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Help with finger numbness!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by PatTheAnchor, Jul 20, 2007.

  1. Okay, about 1-2 months ago, I started playing the bass, and ever since then, I've realized my fingers become really numb in the morning, and I've gotten so upset that I've actually hit my hand against a wall to make it "wake up". I'm really worried that I might have carpal tunnel, and I'm only 14 (Carpal Tunnel is for adults). What really worries me too is that my dad has carpal as well, and I don't like feeling old at this age. :meh:

    I've read similar topics on this forum, but it's in both hands, not just the picking-fingers. Is it because I'm not used to stretching my hand around the frets? My thumb and the joints near the wrist feel terrible when I stretch them around and play a scale; I thought it was bad at the time, but my teacher told me I was playing it right, and I kind of believe him. He said that I'm not used to it because I never played bass before and only played cello which required less extensions as the bass guitar does.

    I'm a health-conscious guy, so I'm worried I'll need surgery, I've never needed surgery, only removing teeth which is different. This summer, to give you guys a background of what I've been doing, is playing video games, and on the computer. I dont think I've typed a lot, but that could be a possibility. What should I do? What can I do to help? Stretching? Hot/cold packs?

    Please help, thanks.
  2. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Since you're quite new to the instrument, my guess is that your hands aren't used to the bass yet. When your teacher says it looks right when you play, it's probably that, but he doesn't know how it feels for you. Maybe your optimal hand positions are slightly different from what his are. It's also important not to press too hard with your left hand, which is a common mistake among beginners. Learn to press down the strings against the frets as lightly as possible and learn to play lightly with your right (plucking) hand too.

    Always keep your hands warm when you are about to start playing. Start off by doing some warm-up exercises for both your hands. I use the spider, an own variation of it, and another exercise I don't have a name for. They're good technique exercises too. You should play them with the one finger per fret technique.

    The spider:
    Focus on learning the first one properly (on the D and G strings) before trying the others, as they're harder.

    My alternative spider exercise:

    You get the rest of that I think... :) Here's the last one I didn't have a name for:

     I M R P I M R P P R M I P R M I I M R P etc.
    (Left hand fingering: I=Index, M=Middle, R=Ring, P=Pinky)
    Good luck!
  3. elpelotero


    Jun 16, 2006
    three more thoughts:

    1) you're 14, so your hands haven't grown to their max just yet, meaning that for you a stretch IS REALLY a stretch. For an adult, their hands are bigger and cover more ground without straining.
    2) put your hands under hot water for a little bit. Great way to warm them up quick.
    3) If you feel pain or discomfort, STOP playing! Every now and then I don't warm up right and start playing some crazy fast lick. As a result, I get lots of pain the next few days which limit me from playing. It eventually goes aways though.
  4. Okay, i'll try the "spider" thing like you said, deacon_blues.

    I have 2 weeks until my next lesson, so I'll stop playing for a couple of days and try those techniques, thanks. If it keeps hurting, i'll try to see a doctor.

  5. jonschaer

    jonschaer Guest

    Jun 29, 2007
    Columbus, OH

    I have no expertise or training in any medical field, but here are my opinions. I'm say this much more from experience as an athlete than as a bass (or guitar) player; your problem is probably not something serious, but take these first signs of some problem very seriously. Nerve damage can be a life-long condition. The interactions between muscle movement/stress and the nervous system are very complex, so it can be hard to immediately trace the true root cause of the problem. Numbness can also come from decreased blood flow. Hopefully yours is simple, though. Don't think that it could not be CT syndrome just because you are young. Repetitive stress can happen to anyone.

    You haven't said how much you are practicing, but as you already mentioned, start by backing off both frequency and duration. Even if it means missing a lesson. If you don't see a pattern change in the numbness within a few days, I would have your parents schedule an appointment with your family doc. He/she can refer you to a neurologist, if needed.

    You mention that your fingers are numb in the morning, as opposed to while or after you play. I believe that this delayed reaction most likely means that whatever you are stressing is not severe. But don't think that it is directly related to your hands or wrists. Plus, if you are taking lessons, it's less likely that you would have really poor positioning, rather than someone learning on their own.

    If you are pinching a nerve, it may not be in your hand. All of your nerves emminate from your spine, so stresses there can be felt as numbness at the extremities. The weight of the bass might be compressing muscles or joints in your back/shoulders, but that can be felt at the fingers.

    If you are curious do some internet searches on the spine and nervious system. It's amazing. But if you are having signs of problems, let the experts help you and don't risk longer-term problems.

    Over the long-haul, consider learning some stretching and strengthening routines that will help avoid more aggrevations. There are musician-specific things to do, but also ANY stretching is good. Go to a bookstore and look for "Bob Anderson's Book of Stretching". You can reference any area of the body. Certainly for a bass player, hands/wrists/forearms and neck/shoulders/upper back are the focus areas.

    Best of luck!

    Jon Schaer
    Columbus, OH

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