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Health Related Issues To Playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Fergie Fulton, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. I recently got diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome. It definitely sucks. I have pain up and down my left arm and my left hand is numb. I'm taking a break from playing because it's too painful.
  2. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    If I can offer some submissions relating to shoulder impingement and injuries, which I don't see addressed in this sticky...

    I've been struggling off and on the last half year with some shoulder issues. When the flare-up is severe enough I can't even comb my hair with the affected (right) arm, nor can I do common motions like putting my keys into my car ignition. So far it has not affected my bass playing per se but it certainly has that potential and it's pretty scary to consider. If you have ever injured a shoulder in any way I would strongly suggest you check out this information... even if you are not currently experiencing any pain and especially if you're over about 35. I'm 46 now, injured my rotator cuff in my early 20s and it basically sat there dormant for 25 before coming back to haunt me now.


    Maintaining flexibility and strength in your shoulder joint is critical. You also need to be really REALLY careful doing any band related activities that involve lifting heavy objects over your head. We do all the P.A. and lighting set-up for my band and I think that's how I got my shoulder angry after all these years.
  3. Spatial


    Oct 30, 2012
    Anybody else do this? Our Guitarist says I look like a Dork, but irregardless of wheather there are health benifits, I feel it definatley helps my playing. Is this common or am I just a weirdo?
  4. Every. Single. Time.

    I do some basic yoga stuff with hands/arms, shoulders, neck, and spine. I don't remember the names of the specific yoga techniques, but a few that I find most useful before even picking up an instrument:

    1) Place both arms at full length in front of you (raise from the shoulder, but keep the shoulder itself down and back (neutral)), palms down.
    2) Maintain the above position and tilt your hands down at the wrist so your fingers point at the floor. You should feel a stretch across the top of the arm when you do this. Hold for 10-20 seconds, repeat as necessary.
    3) Maintain the above position and tilt your hands up at the wrist so your fingers point upward. Hold for 10-20 seconds, repeat as necessary.
    4) Bring hands together in front of your chest in a sort of "prayer" position. Move your arms a bit so that your hands are as vertical as possible - you should feel a stretch under the arm.
    5) Hands back out in front of you as in #1. Make a fist with each hand, thumb inside the fingers, not too tight, just a "loose" fist.
    6) Staying in the position in #5, rotate the wrists 10x clockwise and 10x counterclockwise.
    7) Shoulder rolls. The way I prefer to do this one was taught to me by a physical therapist as I was recovering from a rotator cuff injury: a) Bring your arms to your sides (standing works best), b) raise your forearms so they are parallel to the floor, right angle to upper arm. c) Roll your shoulders (try to make a circle with them) while keeping your forearms level with the floor. It should feel a bit like a rowing exercise.
    8) Lie down on the floor in the "corpse pose" and actively relax every muscle in your body, feel your spine lengthen and straighten.

    May not be able to do all of these when you need to, but at least some of them will help a great deal. I don't usually spend a lot of time doing these when I'm about to play, but I try to make time to go through a full suite of yoga exercises daily (I have back/neck problems, so... I need to).

    Below is a little finger exercise (sorry about the ugly "tab" - I can make notation for this if anyone wants it, and attach as PDF):


    NOTE: The numbers represent fingers, not frets! You can start at any fret you want, but it's best to start around 12 or so, then work down so your fingers gradually increase their stretch.

    I'll do the above exercise all up and down the neck at various tempos every day, for no more than 5 minutes. I first learned this one from Justin Sandercoe over at http://justinguitar.com/ - (he has a LOT of really good finger exercises). It helps to get a bit of stretch in the fingers and generally loosen them up. This is NOT the full exercise, only the first half of it. Justin does this both down and back up. To save time, I usually just run a 1-finger-per-fret chromatic (sort of) run back up, then move down a fret and start over.

