Forearm pain from fretting with pinky - normal?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Big Website, Nov 4, 2020.

  1. Big Website

    Big Website

    Nov 4, 2020
    Hi, it's my first post here so sorry if this isn't the right place to post this. I've searched for the answer to this for a while and found nothing on the web.

    When I fret with my pinky I get pain in my forearm, not pain that runs down my wrist or hand but pain that's isolated there, on the same side my pinky is on, about halfway down my forearm. It's around the area that the "flexor carpi ulnaris" is and it feels like it's the muscle.

    It makes sense that something is sore - i've been playing a lot recently after not having played for a long time, and am definitely taking a break now. But i'd like to know if this is normal muscle soreness from strengthening muscles, or if it's some pain that's caused by improper technique or something else that should be looked into. Is it normal for the muscles in the fretting forearm to feel sore when you're playing a lot?
  2. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones? Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I don’t remember my growing pains from playing electric but I do remember what it was like when I started playing upright a few years ago. I definitely experienced pain in my fretting hand forearm. If you’re playing more than usual then some pain is probably par for the course but if that pain persists it might be wise to consult a physical therapist. Regardless, finding some appropriate stretching exercises would probably not be a bad idea. Also, one of the things that playing upright taught me is the importance of relaxing while playing. It’s easy to get tense, stop regular breathing and put more strain on muscles than is necessary.
    JRA likes this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    My first thought regarding such symptoms is always the question of whether you are fretting with a severely bent wrist, which puts all kinds of stress on the tendons in your hand. Is that the case? If so, check out this (oft-cited) video:

    Mushroo and Killed_by_Death like this.
  4. Big Website

    Big Website

    Nov 4, 2020
    That's reassuring that you also experienced this. Thanks for the advice about relaxing - i'm sure that I get very tense when i'm trying to play fast or dexterously and I never really pay attention to it.
    bass12 likes this.
  5. Big Website

    Big Website

    Nov 4, 2020
    I don't think so but when i'm in the zone i may well be without realizing it. My tendons are fine, it's the muscles (or something else, idk the anatomy of the forearm) halfway down my forearm, maybe even closer to the elbow. Thanks for the rec, i will check out that video as i've recently decided to pursue bass full force and am looking to prevent injury and learn safe technique
    Lobster11 likes this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    lots of under-experienced folks on this site post (with certainty and with their hair on fire!) that one "should never feel pain" and i might agree that certain kinds of pain are signs of real problems. but some pains are a sign that you just 'over did it'. common sense has yet to be replaced by something better than say, "common sense."
    smeet and bass12 like this.
  7. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    If you don't know a physical therapist, find one.
    I was having serious tennis-elbow for the first half of this year.

    Saw a physical therapist a couple of months ago & learned some exercises for stretching & also how to position your arm while sleeping,
    also how to massage your arm prior to playing

    I started sleeping with my arm 'half-cocked' & it made a big change.
    Don't sleep with your arm fully extended (straight) or with it folded in all the way, go halfway.
    dmt likes this.
  8. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones? Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Agreed. I’ve been playing electric for thirty-three years and if I push myself harder than usual with repetitive motions I’ll feel pain. And I’ve had tendonitis from just overdoing it - not because of bad technique. Also, I went through all kinds of growing pains with upright a few years ago. I was careful and had good instruction right from the beginning but a certain amount of pain and discomfort was simply inevitable for me.
    JRA likes this.
  9. dmt


    Apr 19, 2003
    Orbiting Sol
    Definitely don’t ignore it. We can’t know what you mean by "pain" over the internet, but even soreness is a sign to back off. However, some soreness and aches are inevitable, so it’s a matter of learning your body. But, yeah, you could potentially really mess yourself up too - I’m with the recommendation to get to know a physical therapist.

    It sucks when your mind is ready to go 100 mph and your body says to slow down or even to stop and take a significant break, but in the end the body will have its say.

    If you see a doc, be careful about cortisone injections into the forearms - it’s a mask, not a cure, and too many of them will lead to tissue death (yikes). But they immediately relieve pain, so some doctors love them, especially at first (so it can be a problem if you keep switching doctors and each new one gives you a cortisone injection).

    I start off every playing session with a slow gentle finger warmup on the fretboard, then start playing mellowly (not bending strings or doing any big stretches) and then gradually get into my normal playing. In general, I also avoid certain techniques or stretches that have consistently caused me problems.

    Take a break for 5 days and then slowly get back to it.

    Along with visiting a physical therapist, another aspect of handling this could be to take some lessons with an experienced teacher specifically with the expressed purpose of focusing on developing a healthy, pain-free technique. Maybe just one month or possibly even less - just a lesson or two even, could be money well spent (I’m thinking 3 actually, so the teacher has a chance to see you play the first time and then think about it afterwards, and see at least a little of how you progress after instruction, and then gets a chance to make at least one adjustment and see how that goes too. Of course you could keep going from there, but even just a little three lesson mini-course like that might still be very helpful)
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2020
  10. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    The pinky didn’t evolve/and was not designed to act alone afaik. If your pinky finger is holding down a note at least one of your other fingers should be helping. Arm/Wrist angle definitely come into play here, especially if your shredding(repeating the same motion again and again).
    MonetBass likes this.
  11. Big Website

    Big Website

    Nov 4, 2020
    Yeah, it's the worst when you've got the drive, the energy and enthusiasm to do something and injury or warnings of injury gets in the way. I recently got back into skateboarding and was really driven and having a great time, spending 3-4 hours at the park every day, then a week in I got a contusion on my knee that took a month to heal. Now that I'm taking bass more seriously I'm not skating very much because of the risk of wrist injury, maybe i'll pick up some wristgaurds.
    Thanks for the recommendations, I might take the teacher suggestion. I'll have to see if my insurance covers physical therapy for something like this
    I'm also worried about carpal tunnel because when I'm not playing bass, I'm on the computer or drawing. Definitely going to try and get some good habits formed while I'm young, I can't imagine not being able to draw or play music because of something like that
    dmt likes this.
  12. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020

    Just use the right amount of pressure.
    Mushroo likes this.