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Pinky pain, soreness and stiffness.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by PleromicPastry, Jun 29, 2020.

  1. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    First off, I apologize if this is the wrong subforum for this. I'm just getting a feel for this site.

    I got my bass (acoustic Fender) about a week ago. I'm new to bass but not guitar or other instruments. My pinky is sore and after playing for this short time my left hand in general feels as though I have what I imagine arthritis feels like. When I wake up my pinky is curled and I have to slowly straighten it out or else it can cause momentary pain if I straighten it quickly.

    Admittedly I've been playing as much as I can and probably should back off a little but I'm so excited to have my new bass I can't help myself.

    So my question is: will this eventually go away? Should I continue to play a little bit everyday and work through the discomfort? Should I stop playing until the pain is gone and ease back into it? I understand most of you probably aren't doctors but I would appreciate some advice. Thanks!
    teh-slb likes this.
  2. It takes time to build up strength. If you do anything ‘as much as you can’, you’re going to get sore. Shorten your playing time now. Keep playing - but build up slowly.
    teh-slb, Kenova, red_rhino and 4 others like this.
  3. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Thanks for the advice!
    teh-slb and sludgetail like this.
  4. LexD


    Aug 17, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: D'Ambrosio Guitars
    Time to mke sure you've got the foundation.
    For sure start off slow. Stop if you're experiencing pain or discomfort.

    Check out videos on Youtube by Adam Neeley and Janek Gwizdala (and other pros) on proper fretting technique and thumb positions.
  5. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Funny you should mention that. I'm in the middle of watching a video on fretting technique and learned my thumb is positioned incorrectly and that my hand is too tense in general. It's almost like I'm trying to strangle the neck! I did this with guitar when I was first learning too. Thanks for the advice.
    sludgetail likes this.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I recommend watching a few different videos about fretting-hand technique, since different instructors are likely to give you different advice -- especially went it comes to thumb position. This is the one that was a real game-changer for me:

    MCF, lark_z and PleromicPastry like this.
  7. LexD


    Aug 17, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: D'Ambrosio Guitars
    Yep, this was the one I was thinking about too.
    Lobster11 likes this.
  8. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    In addition to good technique, I would have a look at the setup of your bass. The difference between highly playable and highly dangerous can be measured in fractions of a mm, IME. Badly cut nuts are probably the number 1 cause of poor setups that lead to injurious playing, since this affects the first few frets which is where most beginners spend a good proportion of their time. You should be able to stop a string with not much more force than you would use to crush a pitted olive. YMMV.
  9. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Another technique issue to consider, especially since you mentioned your pinky being sore/fatigued: Sometimes it is better to abandon the one-finger-per-fret (OFPF) system -- which I suspect your are probably using given your experience on guitar -- and use the ring finger and pinky together as a single unit. For some kinds of lines/riffs this is actually more comfortable than one-finger-per-fret, and especially so when playing down near the nut where the frets are so far apart (and where it is challenging to maintain a straight wrist). Many players use the 1-2-3/4 system below the fifth fret or so (unless OFPF is absolutely necessary to play the part), and switch to OFPF higher on the fretboard.
    russellh86, Iv@N, Rilence and 6 others like this.
  10. zie


    Sep 12, 2014
    It happened when I switched from round wounds to flatwounds. And the flat wound I'm running now is heavier (higher gauge) than my previous round wounds. Like others have mentioned, don't push it. Shorten your playing time and lessen the number of times you play per week until it gets better. You'll be fine.
    PleromicPastry and lark_z like this.
  11. lark_z


    Feb 26, 2020
    My left hand pain really improved after a few months with a few changes.

    - Practice using less (or no) thumb pressure. This seemed absolutely impossible for me at first, but now I can manage on the 'stuff' that I have learned well. This seems to move the strain from the hand into the arm, at least for me.

    - I capo-ed up two frets for maybe 6 weeks (30" scale), then 1 fret (32" scale) for maybe 4 more weeks. Now, I'm back to full scale and I'm much better pain-wise.