    Then, after you've been doing things like this and your guitarist develops RSI, you are free to laugh at him and call him a dork :)

    Anyway, have fun.
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Stretches are the best way to prepare for playing, help you play, and warm you down after playing.
    Muscles like slow stretches, they like slow long stretches. Muscles do not like fast contractions.

    So here is what happens, when a muscle contracts to create movement, it pulls, so it shortens and this shortening of the muscle is what pulls the lever. ( the lever is the bone to which the muscle has an attachment )

    Muscle work in antaganistic pairs, this means they work together, so they work opposite each other. This means that for one to shorten the opposite muscle has to lengthen. So the muscle that lengthen relaxes as the muscle that tightens pulls.....then to return the movement, the muscle that was relaxed now shortens, so it pulls the lever back, and the muscle on the opposite side that was shortened to pull the muscle, now relaxes and lengthens to allow the opposite shortening muscle to pull the lever back.

    So as you can now imagine, muscles can only pull, so slow long stretches, help lengthen the muscles fibres, this stretches them fully and beyond there normal uses, it helps them to work better.
    Because you never ever fully stretch you muscles in your hands and fingers when you play, they are always partly working, the movement is restricted to short controlled movements, stretching them returns the full range of movement they are capable of, so keeps them healthy.
    To imagine this, walk in a controlled restricted way, walk heel to toe...so your foot that comes down to lead always touches the toe of the foot on the ground. This is still forward movement, but after a while you will cramp, you will feel tight in your legs, stretching relieves tightness.

    So of a muscle is tight it will not relax and lengthen to allow the opposite muscle to shorten and pull.....so you have a muscle pulling on a muscle that is pulling.......and as the terms describe, you pull a muscle.
    The same thing can happen if the movement is sharp or to quick when a muscle is not warmed up, the muscle that pulls, pulls against a muscle that is also trying to pull......again the result is a pulled muscle, or worse maybe a ripped muscle or even a ripped attachment.

    So stretches do work, the encourage blood into the muscle fibres, and blood is warm so the muscle gets more warmth because of more blood being present. More blood means many things as it also brings more 'fuel' to the muscles, and takes away more waste products such as Lactic Acid which restrict muscle movement and will induce cramp...again cramp is muscles pulling, but not in a controlled way, its a reaction to stop movement not help it.

    In the link is a few that will help your hands.

    Hand Stretches and Exercises for warm ups/downs

  6. Spatial


    Oct 30, 2012
    Cool thanks for the links and exercises included guys. I'll have to try them out. I usually use a few songs to warm up my fingers, in this order after stretching it goes:

    1.) Chromatic scale
    2.) Bass Solo on NIB by Black Sabbath
    3.) Blues scales in every position until Ive covered the entire fretboard
    4.) Half of Anesthesia by Metallica (Well technically Cliff Burton)
    5.) Then I usually play a few other scales that will wind up using all 4 fingers and play open strings up and down all of them using all 3 fingers(I play finger style using 3 fingers instead of 2)
    6.) Opening riff of crystal mountain or spirit crusher by death

    Then I'm warmed up and ready to go.:D
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I have had the same playing warm up for over 30 odd years now.
    The reason it is un-changed is because it starts of easy and builds in dexterity, string crossing, fret spans, for the fretting hands, and finger movement across the plucking hand.
    Because it is so familier to me it gives me another advantage....I used it as a bench mark. If for any reason I struggle or it feels tired or sore, I know to take it easy, use some extra stretches, have some more fluids, maybe a bit more to eat. Because I know how it should perform, my warm up also lets me know how well I can expect my hands to play.

    That sort of feedback, for me, is in-valuable and could be for others that develop similar rouine, a player would be able to gauge if their hands are up to a long practice or will it just be a short one......the same can apply to gigs and shows.:)
  8. Spatial


    Oct 30, 2012
    Yeah same here I do this same warm up routine every time I go to play:)

    I agree 100%, I use how my warm up is going as a benchmark for numerous things such as muscle pain or where I need to improve etc etc. Also one thing that is important for me in the consistency of my warm up routine is that, if say for example I'm not playing a certain part correctly warming up, I know I need to spend more time practicing something in that similar vein and I need to spend more time warming up.

