pain in left hand

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ColForbs, Aug 4, 2001.

  1. ColForbs


    Jul 21, 2001
    Okay this started a few days ago....first when I woke up in the morning the knuckle on my index finger was swollen which I thought was weird. Then I proceeded to practice a bunch of scales and finger exercises on my 5 string. Now in addition to the finger, the left side of wrist hurts when I play...Is this because of bad technique? I feel as if I am bending my wrist way to much, but I have to to properly fret with my pinkie on the low B..and I even have very big hands...I wear my bass above the waist ( but I am very tall so this is still a little low)..I have decide to take it easy for a few days and begin working on changing my posture in order to prevent such a bad wrist bend....Any suggestions? I don't want this to be an ongoing problem..
  2. Tough to say may not even be bass related? you could try changing your technique. Do you keep your thumb on the back of the fretboard -you know what they "say" it is best to do so. I would suggest doing light stretches some warm-ups, push ups on your knuckles and fingertips before playing.

    How long have you played? for this could be a major reason why. I myself am suffering from some joint problems so I take a lot of vitamins to improve my joints. Such as msm, glucosamine and vitamin C. I'd say wait and if it persists see a doctor, However there are just to many factors to determine what it could be with the info given above and also I am not a doctor :) but don't damage your hands trying to "walk it off"

    Oh yeah do you remember anyone running over your hand with a car lately? that could do it too
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    If the pain in your wrist is on the underside (palm side), you should stop playing and take a good long look at your L.H. technique. I've always taught my students not to bend the L.H. wrist at too sharp an angle, and a few years back, one of my students - who is also an ER doctor - explained the physiology of why this is good advice to me. (DR. MIKE, you are of course free to chime in and correct anything I say that sounds wrong - I haven't spent too much time with an anatomy book lately).

    The muscles which move the fingers are actually in the forearm, and are connected to the fingers by two sets of tendons: The flexor tendons, which close the hand into fist, and the extensor tendons, which open it. The flexors run under the wrist, and are usually the source of string instrument injuries.

    Try holding your hand palm up, and bend your wrist upward as far as it will go, as if trying to touch the "inside" of you forearm with your palm. Now wiggle your fingers. Feel how much tension there is on the underside of your wrist? That's because by bending your wrist at that angle, the tendons are already tensed as they go through their "sheaths" at the bend in the wrist. Now, with your palm still towards the ceiling, relax the hand so that it becomes "flat", or on the same plane with the rest of your forearm. If you wiggle your fingers now, there should be almost no tension at all.

    To avoid L.H. injuries, you should strive to lessen the degree of the bend in the wrist while playing. The key to this is the position of the thumb, and learning to use the thumb and wrist to pivot when you reach for notes instead of "stretching" for them by extending the fingers all the time. For many instruments, the key to good technique is learning to take the pressure off of the small muscle groups and put it instead on the next largest muscle group - the larger muscle group will only have to work a fraction as hard as the smaller one to achieve the same result. (As an example, string bending on guitar instruments is actually easiest to perform and control by using the bicep muscle rather than the fingers/forearm).

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
  4. I have the same problem when I'm playing high on the neck....anywhere above the third fret. I hadn't been doing much playing up there until recently, and I talked to my teacher about it last lesson.

    His advice was to keep the fingers closer together when I'm fretting up there, to help keep the wrist flatter, and do some sliding on the neck rather than stretching for it with my fingers.

    I've got really small hands, so it's difficult for me to span 4 frets up there. This has really helped relieve the tension in my wrist.

  5. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Lisa, that's actually LOW on the neck, where the notes are lower. I only try to cover 3 frets in that territory, I'll pivot on my thumb rather than try to stretch.

    Its the curse of the small handed. :D
  6. What can you do it it hurts on the side of your hand under the pinkie? I'm talking about the part (I think it's a muscle), where if you move your pinkie out away from your ring finger, it kinda bulges out. If THAT thing hurts, what's the deal?
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    To the best of my knowledge, muscular pain is generally not anything to worry about. Any time you start to work a muscle in a new way, that muscle has to break down before it can rebuild itself and get stronger. I'm not a doctor, but I've never seen a bass related activity that posed a danger to muscles per se - the joints and tendons seem to be much more fragile and tend to get injured waaay before the muscles have a chance to tear.

