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Be Careful What You Do When You're NOT Playing Your Bass Too!!!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Gard, Aug 23, 2000.

  1. Hey all -

    I'm not sure if this is the proper forum to post this to, but it seems to me to apply to playing bass, so here goes. Big Wheel, if it's mis-posted, please feel free to move it to the proper forum.

    Warning, this may be a long post......

    I have been having a bit of trouble over the past few weeks, my right hand has been "falling asleep" (going numb) at times. It's particularly bad when I'm sleeping, noticeable enough to actually wake me up. I wasn't having any trouble playing, at least at first, so I didn't really concern myself with it. Thought it was just typical sleeping on my arm wrong kinda stuff.

    Well, then it started happening when I was at work, I am (well, was, as you shall see...) a window tinter, primarily doing windows in homes and businesses. This bothered me a bit, but as it wasn't happening during playing times, again I let it slide. I just started to work as a window tinter again recently after a few years off, I'd been lucky enough to make enough playing and teaching over the past few years that I didn't need to do anything else. Sadly, I ran into a bit of a dry spell gig-wise and had to get a day gig. I thought that maybe the numbness was my hands being out of shape for the work I was doing, and pressed on.

    Then it started to happen, in a mild fashion, when I was playing or practicing. This began to get my attention, as you might well imagine. I decided to give things a week and see what happened, and things didn't change for that week.

    The next week, I took a trip do Florida to do some things to help out my grandmother. I brought along my basses, and practiced quite a bit during that time (apprx. 4-5 hrs a day). The numbness went away during that time. So, I gave it very little thought. I was even not having the night time/sleeping incidents.

    After returning home and back to work again for a couple days, the sleep/night time numbness returned. And then progressed into the work time numbness quickly. And then into the playing time. Not cool, nope, not at all.

    I went to the doctor this morning, and have been given a primary diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome :(. I will be taking a test of some sort tomorrow at a neurologist's office that will either confirm or deny that diagnosis.

    During the consultation with the doctor, it became apparant that window tinting, and specifically squeeging the tint onto the window was causing the problem. The thing is that when you do that, you bend your wrist backwards then press the squeege HARD against the glass/tint in order to push out the soapy water that's used to install it . This is done THOUSANDS of times in the course of a day of work. I counted the number of "squeege strokes" on a 4' X 3' window today, it was 103...I did 12 windows on that one two hour job alone.

    Happily, the doctor and I also discussed my bass playing, and after my demonstration of my arm/hand positions, he said that while it may have been a contributing factor, it wasn't the cause. The same for typing (don't worry about the length of the post :D). So he gave me the green light to keep practicing and gigging. On the other hand, he said to "quit window tinting YESTERDAY!". I went to work, and immedately gave notice that today was pretty much my last day.

    I also bought a wrist brace this weekend, and started wearing it when I wasn't playing (I did try to play with it, but wasn't really able to). It made a pretty significant difference right away, particularly when sleeping. The doctor said that was a good move, and to continue to wear the brace as much as possible for the time being.

    I'm on cortisone for a week, then naproxin sodium for the swelling in my median nerve (that's the one that pretty much is everything for feeling your hand). I start physical therapy Friday, although I don't have a clue just yet what that will entail.

    The point of my post is to let everyone know to pay very close attention to what you're doing away from your instrument. It could have a devastating effect. Don't ignore even the most seemingly superficial symptoms, get to a doctor right away, it's better to be safe than sorry, particularly when it could threaten your ability to play your bass.

    I'll keep any interested parties updated with how things are progressing, but as of this time it looks promising, so I'm keeping a pretty positive attitude.
  2. Yes Sir. You are a smart man to take the symptoms seriously. Your early vigilance has likely saved you from an expensive, painful, and interminably long recovery.
    Good Luck!
  3. Ham -

    Thanks, but if I'd been REALLY smart, I would have gotten looked at when the symptoms first manifested themselves. I certainly hope that I've caught it early enough to keep it from becoming a real problem, the doc seems to think so, but we'll just have to wait and see. Thanks for the luck, I'm not superstitious, but I'll take any help I can get at this point :).
  4. Doug


    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    Good post Gard. Hope everthing works out for.
  5. Doug -

    Thanks for the good wishes.
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Hey, Gard. This post is perfect for Miscellaneous.

    Keep 'em coming!

    Will C.:cool:
  7. Doug


    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    Gard, I just noticed in your profile that David Larue is your instructor.

    Now I don't feel sorry for you anymore. :D Just Kiddin'.