    Nice to see others use similar methods as I do:D

    Also I would like to pose another question: Have any of you ever experienced neck pain while playing? And if so what was your's solution?
    (I did early on cause our drummer and I would jam for hours on end without stopping.So I replaced my strap with a neotech super bass neoprene strap and shazamm!!!! Neck pain vanished)

    I'm curious as to how others combat similar problems concerning health and playing.
  9. superheavyfunk

    superheavyfunk 音楽は人生だ

    Mar 11, 2013
    This is my problem right now. Serious neck and shoulder pain... I'm using a fairly wide leather strap because my bass has a problem with neck dive. After a gig, I can't play the next day - which sucks when we're doing two nights in a row. The second night is always brutal.

    What kind of strap were you using before you switched?
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I disclose nothing
    Health Related Issues To Playing


    You missed the big ones ...

    1 - Hearing loss and ear damage.
    2 - Substance abuse - the down side of drug and alcohol usage.
    3 - The health problems that arise from poor diet, and poor sleeping patterns while touring.
  11. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    A friend of mine told me that when he gigs due to back problems he takes a small plush rug with him to stand on. He says it helps alot. I may try this for my next gig. I'll just have to put up with the noise from the fellas like 'who does he think he is' Lol!!!! I think I'll pick a bright red one :)
  12. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    I've been experiencing pain at the base of my thumbs, on both hands. I'm pretty sure it's arthritis in the basal joint, because 1. I'm 62 and there's a family history, 2. my technique is good (I don't squeeze the neck and my action is set low), 3. my bass is positioned on my body just as Randall Kertz recommended, and I've had it this way for years.

    Was wondering if anybody had tried some sort of electrical stim for treating arthritis.

    A big thank you to Fergie Fulton for pointing me toward materials in a PM! I've started doing some stretches of the basal joint and the wrist, and it's helping some. Just curious about the electrical stim approach, as well.
  13. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Pain intensity is emotion based.
    The hard thing abut pain centres is that they can vary within the brain, they can move and be associated with activities with parts of the brain nothing to do with the actual pain centre. The pain is a refered or phantom pain.....but the pain is real, what you will feel hurts, but it should not be there.

    I have no experience or info on any 'electric therapies' so research the info and talk to others and make a positive decision to try it or not. Even if it does not work you will not carry the mental baggage of 'maybe'...as in maybe that could have made a difference. Your will power and belief are one of the top things to have in dealing with all pain. If anyone does then please post or point to good links of refrence.:)

    I can speak with confidence on mental side matter due to my personal experience of pain moving away from its centre. So read on and take what i write as my situation, the results i got were from my own personal strengths.......but it is relevant.

    Back in June 2008 i broke my neck and suffered terrible nerve damage to my upper body limbs as the fracture was on the right hand side transverse process C7 vertebrae, anterior to posterior, next to my spinal chord.

    To cut a long story short, i was always in pain for the first few years of my rehabilitation because i got used to to the pain.
    Pain was present in everything in my life, i sat with pain, moved move with pain, slept with pain, practiced with pain and played with pain ever present as i set about trying to re-build my physical skills.
    I realised physical skills are perishable, we do not have the rights for them to maintaining what we develop over time and practice forever.....there are levels of ability and use for all....it is about quality of use rather than use.

    When the physical injuries were healed i was left with physical limitations, because the nerves were crushed and damaged at C7, also the bone of the transverse process did not heal in line (and with the thickening of the fracture healing) the nerve and blood vessels were being trapped or impinged when ever is used them in certain ways.
    Certain deep muscle groups would compress the joint and the injury as they were attached to it or covered it.
    So in certain uses,such as lifting my arms away from my side or above shoulder level presented physical problems.
    This would present itself as pain, limited quality or weakness in that movement.
    So even though i could lift my arms up, i had to real strength in the quality of the action, this also applied to my hands and fingers.

