coming up (Dead Men Dreaming 's CD release show, at The Blender Theatre @ Grammercy Hall in NYC , june 20th, tickets $15, PM if interested)</shameless plug> and have many practices and the show itself over the next 11 days = lots of strumming.

In short, are there any bassists out there with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that have any tips as to how i can avoid making it worse or how i can get through a set without losing feeling/function in my right hand?
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#3
Check with a highly experienced pick player to see if your technique is causing you the pain. It's very possible.

EDIT: I just wiki'ed it, and apparently it can be cured. There is surgery, which is usually very successful, but there are also other treatments that can be permanent and are easier to execute.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpal_tunnel_syndrome

I highly recommend looking at that.

"Others find success by adjusting their repetitive movements."
"Many mild carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers change their hand use pattern."
---- possibly could be translated as picking-hand technique adjustment?
Last edited by AVA_Plus44_182 at Jun 9, 2008,
#5
Can't you get wrist or arm braces which assist with this? I could swear Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead uses one. He may have a different condition to Carpel Tunnel, though.

Sorry I can't be of more help.
#6
If the doctor says to stop, take a few days rest at the minimum, and just use your left hand to tap out the basslines at practises. If you keep going, it will only get worse, and possibly get to the point where the only cure is surgery.
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#7
Quote by Froggy McHop
Can't you get wrist or arm braces which assist with this? I could swear Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead uses one. He may have a different condition to Carpel Tunnel, though.

Sorry I can't be of more help.


That could be RSI or tennis elbow, my mum had it like a couple of years back and had this like splint/support bandage to use.

To TS, you say you get a cramp like pain. If it is cramp it can be caused by not enough oxygen reaching your hand, for this, I suggest you look at where your arm is resting on the bass. If its on the contour and pinching a major blood vessel, this could give you cramp.

About carpal tunnel - the early signs are numbness and a sort of pins and needles sensation in your hand. If you have this then i would definately go to a doctor.

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#8
Quote by Slap_Happens
I play bass with a pick, and I've developed a bit of a problem. After playing for 15 minutes straight or so (like practicing with el band or playing a show) I get severe, cramps/pain in my strumming hand and lose feeling in my thumb, sometimes so bad I can't hold my pick and have to play finger style (which doesn't work since my picking is far faster than my fingers). According to the doc, I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and I should avoid any repetitive hand/wrist motions (i.e. strumming). Unfortunately, this is not an option as I have a huge show coming up (Dead Men Dreaming 's CD release show, at The Blender Theatre @ Grammercy Hall in NYC , june 20th, tickets $15, PM if interested)</shameless plug> and have many practices and the show itself over the next 11 days = lots of strumming.

In short, are there any bassists out there with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that have any tips as to how i can avoid making it worse or how i can get through a set without losing feeling/function in my right hand?



You should listen to the doc, and be careful. You could try to use some painkillers for the odd show or two, maybe even try some steroid injections, but that will only make the pain go away for a short time and not fix the CTS itself. You should look at your posture and see if there is anything you can do - the first thing maybe to play around with the height of your bass to reduce strain on your wrist. Two of my mates have had CTS surgery (one a carpenter, the other an electrical engineer) because their livelihoods depended on it - both have been 100% fixed but were out of action for months immediately after surgery.

Main point - be very careful, or you may find you can play less and less.
Good luck and hope you can get it sorted...
#9
The doc says stop, you stop. Carpal Tunnel is like the black plague of the bass world. Seriously, if you let it go on too long while playing the same way you are you're going to run into trouble. My guess is your technique sucks, that's what's causing the problem. Ask you doctor if there's anything you could try and do to either get rid of it or help it not be an issue.
#10
I find I get numbness/cramp like pains/hand seizing up when I play with my fingers for long periods of time (like an hour), but its strange. I can use my fingers for like an hour of non-stop playing at home, but the moment I do it with my band my hand seems to seize up faster so I'm putting it down to stress, my mum and dad said that was probably it too. But I think you should take a couple of days out of practice or play slower just until your hand gets a bit better, I think i know how you feel (really numb hand that almost closes itself and refuses to work?) but for me its the opposite and using a pick helps me.

Reading back through this is doesn't make too much sense but you can get the jist of what I mean.

