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Arthritis, Poor Circulation, just an off night?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Lipis Roman, Sep 15, 2002.

  1. Lipis Roman

    Lipis Roman

    Mar 5, 2002
    I came apon a distressing experience earlier tonight while practing. About half way into an arpeggio exercise I was working on my pinky finger on my fretting hand pretty much just went dead. There was no numbness of any sort, no pain either, just all of a sudden without notice I had almost zero strength nor dexterity in the finger, it just felt awkward.

    I use very low action on an electric so it isn't as if I really need to exert much strength at all with any of my fingers, it was really like it had no leverage over the strings. And I wasn't really doing any extraneous(<--spelling) fingerings, nothing I haven't worked on a thousand times before anyway. This scares the hell out of me. I've been playing bass for almost 15 years and I've never once experienced this. I've gotten a little numb before and had to work out the kinks for a bit but this just wasn't like that. No matter what I did I just couldn't get that finger back up to par with the rest. I stepped away a few times for a few minutes but each time I came back the finger literally went dead in seconds. I'm absolutely going to the doctor tomorrow to get it checked out, but until then this is gonna be eating away at me. And lucky me, I hit the coffe pretty hard earlier anticipating a productive night of practice, now I'm gonna be up all night worrying about this. Ughhh...

    So I was really just curious if any of you have had a similar experience to what I've described? And what the cause turned out to be? This is just really bothering me.
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I had a very similar experience. It was diagnosed as Ulnar Nerve Palsy.

    Now, before you get really freaked out, it wasn't a big deal. I had the same thing happening to me, about 6 months after I got my TRB6. I aslo took the bass to the doctor's with me. As soon as she saw me play, she knew what was going on. The angle at which I played forced my wrist into a funky bend. (I play with the bass quite high, but the neck out almost parallel with the ground.) She showed me how this bend was cutting off the blood flow and "starving" the ulnar nerve.

    The doc told me to stop playing that bass, but that wasn't an option. I moved the rear strap pin higher, so the bass hung at more of an angle, and I made sure that I was playing ergonomically as possible. Never had a problem again.

    How high do you wear your bass? At what angle are your hands when you play?

    Take your bass to the doctor's with you.

    edit - oh, and good luck! Let us know what happens.
  3. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I have a stress-related problem with my back and neck muscles that sometimes affect my hands similar to what you describe, I get a tiredness and lack of strength in my underarms and hands, particularily the pinkies. In my case there are nerves in the neck that gets irritated or pinched when the neck muscles are irritated. Most of the time this happens after too many days working towards a too optimistic delivery deadline, and can then be triggered just by hanging a heavy bass (Fender!) on the left shoulder for some time. The solution for me is to make sure I excercise and stretch my neck and back muscles regularly, and I sometimes also have to alternate standing and sitting during a long set to relieve the shoulders and neck. That works well as I can stand and jump around for the rocking stuff and sit down for jazz and ballad numbers.

    A good piece of advice is to not practice for too long stretches at a time, particularily with new material that makes you tense up more. Take frequent breaks, walk around for a while, wiggle all your limbs and do some stretching for your neck, arms and hands.
  4. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I learn to play with numb fingers. :D As a matter-of-fact today is one of those days b/c I woke up and my pinky and ring finger were numb. I am not sure what your symptoms could reveal, but I would have it checked out of course. Could be the way you are holding your bass, but you never know. Better to be safe than sorry.

    I always shake out my hands before I begin to play. Gets the juices flowing. :D

    Hope things turn out ok.

    Be well :)
  5. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Maybe a mini-stroke.
  6. ritalin kid

    ritalin kid

    Aug 31, 2002
    No. Cal
    The caffiene in coffee is a vassopresen it restricts blood vessels and the extremeties can suffer some numbness, but it is always good to visit the doc.
  7. Lipis Roman

    Lipis Roman

    Mar 5, 2002
    Hey Jon, it could very well be the Ulnar nerve issue that you mentioned. Normally I play my bass pretty much identically to the way you're pictured playing in your avatar, strapped fairly high and with the neck at almost a 45 degree angle upward. But at the time that this problem occured I was playing sitting down, the bass still hung about the same as it does when I stand but the angle of the neck was very close to being parallel with the ground. I think I may have developed a habit of playing this way while sitting.

    Unfortunately my primary care doctor was not in today, he won't be around until Monday, so I'm just gonna give myself a day off from the bass (guess it's official sight singing day now) and see him first thing Monday. I'll make sure I do bring the bass so he can see exactly what I was doing when the problem came about, I didn't even think about that, thanks for the tip.

    Anders - What you describe could be a possibility as well. I'm generally pretty tensed up whenever I play/practice, often to the point where I'm grinding my teeth. That's something I've been trying to work on for a quite a while, relaxing while playing. That my play a part in this as well.

    Like I said earlier, it's just wierd that this happened all of a sudden, I've been playing for years and it's never happened before. This just caught me really off guard, no warning signs.

    Thanks for the input and well wishes everyone. I'll let you know how everything turns out when I get back from the doctor on Monday. Hopefully this isn't a serious issue. Thanks again.

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