    Because in the early years of recovery i played with pain my brain learned to associate pain with it, and as a result i would suffer pain when none should be present, my brain created it to go with the tasks. In later years i under took 'Pain Management' at a Pain Clinic' and re-learned not to associate pain with tasks and actions where it should not be present.

    With arthritis the problem can present itself in the same ways, you expect pain so your brain accommodates you with it. The placebo effect can be very useful if re-learning not to have, or feel, as much pain as you think there should be when doing certain things, it can also intensify it to levels of what you believe or expect it to be
    This pain is real, we feel it, but the fact is there is no real reason for its intensity, it is not that the pain is not real....it very much is......it is the fact it should not be present where it is.

    This is why pain is considered to have an emotional centre because it is the intensity of the pain, not the presence of it we learn can to 'ignore'.
    We need to learn not to associate it with what we do, or areas of the body when we do certain actions.
    I have no experience of 'electric therapies' but with all treatments, if you believe they will work, you have more chance of them doing so where pain is involved.

    This is what pain killers do, they remove the intensity that we feel, so the brain learns to do the job that the drug does.
    Side effects are that we can become reliant on any drugs to do the job, so we can learn to become addicted to using drugs to control the pain because we have learned to associate there use with less or no pain....how much of it is actually the drug controlling the pain, how much is it the 'idea' or belief that the drug is controlling the pain becomes the issue?

    This is what the pain clinic done for me, i learned not to have pain or associate it with certain physical tasks because there was no physical reason for it being there.
    I had no wear and tear causing the pain anymore after i healed but i still had the pain associated with the use because of the original injuries that caused them.....those injuries have long since healed but i still accommodate the pain so to speak.

    I changed everything i done as far as what i used to play with (as well as other aspects of my life), different guitars, rigs, set-ups etc, because i had no experience of pain in using them so i could not readily associate or relate pain to them..
    So my basses became short scale and lighter, this meant less weight and ease of use and so less pain associating in using them....even though the physical action and the techniques was the exact same....the experience was a remarked difference.
    The same with the rig, smaller and lighter to move about, so less strain on my body.
    Before with my old rig, i got used to expecting it to hurt, so before i even lifted it i knew it would hurt....so when i did lift it my brain accommodated me with what i was expecting to happen.

    Playing was the same, the thought of playing created anxiety of expecting pain which became a reality when i done it.
    One of my physical problems was the weight of the bass and playing it down by the nut.
    Reaching towards that area did originally involve real pain, because the muscle groups being used to support my extended arm put pressure on my neck.
    Using a short scale semi acoustic bass with lighter stings meant i did not reach as far, so there should be less pain and because i understood this....there was less pain, the lighter strings and lower action just meant my weak hands had less strain for fret them.
    So i learned not to associate pain with playing these types of bass and set-up and finally learned not to associate pain with any type of playing.

    I still suffer the physical problems of my hands not working properly, that will never go away because that is a physical reality, but i do not associate pain with it anymore.
    When my playing abilities started to deteriorate because i was doing to much and putting pressure on the injury, it felt that lack of ability, my hands felt slow, clumsy, heavy and painful.
    I held on to those learned associations that with the deterioration of ability came pain, (which was true, as there was a real physical reason for the pain to be there, which was to stop me using my upper body and aggravating the injury slowing its healing), bit did not let them go when the injury healed.

    These days i can play relatively pain free because i have forgotten to associate pain with using my old set up.
    It is the same for us all and is like looking back on things in life that at the time were really bad, but we now view them as not so bad.
    My memory has filtered out the bad experiences and all i remember is the good, i see them through a 'rose tinted lens' so they are not as bad as i remember them.
    This mental process is part of our bodies natural pain management, it is forgetting how the pain should feel and replacing it with the dominate memories that for forty plus years i played with no pain rather than those 3-4 years i did.....time is indeed a great healer.

