Injury and perspective

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    After playing a couple of high testosterone gigs this weekend and then doing a studio recording session on Monday and Tuesday, I had another high testosterone gig on Tuesday night. In an effort to spare an ailing RH index finger, I taped it heavily before the gig, so heavily that it was nearly immobile. On the last tune of the gig, I ended up spraining my right wrist pretty badly from trying to compensate for the immobility of the taped finger.

    I've spent the past couple of days trying to sub out all of my "money gigs" for the next week or so, and getting "possible" standins for my "spiritually satisfying" gigs during the same period in case I can't go. During the course of all of this, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks how incredibly lucky I've been for so long, and how many wonderful things and people in my life I've taken almost completely for granted. The prospect of not being able to play for a little while has me understanding how great all of this stuff I'll be missing really is, yet before I hurt myself, I would often get bogged down in the details and start to feel that stupid little things like working until 1:30 in the morning and not playing with *exactly* who I wanted was a real drag. Man, was I ever missing the point. :rolleyes: Now I'm looking at all of those gigs with all of those great players and thinking how incredibly wonderful life really is - if I can only manage to look at it the right way instead of being a little whiny butt. :rollno:

    Live and learn I guess...sorry for the ramble, I just needed to get that off my chest.
  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Sorry to hear about your injury. God speed to full recovery.

    Does this have anything to do with the particular strings that you're using or are other factors involved?
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks, Fred. I suppose anything is possible, but at this point I don't honestly know. I do know that the strings I'm using don't seem to have a built-in "point of diminishing returns" tonewise, so it's entirely possible that I just got greedy....but I think I would consider that my mistake rather than a fault of the string. Time will tell.
  4. I'm sure there has been a point like this for most of us. I did something a few months ago that injured my left elbow, or a ligament in there somewhere. I'd like to think it had nothing to do with playing DB, but it became apparent during a particularly gruelling rehearsal and performance schedule. In any case, it certainly seems to have a lot to do with whether I will be able to continue to play the DB. I'd been playing a year and a half and thought I was done with the preliminary and requisite aches and pains when this happened. It's tough when your body rebels against your livlihood.

    Events like this do bring many things we take for granted into sharper focus. For the most part I'm dealing with it. It apparently takes ligaments eons to heal and the danger of reinjury before healing is complete makes it even more improbable that one can have a trouble free and quick recovery. I've switched back to the Fender for the hard driving rock-n-roll gigs. I've had to cut way back on my daily practice schedule. I can't lift much with my left hand without feeling pain in my elbow, so I'm constantly reminded of the injury. At one point I thought of taking a year off. I went through that period where I was trying to think of all the other DB players that could cover for me if need be. At that point I had the same kind of experience that you describe, which was mostly feeling grateful that I knew all these other musicians and that I had actually acheived gig-level DB skills before getting hurt. It made me feel like one of those relief pitchers that played in perhaps just one World Series and even though the team didn't win necessarily, it was just great to even have been there at the games.

    We shouldn't take anything for granted. I had originally switched from the slab, because of back problems that made three hour gigs with the slab untenable. Just as I was getting my DB chops straightened out I get this ligament thing. You know, at this point all I can say is Life is great. It's OK to bite off more than you can chew, because in the end, it's all more than you can chew. If I took off for a year and got hit by a bus before my next gig, I'd have rather played the gigs with a sore back or lame elbow. Not that I'm a masochist, I just don't think that past the age of 45 you can think about a time when your health will be perfect again. So you keep chewing with the teeth you have left at whatever is on your plate. If I get hit by a bus, I want it to be either going to or coming from a gig. On the other hand if I die standing up with a DB in my hands, they can put "He died happy!" on the stone.

    Good luck with the sprain, Chris, you'll get over it. Aspirin, glucosamine, shark cartilage, etc. Friends and family are good medicine too.
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    All that . . .

    and don't type, either.

    We'll miss you, but it's better for you to get better.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks amigo - but I'm typing left-handed. :)
  7. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Thanks for this thread, Chris. I need an occasional reminder of what's really important myself. This one is very timely.
  8. To all who experience right-hand wrist pain:

