Galloping & Carpal Tunnel

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by CocoaThumper, Sep 3, 2017.

  1. CocoaThumper


    Aug 18, 2017
    As someone who works a desk job, and also enjoys video games (PC gaming mostly) I sadly battle with carpal tunnel at times. I see a lot of mouse and keyboard use during the day. Sometimes it gets bad where grabbing things with my right hand can hurt quite a bit.

    Anyways, sometimes playing bass gets painful do during periods where I have carpal tunnel flare ups. I find it keeps me from playing songs where I would like to gallop and not use a pick (ex: The Trooper by Iron Maiden).

    So the doctor gives me the typical advice which helps keep carpal tunnel at bay:

    - take breaks away from the mouse & keyboard during the day
    - get an ergonomic mouse like a vertical mouse
    - use a wrist rest and do wrist/forearm exercises
    - holding my mobile phone less in my hands or get a smaller phone (lol mine is 5.5 inches...size of an IPhone Plus)

    But get this....I tried to explain to the doctor that when I have flair ups, my technique suffers, and he goes "well....maybe just use the pick more like guitarists do....don't use fingers so much or so fast". He's not a musician, so I expected such an answer.

    But I'm wondering if you guys can give any technique tips or general lifestyle tips to deal with this. Without having to sacrifice technique and playing style too much.
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Musician or not....your doctor is right IMO.....but playing with a pick has it's own physical drawbacks if the technique is not up to scratch.

    Better to play with a pick during those flair ups than to play through the pain with your fingers, thus further exacerbating the problem.

    The choice of whether to sacrifice your physical health and well being over technique and playing style is a no brainer IMO. ;)
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
    CocoaThumper likes this.
  3. slagheap


    Dec 23, 2011
    unfortunately, there are no cut & dried solutions to the problem. i can, however, tell you one thing NOT to do: do not take pain killers in order to continue galloping while masking the hurt - been there, done that. just keep a good attitude and modify your technique as required.
  4. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    The most important thing you can do is to adjust your technique, if necessary, to ensure that both of your wrists are as straight as possible when you're playing.
  5. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    I had a mouse intensive job at work and developed CTS in both hands, I swapped the mouse between hands at regular intervals to relieve the pain, it made bass playing almost impossible.

    I had all the tests and it was confirmed that it was CTS. I was issued with splints to to wear when in bed (made a slight improvement) and had cortisone injections (bloody painful and made no difference) and was on the waiting list to have surgery (UK Nation Health Service).

    - I found computer wrist rests to make it worse, the additional pressure on my wrist aggravated it.

    - I originally used a huge mouse (I have big hands) but our company policy was to standardise all workstations so we had to have something that everyone could use (including secretaries) and despite the fact that only I used my workstation my big mouse was taken away. That was when I started having problems, trying to convince the powers that be that I needed a bigger mouse was like :banghead: and I wasn't allowed to buy my own because "it wasn't company approved".

    - At the time we didn't have mobile phones but holding a standard phone handset was agony after a few minutes. If at all possible at work I would go speak to someone in person rather than phone them. At home I used the phone as little as possible.

    I then took voluntary redundancy from work and within a few weeks the CTS was all but gone and I took my name off the waiting list. 17 years on and it has not returned so (to my simple mind) mine was caused by constant use of the mouse, something my employers refused to accept of course.

    I still am very careful not to hold a mouse when not using it. Having a bass or guitar to hand helps stop this. I have the biggest mouse I can find.

    When using the phone I use hands free whenever possible.

    TL;DR Take all possible steps to reduce what is causing CTS or be prepared to suffer the consequences.
    CocoaThumper likes this.
  6. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Give up video games and practice more. Or at least give up the games it is better for you in the long run.

    Rev J
  7. I developed carpal tunnel from playing rhythm guitar. Forming the chord fingering on old fingers finally became a problem. My Doctor told me to buy the carpal tunnel brace from Walmart and wear it at night. This gave my wrist 8 hours of rest and seemed to do the trick. I did have to have surgery on my right hand and after that decided to give up rhythm guitar before more surgery was necessary.

    Now that I no longer play the 6 string rhythm guitar I do not have a CT problem with my left hand, and no longer wear the brace at night. So I would recommend.....

    Find the problem and stop doing what is causing the problem and wear the CT brace at night..

    I do not have a problem playing the bass. I think the main reason for that is I fret with the pad of my finger and not the tip. Fretting with the pad seems to pull everything in line as it should be.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  8. CocoaThumper


    Aug 18, 2017
    I'm a relatively fit 30 yr old and already wear night splits for plantar fasciitis. Ive also done more stretching which has helped too. My problem was flat feet and needing better arch support in the shoes I wear.

    Gotta be honest, It took some internal "growing up" for me to finally get the night splints. And its something I still am embarrassed about, especially when a woman comes over (Not often as I'm trying to find the right girl at my age and not sleep around).

    But boy oh boy, I hope my CT never gets as bad as me needing a wrist split too. That said, I know aging is a part of life...I just didn't expect my muscles to be all tight and finicky at just 30 years old.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
  9. Yep, if you are not wearing PJ's you should not wear the brace.:cool:
    delta7fred likes this.
  10. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    I have to say you will likely have to address the wear and tear you are getting at work. I work a desk job, but am not typing and mousing so furiously that i get fatigue. This may involve wearing braces, or finding an ergonomical way to work. If you hands/wrists are already that torn up, then picking up the bass is never going to be a picnic.

    Your doc is best to recommend how you need to get back into shape. My only meaningful recommendation is to say "stop going to work."
    CocoaThumper likes this.
  11. desert_rain


    Jul 14, 2015
    I have steve harris signature P with stve harris sig. strings. Those strings are very high tension strings. I play lots of iron maiden also I am software engineer and work with computers all day.

    I do lots of galloping exercise for can play iron maiden songs. So I had pain in my right wrist to mid finger and ring finger. sometimes pain was continued for two days. Now I practice less for avoiding CTS. I if i sense any pain, I give up practice. I divide my practice sessions to small time windows. for example : practice 15 mins galloping, rest 10 mins.
    Within time, I experienced that this technique, my forearm is getting strong so I can play for long time duration for same practice and same speed without pain.
  12. It appears from the underlined passage that you are dealing with a General Practitioner/Primary Care Physician. To be frank, GPs are great screeners. They see a lot and can quickly and accurately distinguish minor from major and have a good referral network. But, once you need specialized treatment, they are quickly out of their depth because they do no see a big enough population with that problem.

    What you need is a referral to a Physiatrist. He/she will do a nerve conduction study (a little painful, but doesn't take too long) and will quantify how bad your CTS is. Form there, the two of you can craft a treatment plan that addresses your lifestyle (playing bass) and ameliorates your condition.

    Good luck.

    BTW - I have carpal tunnel syndrome and am scheduled for a surgical fix next week. Surgical repair is often curative.

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