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Exercises for Arthritic Finger?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Boston BassBoy, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Boston BassBoy

    Boston BassBoy

    Jan 19, 2013
    Boston, MA
    My First Post: :help:
    I've been playing since the late 60's, off and on. After a 15 yr hiatus I started gigging again until I had an illness that took me away from everything. It's been since 2009 and now I am pretty much "repaired", as it were... I have developed arthritis in both hands and numbness, as well. Soooo....does anyone know of any finger exercises that may help me limber up my chops?

    I try playing but my "plucking" fingers keep getting caught up in the strings. My fretting fingers keep gnarling up too.

    Any suggestions that might help me get back on track?

    Thanks, folks! :crying:
  2. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    i've been dealing with arthritis for the last 10 years but still have to play every week. I find that taking 5-10 minutes to warm up and stretch out my hands and fingers and run my hands lightly and slowly over the string helps me quite a bit.

    Adjust your bass' action so that it plays as well as it can. I tried short scale basses. Those may help you in that your fretting hand will have to stretch less. I've settled on a Modulus bass which is not short scale but which allows me super low action. This has helped a lot.

    Also, play with the lightest touch you can manage. Closely examine your technique to make sure you're not using any more pressure with either hand than you need to. I've refined my technique lots over the last 10 years.

    Here are some stretching ideas I've been incorporating:
  3. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I started experiencing arthritis in my left finger joints a couple of years ago. So far the best thing I've found to help is Tylenol Arthritis Pain Formula and regular physical therapy on the fingers; stretching the fingers away and toward the palm, and using a finger exerciser like a rubber ball or spring squeezer. I also started taking Glucosamine regularly.

    I agree with Art on his approach too, plus the low action/light touch.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I don't have any experience with arthritis. Here is a helpful video on safe left hand technique:

    Hope you find that useful/inspirational. :)
  5. tmntfan


    Oct 6, 2011
    Edmonton canada
    I have heard useing elastic bands around your fingers as resistance training is better then squeezing.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Also I am not a big fan of stretching/endurance/strength exercises for their own sake. I strive to make all of my practice material musically useful. Whenever I am feeling sore/tired, then I put the bass down and practice other musical skills: voice, piano, transcription, rhythm, etc.
  7. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL

    I have heard the same. The muscles used to squeeze a ball are already well exercised from playing the bass, gripping things, typing on the computer, etc... The opposite muscles, the ones use to stretch your hand open are the ones that need strengthening. This is what I've heard.
  8. My advice is to look up bass permutations and start with those. They have helped me immensely and I had been playing for 13 years when I started with them. They are great for left hand flexibility and agility, as well as right hand dexterity. Just start slow and build up speed over time.

    Second, definitely focus on pressure of both hands. Make sure you are playing as light as possible. If you do this combined with the permutations it will totally evolve your technique.

    Third make sure you warm up before playing, and stretch after playing. Fergie Fulton has posted many times about this. Hydration is also a consideration. You would be amazed at how much a couple extra glasses of water a day add to your body's effective use of muscles, even small groups like those in your hands.

    And last, supplementation. Glucosamine and chondroitin are excellent for tendon and joint health and will help with the arthritis.
  9. Boston BassBoy

    Boston BassBoy

    Jan 19, 2013
    Boston, MA
    Wow! A lot of great information!

    Thank you all who responded. It's funny, I've been giving my 18 year old cat glucosamine and chondroitin medicated cat snacks and he's improved his gate plus he's quite able to jump on to the bed again! D'Oh! Why didn't I think of this for my fingers...???

    Also the technique and stretching videos were very helpful, as well.

    So, I will dash out to the pharmacy tomorrow and get me some "G&C" meds and start working on finger bending, etc.

    Seriously, fellow Bassists. THANK YOU ALL!

    B BB
  10. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    Sometimes g&c can take a while to feel benefit from. Its not immediate like taking tylenol. Stick with it for a couple of months.

    Also in regards to pain meds stay away from regular/long term ibuprofin usage. I did this and got a duodenal ulcer. Its in the small print warnings that no one reads.

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