*EDIT* Bear in mind I'm a bit of a hypochondriac so it could just be in my mind that I'm getting pains and cramps and its just my hand getting tired.
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Last edited by Rywad at Jun 9, 2008,
#11
First Of all, tell your doctor, and when you're playing take breaks in between, and if you don't want to do that then try not using a pick while playing, or at least switch once in a while, that's what I do
It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt, then it's hillarious!

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Last edited by Likecal at Jun 9, 2008,
#12
Bales is correct. CTS is nothing to fool with--you should talk to your doctor about therapy and stretches now and if he says rest, rest. You may also be a good candidate for a wrist brace that you can wear at night and for cortisone shots, but that's up to your doctor to determine.

My husband had CTS surgery on both wrists last summer; though the recovery rate is much better than it used to be, its not a fun thing to go through. He's a drummer and he still has to watch playing drums for more than an hour or so without taking a break even after the surgery.

CTS is serious and if you don't get it addressed early on it can be very painful and debilitating.
#13
Well, are you doing other things with that hand that would cause it? Usually picking isn't what causes carpal tunnel. It happens when your individual fingers have repetitive motions. Even strumming shouldn't cause it, because you should be twisting your forearm primarily, your fingers and even wrist stay still most of the time. I would look at your computer use. Computer mice and keyboard use due to individual finger repetition is a prime candidate. Because of this, bass playing is a candidate for it because you usually use your fingers. Bass picking usually isn't an issue.

Also, if you're getting severe cramps, you may want to look at how hard you are holding that pick. I have carpal tunnel, and my biggest problem is weakness, not cramps. When you get a flare up, you should be very weak, not locked up and numb. That makes me think that you're killing the pick and are pinching a nerve. Try to relax, give the pick a much softer touch. But yeah when I get a flare up, I can't even haul my bass case out to the parking lot, severe weakness in my grip. I never get cramps or numbness. Numbness I could understand... cramps, that's kinda weird.
#14
Ya i kinda get this a little too, nothing to your extend though. I can definatly feel a difference between my strumming elbow and the other one. I think I've developed a very minor tennis elbow. :/

Comes with the territory.
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#15
Yes I suffer from this quite a little bit. I went to the doctor and he perscibed me with some wrist braces. When I knew I had a bunch of playing coming up I would wear them and take some asprin but then take them off when I am about to play. It worked allright but you can screw yourself up if you are not careful. PM me with any questions and I think I am expert enough to anwser them, plus it makes me feel like whoever writes WebMD !
#16
sorry guys, i don't buy into the "might be CTS" theory. after a few minutes of playing a difficult groove my arm will get "tight". that is to say, the muscle fills with blood trying to maintain the current demand placed upon it. it's like excercise, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. and just like excercise, you work the muscle till it hurts, then you let it rest for a day or two, until it rebuilds itself. CTS is a serious issue, but i feel it is taken out of context, unless your talking about years of playing, resulting in pain. CTS is mostly related to people that use a PC keyboard for a living, not part time bass players. for a noob to say "my arm hurts" is not a red flag of CTS.
WARNING: playing the bass may cause dis-comfort, but we push on! my 2cents.
#17
anyhow, got some professional insight. Do a slow 10 minute warm up. This helps to loosen the muscles to avoid amy excessive pain. An although some people hate to do it... Crack ur fingers. It releases built up oxygen in your joints which helps loosen up ur fingers.
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#18
Quote by 83lespaulstudio
sorry guys, i don't buy into the "might be CTS" theory. after a few minutes of playing a difficult groove my arm will get "tight". that is to say, the muscle fills with blood trying to maintain the current demand placed upon it. it's like excercise, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. and just like excercise, you work the muscle till it hurts, then you let it rest for a day or two, until it rebuilds itself. CTS is a serious issue, but i feel it is taken out of context, unless your talking about years of playing, resulting in pain. CTS is mostly related to people that use a PC keyboard for a living, not part time bass players. for a noob to say "my arm hurts" is not a red flag of CTS.
WARNING: playing the bass may cause dis-comfort, but we push on! my 2cents.


I buy into it if a doctor has diagnosed it. There's a difference between muscle fatigue and pain. This sounds like pain, which means there is something wrong. Muscles shouldn't ever experience pain, burn yes, pain no. If there's pain it means you're working it too much or you're working it wrong. Either way, if a doctor says CTS I'd be inclined to believe him.
#19
It;s not just pain, it's a complete loss of feeling and control. It's not that it hurts so much i can't hold a pick, it;s that my hand becomes in effect paralyzed, and i can't generate enough force to keep it in my fingers against my strumming. My mind is telling my hand to hold the pick, and my hand is telling my mind to go **** itself.

