1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Joint issue

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Ezmar, Mar 20, 2013.

  1. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    So I'm 19, and I'm wondering if I'm being a little hypochondriatic about this or if there might be a problem. I'm HUGE on playing music, so if I get permanent damage, that would be crushing for me.

    So anyway, recently, I've noticed some pain and sensitivity in my right hand middle finger. It seems to be especially susceptible to overextension, and although it isn't visibly swollen, there is a very very low level of constant semi-pain. This would obviously be an immediate cause for professional investigation, but there are some caveats. For one, given my age, it's not as likely to be anything major or permanent, although it's possible. The other thing is that I've been practicing my butt off for a set where I just play solo bass with vocals, and I use all sorts of extended technique and altered tunings and stuff. Bottom line is, I do a lot of strumming, and I find I tend to do that with a flick of my middle finger, and doing the motion without playing the bass, it seems like I'm really building up a lot of pressure and flicking it very quickly, so It's almost certainly a consequence of that.

    So given the above information, How worried should I be? I'll try to give it some rest and be conscious of how I'm using that finger (Although I'm going in to record a demo of the set tonight, so that's some more potential abuse), and I try to use another strumming technique, like a full hand sideways thing, or something else so the full tension of all four strings isn't just on the one finger, although it's hard to fight what comes naturally. But if anyone else has experienced something like this, What should I think? Neither of my parents have any significant arthritis, so I wouldn't think I'm predisposed to that. I'm just kind of worried about this finger, since you know, I use it to play bass all the time.

    Also, if anyone is wondering, it's specifically the first knuckle, connecting it to the hand. No other knuckles on either hand are bothering me at all.


  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You could try strumming with a pick for a couple of months, to see if that helps the pain go away.

    Electric bass guitar is one of the physically least demanding instruments to play. You should work closely with your teacher to analyze all elements of your technique (posture, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, etc.) to identify areas of tension and correct your technique so it is relaxed and comfortable.
  3. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Unfortunately, playing with a pick isn't really an option, since I'm switching between fingerstyle, strumming, tapping, slap, etc. in the course of a single song.

    I'm self taught for 7-8 years, so I don't really have a teacher. I do think that there's something to be done about the way I strum, since I started out on electric guitar, which has much lower tensioned strings. I seem to do the strumming motion with primarily my finger, and the wrist isn't really doing much. It hasn't been a problem until now, I imagine, since I'm doing some songs where I'm strumming throughout an entire song. Even stuff like Primus, which is where I started with the whole strumming thing, Les only does a lot of sustained strumming on Groundhogs Day, that I can recall right now, and that song is laid back and mellow, so it was never very strenuous on my finger to play.

    I think the problem is definitely coming from the fact that the way I've been doing it places a lot of strain all on that one joint, and the fact that I've been using that technique a lot more lately. But how worried should I be that I've done permanent damage to my hand? As long as I refine my technique so it's easier on my hand, should I be fine, or should I ask a professional?
  4. Megazap63


    Apr 12, 2009
    London, UK
    About ten years ago I experienced something similar and, following some wise advice from an older musician friend, got it checked out with a physiotherapist who specialises in working with musicians. She accurately diagnosed the temporary problem resulting from bad posture and neck/shoulder strain and gave me a set of exercises to perform on a regular basis (daily, and warm-up/wind-down for performances). I still do these and haven't experienced the same problems since then.

    So, consulting an expert now may prevent further/future damage.

    Good luck with it all and best wishes for a long musical future! :)
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Sounds like you have 7-8 years of bad habits that could have been avoided by taking lessons. If you can't find a teacher in your town, there are some guys here on talkbass who give lessons by Skype.

    Honestly (please do not get offended) it sounds like you are playing music that is too difficult/technical for your current ability level, and injuring yourself in the process. Instead of playing more-complex-than-Primus solo music that combines fingers/strum/tap/slap/etc. in the course of a single song, why not play some groovy, simpler bass lines in a band with your friends, have a good time, build some solid fundamentals on the instrument?

    To answer your question: yes, repetitive stress injuries can be career-ending if not corrected. Sorry if that's not the answer you were fishing for. ;)
  6. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    I have several suggestions:

    1) Get lighter gauge strings, possibly chrome flats, extra light.

    2) Try strumming with your finger tips with your fingers and thumb cupped together like an unopened tulip—or as if you are holding a pick. This way your wrist does more work and the thumb damps the side force on your fingers.

    3) Ice the affected area for 15 minutes after practice or performance.

    4) take an anti inflammatory before use/abuse. Avoid tylenol, it is toxic for the liver. Aspirin is good.

    5) limit practice sessions that involve the harmful technique.

    6) invent a less harmful substitute.
  7. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Well, I already use very light strings (40 - 95), so that's not really an issue.

    And honestly, I'm mostly doing 5 and 6. I think it's mostly just a combination of the way it's mechanically putting stress on the joint and the sudden frequency and amount I'm using it. Probably coupled with my tendency to overplay when my volume is low. Interestingly, I don't tend to overexert my right hand as much when I'm unplugged, but with low amplified volume I suddenly start working harder than I need to.

    And with all due respect to Mushroo, I don't think I'm playing beyond my ability level at all. I've played and continue to play everything from classic rock to jazz. I have plenty of fundamentals, having also played cello for 16 years (yes, I started at 3). This is just something I'm starting to explore, the whole solo bass thing. No offense taken (Okay, maybe a little :D), But I don't think lack of fundamentals is a huge issue here.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You've never taken a bass lesson, and you are in physical pain. Fundamentals.
  9. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    The first time I've been in mild physical pain in 8 years of bass playing. It's also beside the point, but many great bass players never took a lesson. Being self-taught is neither an indicator of ability and discipline nor lack thereof.
  10. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    So tell me about 6 and 2. I assume 3 and 4 will not be needed once you "mostly" stop injuring your joint by refining or replacing this technique. :cool:
  11. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Well, rather than doing it like 2, I just try to use more of my whole hand rather than just the one finger. I still use just the middle finger sometimes, since it just feels natural, but hopefully I can break the habit, since it will probably sound just as sharp and articulate with the entire hand once I get used to it.
  12. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to get to work, slow down, & relax. You may find that you don't need to hyperextend that middle finger as much!!
  13. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Sometimes the likes RSI can take that amount of time to manifest themselves. So it is quite possible that you could indeed have picked up some bad habits, the results of which are only now beginning to show themselves.

    No one is above seeking some lessons. IMO it would be prudent to have a good teacher take a look at your technique....but only after you have got the go ahead from a medical expert. :)
  14. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    I'm sure it's a combination of the technique I've been using and the fact that I'm suddenly doing it a lot. That and the cold weather. I also worry that it might have something to do with the fact that I crack my knuckles, because that's a much harder habit to kick than my strumming technique.

    Hopefully it will go away as I become more conscious about his I'm doing it.

    And in no way do I mean to think that I'm above lessons.
  15. blastoff99


    Dec 17, 2011
    SW WA, USA
    Get checked out by your favorite medical professional to make sure there's nothing truly sinister going on that is not related to playing - rheumatoid arthritis comes to mind. If all that comes back negative, good. You've been given some good advice here.

    I can recommend a supplement called zyflamend whole body for finger inflammation. I have osteoarthritis and it has made as huge difference.

Share This Page