    Most jazz bassists pluck with the side of the index or middle finger to get a big sound, especially when comping, me included. This technique often requires a fairly extreme outward deviation of the wrist that creates a lot of pressure on the tendons and nerves that pass through the wrist bone (the carpal tunnel). This "outward deviation" is the turning of the hand outward from the neutral position where the fingers of the hand are parallel, or in line, with the forearm. In other words, the fingers are at an angle relative to the forearm in the deviated position. Under extreme conditions, such as high testosterone gigs, the length of time and amount of pressure/muscle tension in the outward (or ulnar) deviated position can inflame the tendons and make them swell, creating pressure on the nerves in the wrist area and, thus, pain. This inflamation can take a long time to heal and may require more than a little aspirin or other supplements (of controversial effectiveness). Consider a change in technique, at least until the tendons are fully healed. Consider plucking with both the index and middle fingers at the same time while keeping the fingers parallel, or in line, with the forarm and perpendicular to the string (similar to electric bass technique). Using both fingers at once assures a large amount of tissue contact with the string so it IS possible to get a big sound. This position keeps the wrist in a neutral position relative to the forearm and minimizes the pressure in the carpal tunnel. This plucking technique is not new, of course, as it has been taught as an alternative to the side-finger technique for generations. It probably doesn't look as cool, but it gets the job done and can keep food on the table in those times of pain.
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Mike - Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday, and I don't even like (the reason for the holiday) just makes more sense than the others to me.

    ee - Thanks, I was already starting to think a little along those lines. One positive aspect of all this might end up being that I learn some new techniques by way of compensation. I want to try that alternating two-fingered "classical guitar" stroke as well.
  10. eldave777


    May 24, 2005
    I have problems with my left hand. I'm sure it's carpel tunnel. The muscle in my thumb you know the big muscle is going away and it is difficult to press on the back of the neck. SO, my hand gets weak in the middle of songs all the time. Anyway I've got this excercise I do to strengthen my other four fingers on the left hand and it's hard to do but it has helped. When practicing I take my left thumb off the back of the neck put it in front of the fretboard. This forces you to press more with your other fingers. It has helped to compensate for the lack of strength on my hand. Someday I will have the surgery, but I hear it takes six months or more to recover and I'm gigging way to heavy to take that kind of break. So I guess untill I can no longer play I'll just continue on. If anyone knows of any other excercises I can do to help please let me know. Maybe I should've started my own thread on this. :meh:
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    eldave, sounds like you're guessing what the problem is and haven't been to a doctor. GO! CTS is nothing to screw around with. I know a guy who will never play guitar again because of it.
  12. Chris: Whatever you do, don't rush back to playing before you're completely healed. I imagine it's frustrating, but think of how much more frustrating it would be if you tried to come back too soon, only to cause permanent or chronic injury. I'm sure you understand this in your head - but you'll have to suppress the longing in your heart. So you'll miss a few gigs. There will always be more. Hang in there.

    ee-san - this is a good explanation and argument for the two-finger technique. I've always used it myself, although nobody really taught it to me. I might add, I try not to move the fingers that much. Instead, I think of them as a stationary hook, and let the whole arm take care of the motion. I suspect this further reduces the risk of carpal tunnel probs. This is for walking. Soloing or other things that require alternating middle and index fingers will utilize those tendons.
  13. Chris:

    Hope you're feelin' the healin' vibes being sent your way.

    Last winter, I was looking down the barrel of the "not being able to play" shotgun after I developed excruciating left shoulder pain from a nasty muscle knot/pinched nerve sustained after an extended slab gig. The pain gradually radiated all the way down my arm to the tips of my thumb and index finger.

    I always thought of myself as a "weekend hacker" on the bass and have casually considered just giving it up at different points in my life. But the prospect of it being forcibly taken away way unnerving and distressing.

    I'm pretty much healed today after a couple months of PT, save for small amount of numbness in my left index finger as as reminder.

    Best of luck, Chris.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks gents - your stories and accounts are helpful and much appreciated. My injury is a "sprain" of a wrist ligament and not a tendon injury...having experienced both, I can at least now tell the difference. I experimented with the bass for about 20 minutes late last night after not touching it for three days and found that the splint I'm wearing prevents the type of motion that will aggravate the injury. Even so, I'm going to continue to be very careful and mindful of the type of RH motion that I need to use. It's long tones for me for awhile...

    The sprain occurred initially because the index finger was taped so heavily that I had to drop my hand downward at the wrist too much in order to get the proper angle. I see now that I should have simply raised my elbow instead. I can also see how the bass can be manipulated (even from a seated position) to further facilitate the correct playing angle for the wrist. As much as this whole thing has been a depressing drag, it's also turning into a valuable learning experience. I'm going to play only short periods of time at first and gradually build up for my gigs next weekend (I subbed everything before then). If I'm ready to go, I'll go. If not, I'll sub. Thanks for the support, and sorry the initial post sounded so whiny! :bawl: :rolleyes:
  15. This is a fellow who can always see the positive side of any tragedy!
  16. fatjazzcat


    Mar 21, 2005
    Hi Chris,
    I don`t want to sound like an old granny, but in my case, I had pains of arms, I visited a doctor, and he told me, that it`s related to tendons and muscles. I`m not recommending any medicine like aspirin, ibuprofen, or so, but I can tell you and others who may have the same problem, what helped me.