    So my advice to those that suffer injury and problems is take is slow and sure, do not rush into playing again to fast. I had the advantage of my medical knowledge which reduced the actual physical impact of my injuries and helped me to recover again. I also learned a lot more about the mental side of healing and recovery through the specialists and experts i had access to because i could relate my questions as a direct reference to playing....which at the time none of them had ever considered as issues.
    The physical scars heal fast, but the mental ones may take a bit longer if you have lots of them to deal with.
    My big problem was that i tried to much to fast, to soon.
    I bought into the idea of 'no pain no gain' but my brain did not let that idea go.
    Add to this the fact i did not use pain killers for the original injury problems, my physiotherapists at the time did not really understand the mental thought process of a musician, or the hand use we develop, all contributed to my problems.
    I was not trying to regain a hand use, but all the skills i learned, this is why our skills are perishable, all the specialists saw was good hand use, not the original hand use, and of course i could not demonstrate what i did have. The specialists saw the hand not the function for its use because that is defined as quality of use and we can all learn improve that....that is why musicians practice.

    With that point if ten players all play a song perfect then it is heard that the song is played perfect.... what is not seen is the ability used to do it.

    Some of those players may use all of their abilities, some only a little bit and some at all points in between, but they all played the song perfect and that is what they will be judged on, not how much of their ability was used to achieve it.
    That is sort of where i am at now, not trying to play how i used to, but learning to play what i do play better and easier, learning to use what i do have....to its full potential.
    Like a set of scales, i had a balanced use, but the weight of ability was always on my side.
    So when i used play certain parts, it would take 20% of my ability to do it, with 80% not used.
    After the accident that ratio was not there as i could not play at all.
    Then in time it became 100% to play 100%, so nothing was 'in the tank'. That developed slowly and the ratios fell, so it became 98% to play 2% in the tank, the 95- 5, then 90-10, 88-12, and so on, but i done to much to soon.
    My impatience and lack of understanding the bigger picture meant i was doing more bad than good some days when i worked on it....reality is i should have rested rather than push it.....the 'no pain, no gain mentality kicked in.
    I am at about a 50/50 use just now as far as some material and styles are concerned, but in others the ratio is much higher or just out of my ability....but it is slowly but surely leaning to cope again, it comes in plateaus of, skills come back, quality of skills improve or skills extended for longer use.

    How much effort i put into getting back what i used to do is not my focus, after all i am not going to develop 80% of my abilities not to use them, that was a product of time and opportunity, the wear and tear on my body at my age is never going to allow me that.
    The loss or perish of the original skills and abilities were build up over forty plus years, and the hard work done with a young fit body, so it would cause me more problems and injuries to try and re-capture that intensity of playing and practice at my age now and over a few years rather than the lifetime it did take.
    I fully accept that as i get older it will get harder on my body, as everything does as we get older, but i do not expect it to be painful, as well as pain free, but i do believe i can manage it all to get the best from it.

    In all pain issues two things have to happen, change and the belief of change, just getting on with it, or accepting it is not the way forward.
    Add to that the will to accept it and and do what is needed and pain can be managed.....if we are prepared to do what is needed.

    If any of this has raised any questions, please post them or PM me and i will try and answer them if i can.
  14. MarkyRobots


    Jan 9, 2013
    My first comment on here! I was playing a gig about two months ago, the drummer annoyed me in our break and I took it out on my bass - played really aggressively. The next day my hand felt funny, well it went downhill from there. My middle finger, or rather a tendon in my right hand becomes either irritating or very painful when in use. I still need to get checked out but I've only just finished since being away playing. Now all the warm ups make a lot of sense! I just hope I haven't done permanent damage
  15. Itzayana


    Aug 15, 2012
    Oakland Ca
    Did you intentionally omit liver damage?
  16. kegtujosh


    Nov 8, 2013
    Try exercising your hands with those chinese balls. Numbness of your shoulder (it may reach to your back also) is due to poor blood circulation.
  17. kegtujosh


    Nov 8, 2013
  18. Hahaha


    Sep 26, 2003
    Olympia, WA USA
    I just read through these posts and didn't see anything regarding Dupuytren's Contracture, so I thought I would share my experience with it for those who might also be dealing with this ailment.