    The most common pain that most newbies experience is in the fretting hand between the thumb and index finger, and this usually goes away in time. The best advice I know to give about muscular pain - if you're sure that's really what it is - is just to use common sense: if the muscle is so tired and overworked that it's cramping, you should give it a rest. Other than that, I'd worry a lot more about tendons and joints, which do NOT naturally rebuild themselves when they are damaged.

    I think that NOSEBLOW used to be a personal trainer...maybe he could explain the whole muscle-building material for us here with one of his famous 19-page physical training posts. ;)

    P.S. - ain't it funny how you don't really know what anybody looks like here? I would crack up to find out that HASBRO is built like AHNUULD SWARTZENEGGER, and yet somehow manages to maintain his compassionate and gentle PC demeanor by eating lots of TOFU and reading books about Zen Buddhism.
  8. ColForbs


    Jul 21, 2001
    Thanks for the detailed reply...The reason I have to bend my wrists so bad is because I have LONG arms ( I am 6' 8")...I religiously play w. my thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, so that is not the problem. I think the combination of posture and where I hold my bass needs to be reevaluated. I need to do something differently to try to avoid the wrist bend. It would help if I could figure a way to lean the top of the bass away from me a little bit, therfore alleviating some of the wrist bend.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Chris - this is something that has been concerning me for a while, but for a slightly different reason. I'm aware of these concepts and have alway tried to position my bass's neck high enough and at such an angle so that I can keep my palm in the same plane as my wrist/forearm. But this means that when playing in the "first position" - first finger on first fret, my arm is pointing upwards towards the nut.

    I have found that if I do this for longer than say about 5 minutes I get fatigue in my left forearm. Now normally this isn't a problem and one of the reasons I have a 5-string bass is so that I can usually play lines in several positions - so I can play low F at the 6th fret on the B string and this relieves the fatigue.

    But every year when I go along to Jazz Summerschool, I seem to get given a repeating ostinato bass pattern that goes on forever and has been written in such a way that the fingering is quite clearly meant for 1st position - I presume that this is because the writer had in mind double bass and assumed that this would make it easier for the bass player?

    So I end up feeling like a "wuss" because I can't keep the pattern going - especially through several rehearsals with horn players trying to get it right(!) and my confidence is dented. Most of the Jazz bass teachers I meet are DB'ers and don't seem to appreciate this problem - and I start to feel it's just me?

    So I suppose my question is - do I need to strengthen my forearm or do something different ? Or is it natural to get fatigue in your forearm when playing repeating ostinatos at 1st position on BG?
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The only real training I have in these matters is in classical guitar, so take whatever I may say with a grain of salt, BUT....

    In the situation you describe, I would try to apply common sense to the issue and find a position for the bass that allows you to move it (adjust it) to accommodate what you're trying to play at that moment. I'm getting ready to purchase a 6-string toybass, and have been experimenting with different angles to hold it. The easiest solution I have found for the problem you describe is to change the angle of the neck, and hopefully while experimenting with this you can find a position which allows your hand/wrist/arm to breathe a bit more during these passages.

    I'm currently in a similar situation: I joined a new group recently which requires me to double on toybass (hence the imminent 6-string). But the sound I need for this group also needs to be punchier than my normal sound, and when I move my R.H. closer to the bridge to get that sound, it starts to go to sleep within about 5-10 minutes. I've emailed a few folks trying to get an idea of what their R.H. technique looks like, and maybe something will come of that, but so far I've had the most luck with this adjustment by holding the BG as if it were a classical guitar and playing that way! As soon as I tried it, it was like taking a PAIN-B-GONE pill, so I'll go with that until something better makes itself apparent.

    I suppose the larger message here is that remaining healthy and pain-free is way more important than looking cool while playing...if you screw up your arms/tendons/wrists, you can't play at all, much less look cool while doing it.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, I suppose the problem is that I tend to think of starting from around the C on the 8th fret on the E string and most of my lines are played around the 8th - 12th frets; so I have my bass adjusted to be comfortable when playing around this area. But then as I say I'm given a written line every so often that only works in 1st position and I can't really move the position or find a comfortable way of doing it. I suppose my best solution is to make things work in any position....I might ask Jeff Berlin about this, as a Jazz player and teacher on BG?
  12. I can never keep that straight! :D