    It's hard not to overdo it with everything that's NOT happening right now. Take breaks and do something else for an hour or so.
  12. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Playing should never hurt or cause injury. In the short-term, it's a good idea to take a few days off and let this settle down. From your description, this sounds like an overuse/under-recovery type of injury. If the pain resolves with rest, you might try to resume playing a bit more gradually. The longer/harder you play, the more you should relatively rest your hand the following day. Trying to "push through" will likely result in a worse injury that takes longer to heal and get you back to playing without pain.

    The symptoms you describe could be related to the tendons or the joints. Most likely the tendons from your description. Either should improve with relatively resting the hands, gentle range of motion exercises, and a little bit of time.

    Good suggestions above regarding setup and technique. Lessons are also potentially useful.

    The Internet is both a great and a horrible place to get medical information. I am a sports medicine physician, but I'm not your physician, and having someone take a look to make a good, accurate diagnosis is the first step in treating this definitively. So if it doesn't resolve fairly quickly, have a doctor take a look. I really dig your enthusiasm for bass, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Build up gradually and you should be able to play as much as you want.

    And welcome to TalkBass!
    Rilence, teh-slb and PleromicPastry like this.
  13. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Pain shouldn't be a long-term companion to playing. Keep in mind bass might require a little more force even if you've been playing guitar. Plus, the scale is a little longer so even if you're hands are strong they still need to stretch. You can easily find stretches for your fretting hand. I do them and I hate them but maybe they work. It's never a bad idea to work your pinky more than you need to so it will become more natural to play with all fingers. Between strengthening and maybe stretching your pain should reduce, hopefully.
    PleromicPastry likes this.
  14. Koog

    Koog Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Central Iowa USA
    Limit your practice time to an hour per session. Rest a couple hours. Repeat.

    Start by limiting yourself to a couple sessions a day for a couple weeks and slowly build from there if your endurance allows it. If it hurts or makes you sore the next day, back off.

    And, really, once you have better endurance, a couple of one hour sessions a day are most likely enough to maintain it.

    Take it from an old guy.

    PleromicPastry likes this.
  15. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    I'm glad you posted this! I was thinking of getting tapewounds because of demos I've heard and I prefer their sound to the rounds I have. I'll have to check out the different gauges of tapes but at least now I know this option exists when I buy a set.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    zie likes this.
  16. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Thanks Doc. Yes, it's part muscle pain but (especially with the pinky) I'm thinking tendons are involved as well. I'm just going to take a couple of days off and leave my bass at a friend's place. I want to be a solid walking bass liner and need to study chord tones for walking so now I have the time.
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  17. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Great advice. My hand and thumb pressure are definitely something I need to watch. You're right about the lower frets and stretching. I was just playing (I have a bass addiction!) and it hurts the most when I do a 5 fret stretch on the lower frets. The bass I have has a very short neck compared to most others but I don't think the frets are closer. (It's a Fender Bg29 with a 29.9" scale length). I'm considering getting a short scale Fender Jag when I go electric.
  18. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Yes, I'm going to look into hand and finger stretches. Thanks.
  19. PleromicPastry

    PleromicPastry Inactive Suspended

    Jun 17, 2020
    Sorry for all these multiposts guys. I need to look into how to multiquote so this doesn't happen again.

    I definitely need to back off and limit my practice and not take my bass into my bedroom and play it while laying down. Older guys tend to be wiser guys so I appreciate your comment.
  20. devnulljp


    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    It won't go away if you keep doing it, you'll get an injury and that will be that. Hang back, stretch, work up to it. Don't play til it hurts.
    Be gentle with yourself and strength will improve over time. There's really no shortcut. But get a squashball and carry it with you, gently (!) squeeze it as you're going about your day, and it'll make your fingers and wrists stronger (I had a bad wrist injury decades ago, and that's what I did to recover, still do, and my hands are pretty strong).
    PleromicPastry likes this.

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