Went to another doc today, and he spelled it out for me: he says the repetitive motion of strumming causes the tendons in my forearm to swell and pinch a nerve to the point that it can't send the message to my hand. also, he wrote me up a prescription for some kind of hard-core anti-inflammatory pill, and i;m to take one before play heavy (i.e. show or practice) and wear a wrist brace as much as possible to keep my nerves not spazzed out. He says there's a chance of it clearing up if i pretty much don't do anything with my right hand for a month or so, but even after that it would return within a few months of playing seriously again. However, it;s not career-ending, and it will be manageable(i.e i can still play) with pills and possible physical therapy
Traben Array
2x Tech21 Sansamp RBI Bass preamps
450w Power Amp
2x Gallien-Krueger 410
-
Handmade nylon-string classical guitar
-
Jackson DXMG Dinky
Line 6 Spider 2 250w combo
-
Various Lee Oskar and Honer harmonicas
-
Yamaha YPT-310
#20
Quote by AVA_Plus44_182
Check with a highly experienced pick player to see if your technique is causing you the pain. It's very possible.

EDIT: I just wiki'ed it, and apparently it can be cured. There is surgery, which is usually very successful, but there are also other treatments that can be permanent and are easier to execute.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpal_tunnel_syndrome

I highly recommend looking at that.

"Others find success by adjusting their repetitive movements."
"Many mild carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers change their hand use pattern."
---- possibly could be translated as picking-hand technique adjustment?


this is probably your best bet

good luck man and hope you do well in your show
#21
Not sure if anyone has said anything about this yet but how low is strap? If it's fairly low trying raising it.
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#22
Quote by CNC-Digity
Not sure if anyone has said anything about this yet but how low is strap? If it's fairly low trying raising it.

That could actually be worse, you would want you elbow in a natural, kind of extended position.

Also, I guess the reason why I dont have it that bad is I constantly strum in different areas to achieve a different sound. Try that?
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#23
^^
It's not his elbow that hurts though, it's his wrist. If his strap is fairly low, his wrist has to bend at an awkward angle to strum. Raising the strap would help with this.
Gear:
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Eden D410T
Tech 21 Sansamp RBI
Tech 21 Sansamp RPM
Art 341 Dual Channel EQ
QSC GX5 Power Amp
#24
Quote by CNC-Digity
^^
It's not his elbow that hurts though, it's his wrist. If his strap is fairly low, his wrist has to bend at an awkward angle to strum. Raising the strap would help with this.


Your sir, are correct. Its the same basic principle as typing on a keyboard. Most ergonomic studies say that you should have the keyboard and mouse closer to your body with a bent elbow to avoid over extending. I'd be surprised if the same thing didn't apply to bass playing and drumming.
#25
I dont know if this has already been said but you could try to pick the strings by moving your elbow and shoulder rather than your your wrist. You may have to lower your strap a little bit to do this comfortably.

you might look a bit of a lemon but it shouldn't aggetate (spelling?) your wrist.

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#26
THIS IS NOT A PERMANENT FIX, BUT IT WORKS FOR ME WITHOUT ANY FURTHER DAMAGE TO MY WRIST PAIN.

My neurologist prescribed "Gebauer's Spray and Stretch" which is a non-flammable very cold thin stream of icy spray (pentafluoropropane/tetrafluoroethane aerosol). When I get a cramp in my neck, wrist, or fingers I grab the small container (fits in a pocket and lasts a long time), start spraying and stretch the problem area and it's a miracle. Follow your own doctor's advice.

For me it really is an instant relief and is not just a cover-up. The cold spray and stretching work together to help the muscle or affected area and your brain (this applies to most of you ~;-)) remember to lighten up the load.

I'm a musician not a doctor, I don't sell it, and no, I won't give you any of mine cos it's prescription only, and it can be dangerous if the wrong person uses it in the wrong area; so get your doctor to see if it will help your probs. Mine are cured and I can now play until my fingertips wear out.

Good Luck!!! Hope it helps.
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Last edited by RevOrin at Jun 11, 2008,