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How to remedy extreme hand-cramping..?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MistaMarko, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. MistaMarko


    Feb 3, 2006
    I've been a five-stringer for years, but recently got a seven-string Conklin for some extended range playing (jazz, etc) that I do with my band at times.

    The neck, obviously, is much wider, but I find myself not wanting to play this bass (as much as I LOVE it) because I can barely play a passage for more than 15 consecutive seconds without my fretting hand cramping up pretty badly.

    My five-string isn't a problem...I rarely ever cramp, but I guess with this neck I'm always stretching to do everything because I can't fully hold the neck like I can on a smaller-neck bass.

    Is this a matter of building hand muscles where this will go away eventually like any work-out session at the gym? Are my hands too small and I will always have these pains? Are neither of the previously mentioned scenarios true, and I'll always have cramping hands due to the nature of the un-naturally large neck?

    I've played several shows with it, and at some points it cramps so bad I can't even bear it, but at a show I can't just quit playing. What is the worst that can happen by playing through the pain?

  2. Human Bass

    Human Bass

    Aug 26, 2005
    Guess the neck isnt for you.
  3. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Relax while you play and drink more water.
  4. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    Left hand cramps can be due to what you are doing with the thumb on the left hand.
  5. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    I had that problem about 25 years ago while in high school/college. I found that drinking a few quarts of milk before each show cured the problem. I hypothesized that raising my serum calcium would relax my muscles (low blood calcium causes muscle tetany, and hyperventilating can lower you blood calcium). I was in pre-med...
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Practice playing without your thumb on the back of the neck or put a grape between your thumb and the back of the neck and don't smash the grape!
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I would consult with a bass teacher versed in correct technique as taught by major music schools. Many of them are versed in 6-string playing on wide necks, and they can give you techniques to not only keep from cramping, but to play better. You should never have joint or muscle pain at all when you play. If you do, you need to stop and get sorted before you go back to it. And a good qualified teacher is the quickest way to sort yourself.
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    You have a common problem and the first step is to work out why before you can effectivly address and way of putting it right. As Jimmy has said see a teacher, then see a doctor or physio. But find out why before you try any new exercise you must understand the problem.
    This problem can also become mental, with you believing there is a problem so stress triggers what you are thinking..ie i am cramping.
    Sodium and fluid depletion are good causes of cramp.
    Many health-concious athletes restrict their salt intake, mistakenly believing sodium causes high blood pressure. However, if they are losing significant sodium through sweat, they may be putting themselves at risk or a sodium imbalance that could contribute to cramp. Athletes with a self-imposed, sodium-restricted diet are more likely to complain about fatigue and lethargy in addition to cramps, and report marked improvement once they reintroduce a little salt into their daily diet. They often sprinkle a little extra salt on their food with good results.
    Quinine as in Indian tonic water is said to be good in the relief of cramp, but the quantites you would have to drink for any benifit i think would be negligible as content these days is small. Quinine tablet from your doctor would be a better route once checked out by him if appropriate.
    Potassium-rich foods include potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, orange juice, bananas and raisins. Be sure to eat generous portions.
    Caffine, alcohol, smoking, lack of or to much can be an influence.

    The above suggestions are only suggestions, not proven solutions. You might want to experiment with these dietary improvements if you repeatedly suffer from muscle cramps. Adding extra fluids, low-fat dairy products, potassium-rich fruits and vegeables and sprinkling of salt certainly may resolve the problem. I also recommend consulting a physical therapist, athletic trainer or coach regarding proper stretching and training techniques. Nutrition may play no role at all.

    These are thing you can do to eliminate causes and find the true nature of your cramps.
  9. BoomSTICK


    Jul 23, 2001
    Yeah, I've had that problem too.

    I have had both hands cramp up at the same time.
    I think it was a combo of sorts ie: not enough water, alcohol instead of wine, meh! water I mean;) Or playing to hard.

    Carol Kaye addressed some of the problems related to cramping up.
    She had some good points that I'll share with you.

    1. The fretting hand thumb should basically be your pivoting anchor.
    2. If your fingers do not rest comfortably within the first 4 fret range, it is advised to utilize your pinky instead of your third finger

    P.S. her tips, not mine. Having said that, it actually works for me.
  10. Try wearing the bass higher.
  11. BoomSTICK


    Jul 23, 2001

    Having seen the Dr. after my previous statement, she basically said that there is no permanent fix for it, other than to warm up more, stretch the hand & forearms to prevent resistance, and WARM UP MORE!

    After my disappointing visit, I have since made an appt. to see a physical therapist.

    I'll let you know what they say, and now I'll get to ask about the bananas & water myth.:) so some say.
  12. I used to have cramping problems pretty regularly, for me the solution was drink plenty of water and take a daily potassium supplement. Please see a doctor and request blood work before trying this. However if you are deficient in potassium cramping is a predominant symptom
  13. BoomSTICK


    Jul 23, 2001
    Ok, so I said I would post back after seeing the PT.

    So we worked through a few exercises and stretches that, while useful being that it's all connected, I don't think I'll be going back to work on my "shoulders" considering I have no damage to my hands.

    In summary, I'd say that if you've seen a bass teacher and a doctor, and the PT, and they don't find any real damage, it's safe to assume that you might need to stretch and warm up more before tackling that 6 or 7 string beast. Staying hydrated and healthy is always a bonus but, no guarantee that your hands won't cramp again. It just might lessen the occurrence.

    My two cents as always.
  14. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Never underestimate what you eat (or don't eat). There is a vaild reason for the saying "You are what you eat".

    We eat so much garbage, and there is literally so much "poison" in our food supply, it's no surprise why illness and disease are so prevalent today.

    EVERYTHING you eat affects your health. EVERYTHING. Food additives, preservatives, food colorings (most of which are actually insecticides), artificial flavorings, et al put our bodies under a lot of stress. Add to that the physical and mental stress and it is a recipe for disaster that manifests itself in countless physical ailments. You can throw whatever you want into your body and say this little bit and that little bit doesn't matter, especially because it tastes so good, or you like the habit as an excuse (smoking, drinking, etc.), but you'll pay the price for it. Only you can say if it's worth it or not.

    You don't have to be a doctor or scientist to know we are organic creatures and were meant to eat organic foods.

    Diet, stretching, exercise and reducing stress in your life is the ONLY way to be and stay healthy. That's always been and always will be the rule and no amount of substitution in our fast paced, quick fix world will ever change that. Unless you were born with physical deficiencies, the rest is entirely up to you.

    Everyone has posted great advice. Take care of your body, mind and spirit. If you don't, you'll pay the price for it and only you can decide if that price is worth it.
  15. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    the fact that you don't cramp playing the 5 string means the wider neck on the 7 string is causing your problem. You said it yourself: "My five-string isn't a problem...I rarely ever cramp, but I guess with this neck I'm always stretching to do everything because I can't fully hold the neck like I can on a smaller-neck bass". Sounds like your are struggling to play this bass and it is showing up in your wrist/hands. As said before a good teacher can help your technique. You might try going back to basics w/this instrument: scales, chromatic runs, arpeggios, root/5, octaves to build up strength and endurance. Start slow and short durations, building up to longer practices and faster runs.
  16. Treybass


    Mar 2, 2008
    Norfolk, VA
    get the tension out of your hands by playing all of your scales VERY SLOWLY. Watch what your left hand is doing, because that way you can see where the tension is. Look at how you're placing your left thumb, press on the string only as light as you have to, and most importantly, just hang loose. I have relatively small hands as well, but it doesn't affect my bass playing too much.

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