Playing bass with Ankylosing Spondylitis... Anyone got any tips?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Michael Simpson, Jun 22, 2019.

  1. TL;DR I'm buggered, confused, suffering from a condition I know damn all about and advice would be great!

    As stated in the title, I've just been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). After a few months of testing, and 5 years of chronic back pain and stiffness since the age of 18, this wasn't exactly the result I wanted at 23 but nevertheless, it's one I have to accept. X-rays have shown 5 partial fusions, with a possible 6th and I am now waiting on MRI results to confirm this further. My sacroiliac joints aren't in perfect shape and my left hip is apparently a fair bit worse than my right, but again I will know for certain once the MRI's come back.

    I've maintained that it will not stop me doing what I enjoy (mainly playing bass, work and hobbies etc) and if it does come to the stage where I can no longer do these things unassisted, then I'm prepared to adapt to new ways of going about things. I'm in a pretty reasonable job that I enjoy, and is keeping me mobile and if needs be and the pain gets unbearable then there are opportunities within the company to move to a less physical role.

    Mainly though, it's just put me in a bit of a hole and I was looking for any wise words/advice/encouragement from fellow sufferers and if anybody has any suggestions on how to deal with the pain (other than Tramadol and Diclofenac, I'm already on those) while playing, supports or whatever then that would be much appreciated! :D For what it's worth I'm playing a '74 Rickenbacker 4001, weighing 11lbs which I find reasonably light for an hour or two and I've just bought a Yamaha BB235 weighing 9.5lbs.

    P.S if this post is in the wrong place, please feel free to move it.

    Cheers guys,
    Michael :bassist:
  2. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Go lighter. Find a used Sadowsky NYC < 8 pounds. GL&BW
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  3. Never been a fan of sadowsky stuff really. I like what works for me, Ric mainly and the Yamaha is nice too :) cheers for the recommendation though!
  4. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    In any case, I believe you would find a sub 8 pound bass a massive improvement.

    The Fender body styles also happen to be highly ergonomic for balance. Just sayin. I understand and respect different prefs; but, at some point common sense comes into play.

    BTW, IIRC, Hofners are even lighter.
  5. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Sorry to hear that. Even though it's not the news you wanted to hear, it's good to have a diagnosis, since the right diagnosis is key in determining the best treatments.

    The best advice I can give you is to stay in regular contact with your rheumatologist. With the rapid advances in research, treatments are improving for inflammatory conditions. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications such as diclofenac are treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of AS.

    I hope your physician has referred you to a good physical therapist who has specific experience in treating spine disorders. You may not get full range of motion, but you can maximize what you can get, and likely preserve the motion that you currently have. AS causes calcification of ligaments in the spine, and this process can be delayed by range of motion exercises. Strengthening your trunk/core muscles can help spinal pain and improve function. Learning how to do these things safely and effectively is really the most important thing you can accomplish with a good physical therapist.

    Consider a standing guitar support to use when playing and practicing. Something like this:
    Acupuncture is a safe treatment in experienced (and licensed) hands and can help pain. It doesn't cure the condition, but it can make living with it more tolerable. If you don't experience any relief after 3-4 treatments, it may not work for you. But it might be worth trying at some point.

    Best of luck to you on your journey. Music therapy can help pain, and you are ahead of the curve on that, so keep carrying the low end!

    (Disclaimer: I am a sports medicine physician by day, and thankfully better at that than I am at playing bass! I include acupuncture and regenerative medicine in my practice.)
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2019
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  6. unbridled


    May 26, 2005
    Endorsing Artist-Compton Compensated Custom Bridges (for Gretsch 6ers)
    I have similar issues in my neck and I've also broken my back in several places and broken my neck once.

    When I'm hurting badly, I grab my 5.5# Mikro. I have a tall stool if I need to sit, but I've found that moving around is almost as effective. Experiment with strap length and bass positioning. I've found I like my fretting hand high, and my plucking hand low. I occasionally wear a posture brace under my clothes. It pulls my shoulders back a bit and keeps me from a hunchback posture.

    Good luck and hope it helps!


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Not to make light of your condition, that is how my body feels after working on cars 65 hours a week since 1973.:D:D:D. Seriously, i really struggle to play comfortably for any length of time anymore, so i feel you. As a bonus my hands and fingers become less flexible and more gnarly every year. Good luck in your quest.:thumbsup:
  8. The trickiest bit about my circumstance is that when it comes to basses I'm terribly fussy. I don't dig hofners at all, they seriously aren't my thing. A lighter bass may be the answer in the end though!
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  9. Wow, thanks for the comprehensive reply there mate! I haven't actually been in contact with the Rheumatologist yet, as they want to see my MRI scans first befire deciding what treatment route to go down. Ive been to physiotherapy frequently enough, none of it provides any relief though unfortunately! There's a lot of stretching, lifting and bending in my line of work and i find that just moving around helps to alleviate the worst of the stiffness!
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Inactive

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    Search "Natural cures for Ankylosing Spondylitis" and try some

    And try the "Plant Paradox Diet"

    I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, osteoarthritis, and Tendonitis, and I am also getting older … so natural cures and the Plant Paradox diet are both big parts of what keeps me going
  11. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    Another vote for lighter, balanced basses... The difference in comfort is remarkable.
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  12. I've pretty much had the same posture for the last 7 years of playing, I like keeping the bass almost horizontal, keeps me balanced nicely! Good shout on the barstool if things get a bit strenuous though. I've tried a lot of things, including weightlifters belts around my lumbar and most none of it has really worked!
  13. Good to hear of your experiences against these things! I did look into the Plant Paradox thing a few years ago, but found it to be unsuccessful and a bit placebo in my instance. Not to say it doesn't work for some people but it's not for me. I've lost 7 stone since almost 2 years ago and feel great, i was up at 26 stone and started to diet after realising how unhappy and unhealthy I was. Now I'm at 19 stone, which is about perfect for one of my hobbies (highland games heavy events) but now thats probably out the window i might start dieting again!
  14. I'm hoping that I'll notice the difference between the Yamaha and the Ric over the course of a gig next weekend, it's almost 2lb lighter and a lot more ergonomically friendly! Thanks for the input!
  15. I feel your pain there, in my first job i was regularly clocking 70-85hr weeks as a welder. Now ive managed to cut down to around 50-60 with overtime as a paint sprayer, less strenuous and better pay too:thumbsup:
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  16. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    That sounds like a change you will definitely notice... How's the balance on the Yamaha?



    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Hey, Micheal mate, you do know that know one in the US has the slightest clue what "stone" means right?
  18. I can't comment on my exact bass as it's currently being shipped home, but the demonstrators I've tried in stores balanced very nicely for a 5! They definitely lean towards being body-heavy but not so much that it's uncomfortable. Everything near or less falls where I'd expect it to for a 6 foot tall player with long arms :D
    EatS1stBassist and wraub like this.
  19. Google is your ally.
    Then: 26 stone/364lb/165kg
    Now: 18.9 stone/264lb/120kg

    So about 2 large bags of dog food, or 9 of my Rickenbacker's worth of weight lost :D
  20. Ric5

    Ric5 Inactive

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    I lost 15 pounds (about 1 stone) and I feel a lot better with the plant paradox diet … and I take nutritional supplements that also help … I take one prescription med that helps … the combination of all of them helps me function … and I have been dealing with this for over 20 years … Also I don't drink much at all and I try to get a good nights sleep every night