    Is he still teaching you? How did you manage to get him to teach you?
  8. Dave -

    If you had taken some of the lessons from LaRue that I had you might not think I was so lucky! ;)

    My definition of intimidated: trading solos with Dave LaRue over Jazz tunes. Of course, after that very little will intimidate you :D.

    In all honesty, Dave's a GREAT teacher, and wonderful person. Sadly as I don't live in Central FL anymore (where he does), I can't take regular lessons with him. I do manage to sneak in a lesson when I'm visiting Orlando (he doesn't live there, but nearby) and his schedule permits.

    As far as how I got him to teach me, I just called Bass Central and asked for a lesson. It was that easy. If you were in the Orlando/Central FL area, you would be able to do the same. Since you don't (how's the weather up there in Bill country?), you can get correspondence lessons from Dave through his website: www:http//davelarue.com. Well worth the effort and money.

  9. Doug


    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    Yeah, I remember seeing those correspondence courses on their website.

    Weather here has been pretty good. A little wetter than usual. But temperature wise not bad. Usually the summers are hot and muggy. Been hot, but not that muggy. Just waiting for the leaves to start changing and another week until FOOTBALL!!!
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Good luck with your CTS. A doctor told me to wear a brace at night too, because many people have a tendency to bend their wrists at night while sleeping. It made a big difference, because that was eight hours where my wrist was getting a rest from the stress. In my case, it was the bass playing, namely fretting that caused my CTS. I believe it was because I started playing bass when I was much older than most people who start in their teens or early twenties.

    What is really bad in all that you said is that I know all the doctor's visits, tests, and physical therepy are horrendously expensive. I hope it doesn't set you back too much and hope you will be able to play again very soon.

    What I have had to do is face the fact that at my age I can't rehearse or practice five or six hours a day. I need to break up any practice into short, fifteen minute or half hour sessions, interspersed with other activities. Bummer. But I've come to accept that the most I'll ever be now is a "hobbiest" anyway.

    For you, the thing to do is tame the CTS beast, learn how to keep it under control and put those Dave LaRue classes to good use by playing as many gigs as possible for years to come. Best of luck and keep us informed. If you could pass on some effective exercizes to keep our wrists healthy, that would be cool too. Jason Oldsted
  11. Jason -

    Thanks. I've been wearing a brace since last Friday, only take it off to shower and play my bass. It's made a huge difference in my sleeping, the tingling/numbness was enough to wake me up last week!

    Luckily, my lovely and long-suffering wife has a great job (she's a radation therapist...tough job, works with cancer patients) with great benefits, including pretty damn good health insurance, which after a modest co-payment is covering everything so far. I'd better be able to play soon, got a gig tomorrow night :D!!!!! As I said in the first post, the doc said that so far, I have nothing to fear from playing, it wasn't the cause.

    I'm out there trying not to embarass Dave ( ;) ) on a regular basis, and intent on continuing to do so until they pry my bass from my cold, dead fingers. The prognosis so far (keeping my fingers crossed) is that won't be a problem, now that I've quit the offending activity. I start PT tomorrow, and will gladly offer up to the collective (you may call me Locutus...resistance is futile, you will be BASSimilated :D) any advice and exercises which I'm given. Thanks for the good wishes.
  12. Ed -

    Glad to hear Kate's recovering from her bout with CTS. Thanks for the tip, I'll surf on over there and check it out. And thanks for the good wishes.
  13. DaveTomasi

    DaveTomasi Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 1999
    Baltimore, Maryland

    I wish you a speedy and full recovery. I have some understanding of what you are up against. I worked for 10 years in a factory setting performing various jobs requiring sets of repetitive motions involving shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers. So far, I have avoided the consequences of my past career. However, my wife, who also worked with me back then, was not so lucky. Her CTS required surgery (not a pretty site :( ) and resulted in some nerve damage. Be glad that you took action as soon as you did. Again, I wish you the best.
  14. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    I am careful about what I even do around the house. I once spent the afternoon trimming some bushes and hedges and afterwards, i had a great deal of numbness in my hand. I had trouble playing for a couple of days. It is surprising sometimes...just what can affect the nerves in our hands and fingers.
  15. Thanks again to all for the continued good wishes :).

    Went to the Neurologist today, and after being in turn a puppet (wires everywhere, my hand and arm jumping involuntarily from electrical stimulations) and a pincushion/puppet (metal needles being inserted into my muscles THEN electrical stimulation being applied to them....it sounds worse than it really was :) ), I've been told that I'm going to almost certainly recover :D :D :D.