    1. Total rest. And find out what caused your problem, to never happen again.

    2. I`ve put my arms (from fingers to shoulder) to a tub, with warm (not hot!) water with sea salt (quite big concentration), and left my hands in it for 10-15minutes.
    I was doing this 1-2 times a day.

    3. I was using a (I don`t know if this is a correct english word, but I found it in a dictionary) herbal ointment, with extracts from Symphytum officinale (don`t know the english name, and I don`t know if it grows in U.S.) and Agrimonia eupatoria. In short the effects are: support for injury healing and recreation of substitute textures of muscles, tendons, joints and bones.

    This really helped me if you believe or not. You may try this procedure, but I don`t know if you can get the ointment I was telling you about. It is common here in mid Europe, but I don`t know if you can get it in U.S.. If you`d be desperate and nothing worked, contact me and we`ll do something with it.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just a quick update: After subbing all of my "non-spiritual" gigs since the initial injury, I played four really nice gigs this weekend, and seem to be doing fine. I played in a double splint, ate enough ibuprofen to anesthetize a hippo (which is about what I look like after eating enough carbs to protect my stomach from it :rolleyes: ) before and after each gig, and iced the wrist between sets and after each gig. The wrist is getting better in spite of all of this, and I learned some valuable lessons on right hand technique in the process. Since a double splint doesn't allow the wrist to bend much either up or down, I had to get back to basics about arm movement and do a lot more with my elbow and shoulder. I was surprised to discover that in some cases I can get an even bigger sound this way (with no wrist movement at all), and there were some little lessons about finger position as well. The one place where I couldn't hang with my regular approach was on burning tempos, where I normally play with a single finger using a sort of "wrist tremolo" kind of motion. This weekend, I had to use two fingers, which works for awhile but got tiring pretty quickly if I tried to maintain any kind of big sound at all, and didn't allow me to play a fast with as little effort. All in all, it worked out pretty well though.

    More importantly, I think I came to a greater appreciation of what a beautiful thing it is that we all do, and how lucky we are to be able to do it. I found myself a couple of times on the bandstand thinking of several ex-students of mine who are over in Iraq right now, and all political musings about the reasons for that aside, when I thought of them my little wounded paw suddenly didn't seem like that big a deal.

    FJC - thanks for the info. If things take a turn for the worse, I'll send an email for more details. :)
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Glad to hear the road to recovery is working for you. Don't overdo it but it's good that you're back in the saddle.
  19. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Hope you feel better Chris.

    I used to do club dates a few years back with a great piano player. Doing the cocktail hour with him was, for me, the hardest and most satisfying part of the gig. He could play beatifully, we'd do terrific tunes and he was just a joy to work with. But on the rest of the gig he was dispirited and not a team player. I used to talk to him about it and he told me he was just burned out and fed up; that he wished he would never have to play another club date again, that he was just in the band to play the cocktail hour and because he and the bandleader went back 20 years and were great friends.

    Fast forward a couple of years. I had moved on to another gig but still kept in touch with the guys. I heard through the grapevine that my friend had contracted a very strange, incurable disease that made his skin break out in red splotches and that he could not be around stage lights, the sun or any kind of light emitting moderate heat. It is something that is debilitating and he has tried many doctors and treatments to no avail. He has not played for about 5 years and has had to move back in with his parents and is a virtual prisoner in the house.

    I talked to him recently and he was telling me how he would give anything, ANYTHING to be able to play a clubdate or any kind of date again. It's kind of the flipside of your experience but one I thought worth sharing. I really hope he gets well and will be able to make music again.
  20. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN
    get better soon, dude. hurting sucks dirty asses.
    i've been dealing with my own strangeness, due to big slab (conklin GT-7) vs. nerves, muscles, etc. i played a 20 competition set a weekish ago, and my LH turned to mush. :eek: :bawl:
    now i've switched to a much lighter slab (ibby artcore semihollow), and lowered it a lot, to more of an URB position...much easier on my LH, and i think i'll survive. :p
    (this 45 year old body is paying me back for living, i think.
    what's even more scary about the vicissitudes of aging, re: pain, is: i'm in a new band that actually has a following. I DON'T WANNA LOSE THE GIG JUST BECAUSE OF MY STUPID BODY!!!
    so you have my total and unconditional empathy, daddy-o.