    In my case in my mid-fifties I started noticing lumps forming on my palm along the tendons and had no idea what it was. As time progressed the lumps grew and started pulling my little finger on my left hand into a curved position. I couldn't straighten it. I was still able to play, but as the finger progressed it became evident that I would have to deal with it or quit playing. My brother had had the same condition and mentioned that it probably cost around $15,000 to get it corrected. He had full surgery to have his corrected, so I was put off by the cost.

    When I finally looked into it I learned about the needle aponeurotomy treatment, and much to my surprise learned that it only cost around $700 for the needle treatment. It is an in-office procedure and only takes around forty-five minutes. I was on stage playing the following night, although I had to edit my playing considerably and not use the finger that had been operated on.

    After talking to my brother I learned that his full surgery caused complications and he was in great pain for about six months afterwards. He eventually had some sort of shock treatment that cured the pain. In my case my finger has not returned to its full extension (neither did his), but it's almost as good as new with no complications following the procedure. I am now back up to my old playing level, even better on upright, so for anyone weighing your options for treatment, I highly recommend the needle therapy. I found a doctor in my area by typing in a Google search.

    The point to this is that I went through great anxiety wondering how I could afford getting my finger fixed, only to learn that it was no big deal at all, and very affordable. If you have fingers that are curling in, you could have Dupuytren's, also called Viking's Disease since it's unique to the Viking bloodline (I didn't know I had any Viking ancestry).

    Of course only a qualified medical practitioner can tell you for sure, but it's wise to not put off the treatment since it's fairly easy these days to have corrected.
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Hi to all reading this thread and many thanks to those that contribute towards it.

    I would like to address a few points raised, first off it is not possible to list every ailment or injury scenario associated with bass, so what we have are the most common conditions and some of there complication. The idea behind the complications is to show that sometimes an injury is not as simple as it may seem.

    With that idea I do not want to feed the anxiety that a simple injury is more than it seems, the thread is to share the idea that medical examination is the way forward and in reading this thread a person may come to the conclusion, if they ever had doubts, that seeing a doctor or qualified medical practitioner is the only serious way forward.

    What a doctor does is self explanatory, but a qualified medical practitioner takes many forms, osteopath, chiropractor, trainer, physiotherapist etc.
    So there are options that maybe a GP may not be aware of because they are a General Practitioner.... and as such may not have the time or facilities to concentrate on one aspect of care as say a physiotherapist may.

    Add to this the weird and wonderful world outside General Medicine that is alternative medicine, and it becomes a minefield of what to believe is the best way forward for you.

    What is best for you in the long run is what works for you.

    That is it, no matter how weird, wacky, expensive (and that goes for any treatment conventional or not) a sufferer will try anything to relieve their pain and condition and if it brings you results accept that it does and stay with it until it does not.

    Some of it is psychosomatic remedy, we believe it works so it does, we can never ignore the power of the mind in such matters, and as such I personally will never judge against them, but leave it to others testament of any benefits they got from treatments, products and such like.
    Some ailments are also based in psychosomatics, I am not saying the pain or discomfort is not real, I know it is, I know the person feeling pain is feeling pain, but psychosomatics is about why you feel the intensity or level of it.....not the presence of it.
    It is about where the pain centre is and the under-lying cause.

    Thanks for your time in reading and posting and here is to a long, safe and bass playing experience.
  20. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Thanks Fergie.
    I have a major issue with the ulnar nerve in the left arm.
    It has hardened,atrophy, and the 2 fingers it controls are weak, sore and painful.
    Wearing a bass is painful, playing one is even more so.
    Pain killers have kept me playing for the last 5 years.
    I'm 60 now, it sucks getting old.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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