    She (the Neurologist that is) said that there was no question in her mind that the culprit was the window tinting, and that if I'd never had the first bit of trouble from 20+ years of playing bass and guitar, there was no way it was a cause. She even said that it wasn't really much of a "contributing cause". According to her, I've already pretty much done everything necessary to effect a complete recovery, getting my wrist in a splint as much as possible, and quitting the offending activity (window tinting).

    The next step is the physical therapy, which will be early tomorrow afternoon. If anything interesting comes from that visit (some good stretching/warmup exercises for your hands, etc), I will make sure to pass it along.

    Take care of those hands, people! :)
  16. Update time:

    Finally made it to Physical/Occupational therapy today, after the typical Mongolian Cluster $*#@ of insurance company, doctor's office, and therapy center trying to communicate with each other. Due to some silly snafu, my original appointment on Friday was cancelled.

    First the therapist did an evaluation of my condition, checked things like range of motion and hand strength. I lost about 5 psi of grip strength in the right hand, leaving my left actually stronger., According to him, even though I've played bass and guitar for 20+ years, my right or as he put it "dominant" hand should be stronger. It's not.

    For the treatment, first he had me coat my hand with hot paraffin (sp?) wax and let it sit for 15 minutes, with a hot pad over it. The intent is for the heat to loosen up the ligaments and tendons in the wrist. Next, a sort of hand massage, he pushed down on either side of the base of my wrist on the palm, just above the wrist. This was to stretch the ligament holding the bones in that part of the wrist, this ligament forms the "floor" of the carpal tunnel. Then I did a series of exercises to build the strength back up in my hand, one was a squeezing thing, some contraption with rubber bands on it to provide resistance, followed by a familiar gizmo to anyone who's seen the ads for a "Grip-Master". Yup, he had a set of different resistance Grip-Masters, I worked for several minutes with a fairly light resistance one, he said resistance was (futile...;) ) not the point, but working the tendons through their full range of motion was.

    Finally, he gave me this thing called "Carpal Care" to use at home. It's basically a big rubber band tied to a handle, you put your had inside the rubber band, pull back a bit, and open your fingers, hold for a few seconds, then relax and repeat it. There are 3 different positions you're supposed to do this at, for 2 minutes at each position.

    Happily, the PT guy agreed with the doctor and the neurologist, I'm in pretty good shape, caught it early and did all the right things. Early detection and treatment are the key, according to all of them, so y'all pay attention to those hands and fingers. I'll be doing PT for another 2 weeks, 3 times a week, if anything new or interesting comes up, I'll make sure to post it here. Thanks again for all the good luck wishes, seems to be working :D.
  17. Oh yeah, one other thing the Occupational Therapist told me. The splints that usually come with wrist braces have too much of a bend in them to be good for you if you're suffering from CTS. Look for a brace with a metal one that's bendable, not the cheaper plastic ones you are unable to re-shape. Luckily, they keep a shapeable plastic for that purpose where I'm going for my therapy, and they made me a new one. :D
  18. Acacia


    Apr 26, 2000
    Austin, TX
    welcome to my world of undiagnosed pain and discomfort. i do think I have CTS setting in, but over the past 8 years, I have suffered from constant pain that anti-inflammatories don't help. This is the reason I am playing bass now (was a drummer of 16 years). I need to get tested for CTS soon.

    I also have a 2nd ganglion cyst appearing, this one on my left wrist. sucks like hell, but the doc told me last week that if it isn't bothering me (other than the unsightly appearance) to leave it alone.
  19. Sean -

    Get thee to a neurologist, post haste!!

    The test for CTS isn't too bad, and once you diagnosed, treatment doesn't have to be too extreme, unless you've let it go to the point of permanent damage (which I fear you may have :( ). From everything I've heard (doctor, neurologist, and occupational therapist), early detection and treatment is a sure fire way to beat CTS, and without surgery. Mine is MUCH better already, and I just started the OT treatments.

    Have you tried sleeping with a wrist brace on? That seems to have made the biggest difference for me actually. One of the symptoms of CTS is numbness that occurs while sleeping, especially if it's enough to wake you, which mine did. Sleeping with the brace almost immedately stopped that. Good luck.
  20. Doug


    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    Gard, glad everthing is gonna be ok.

    Sean, get your but to a specialist soon. I'd hate to see ya unable to play bass, esp. since you can no longer play drums. DO IT NOW!!!!

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