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Is this normal?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by sneutron, Dec 7, 2004.

  1. sneutron


    Dec 6, 2004
    Hi. I've been playing bass for 5-6 months and when I practice the joints/knuckles in the middle of my left hand (primarily the middle three) hurts a lot or is sore. My doctor told me to take anti-inflammatories and it should stop but it doesn't, at all. If I practice a lot for a few days at a time my hand throbs, even when I'm not playing. I was wondering if this is normal? or if it could be stopped? Does anybody know of any excercises/stretches/warm ups I could do to help? I really like playing and I would really have to stop or something because of this :(. I'm a girl (I don't know if that makes a difference) and maybe I'm just grabbing on too hard to compensate for my relatively small hands, I don't know but the middle knuckle on my middle finger starts to hurt almost immediately when I start playing. Any advice would be really really greatly appreciated.

  2. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi sneutron, I'd check the following possibilities in order:

    1) human error
    2) need more finger strength
    3) vitamin deficiency
    4) serious medical condition

    (1) is most likely. As you say, if you're finding you have to grip really hard with your left hand, you might consider trying a shallower or narrower neck. Or maybe your action is too high for comfort. Does this happen with "all" basses? Have you taken a trip over to your local music store and checked out various basses, to see how they feel? Have you ever tried a short scale bass? (like, 32 inches)?

    (2) is quite possible. If you're not used to having to stretch your fingers a lot, and exert force while they're in unusual positions, it's possible that you may just need to get used to the effort. If you stop playing the bass for a couple of weeks, do your fingers still hurt the first time you play again? If not, how long does it take for symptoms to develop? If this is the pattern, you might try developing finger strength "slowly", like try exercising by squeezing a tennis ball at intervals during the day, or by using one of those grip-thingies that the jocks use.

    (3) is quite common, especially in women. Could be a vitamin B or C thing, or it could be calcium or something like that. Have you tried taking vitamins, or do you currently take them? If not, try B and C, and if that doesn't work, try a little calcium ("a little" being the operative word - don't overdo it with the vitamins, your body needs just enough to supplement your food intake).

    (4) unfortunately, is a possibility. It could be that you have some kind of pre-arthritic condition, that could even possibly get more serious over time. In that case, playing the bass probably isn't good for you. There's two major kinds of arthritis, one of which is much more serious. Or, there's a lot of things (besides arthritis) that can cause joint pain. Are you currently taking any medications? Lipitor, for instance, can easily cause joint pain. If not, there are other medical conditions that might be worth checking out.

    Joint pain is nothing to mess around with. I'm very surprised that a doctor, when confronted by a patient with joint pain, would be so cavalier as to say "take an anti-inflammatory and call me in the morning". If your condition persists, and it doesn't respond to rest, vitamins, or Advil, I would definitely seek another medical opinion. There are doctors who specialize in joint pain, and any of them who are any good will do a complete blood workup as the very first diagnostic procedure, to see if there are any biochemical clues about what might be going on.

    Meanwhile, it's probably a good idea to make sure your bass is set up as comfortably as possible, with a straight neck and low action. Oh yeah, and there are also doctors who specialize in music medicine (just like there are those who specialize in sports medicine). So you might want to find someone like that, and take your bass in and play it for a while in front of the doctor. Maybe someone like that can point out something you're doing that's causing you pain.

    Good luck, I hope things work out for you. :)
  3. i had this problem a little bit when i started playing too, for me it was because of my small hands and that i didn't take time to warm up before i went full blast into what i was working on, but after i started to build up my hands a little bit and started running scales to warm up before i practiced the pain gradually decreased, i still get it a little bit in my pinky, but it's still fairly weak and only hurts on big stretchs
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Lots of good advice above - but I think the part I quoted is the key - your left hand should be in a relaxed position and you shouldn't be grabbing the neck so hard it makes your hands hurt.

    This is why correct technique is really important!

    Unfortunately - none of us here can see what your technique is like - what would really help is if you had a lesson with a good bass teacher, then he/she could actually see what you're doing and advise on how to correct your technique or could see whether you do have correct technique plus an unsuitable bass or if there are other factors.

    I think the best advice would be to book a lesson and ask about how your left hand technique looks.....
  5. sneutron


    Dec 6, 2004
    Thanks so much everybody for your advice! I will definately look into technique/proper basses. I really sincerely hope this is not a serious medical condition. That would really really suck really badly. My left hand is extremely weak (I can barely open a water bottle) and I will try strengthening it gradually. Hearing that it has happened to someone else is really comforting as well. Thanks again!
  6. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Awsome advice from all. I think I will send all my consults here and save my patients a few bucks.

    The only thing I could add is maybe talk to an Occupational Therapist. They are good at ergonomics and fine motor function, a PT may be an option as well. It sounds more like a hand positioning problem more so thana pre-arthritic condition due to the sudden onset and localization to one hand. But I would not rule it out entirely.

  7. get one of those power grip thingies for finger strength. start with easier levels then get a harder one. Of course, do this only after you lower your action or whatever is needed for you not the press strings so hard