Playing bass with carpal tunnel is like strolling around in a minefield...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Menorahman, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Man this sucks. I thought wearing wrist braces at night would make things better, but all it did was stop my hands from going numb. The underlying pain and easy injuries still remain. One wrong move and I can't play bass / guitar for a week or more. Maybe it's more like the game Operation, where if I screw up there's a big BUZZ in the form of electrical shocks in my elbows.

    Thankfully there is one silver lining. Every time I injure myself I figure out something wrong with my technique, from wrist position, to plucking velocity, to general stance. Now I think with this last injury I got the last major issue fixed...not relaxing my elbows. Hopefully I haven't caused any permanent damage...
  2. This is why lessons are highly recommended with a competent teacher, not your bros friend who is in a band.
  3. I have battled CT for decades - it came from playing piano back in the 80's. Too much time without letting up messed me up bigtime. It's why I support walking away and doing other things rather than playing for 8 hours a day.

    I haven't worn braces in 9 years.
  4. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Did you get surgery? I'm going to a specialist in a few days and I'm hoping they can fix me up without it.
  5. No, I just re-evaluated my priorities and evaluated my technique in doing everything. Strength training and avoiding actions which led to pain.

    I was the guy who, if anything needed doing, 95% of the time I had already done it, or was on my way to do it. I knocked that off real fast and let others share the work. I had put in several lifetimes worth of work and felt no guilt about not lifting a finger - literally.
  6. Have you been evaluated yet? When you say shocks to the elbow it sounds like you may have Ulnar tunnel issues. I had surgery on my left arm for both Ulnar tunnel and Carpel tunnel back around 1999. It was job related issues that caused my problems, I wasn't playing bass at all for some years at that point. Even after Ulnar tunnel surgery I can tap the inside of my elbow and it sends a shock all the way to my hand. The pain and numbness in my hand and fingers all went away as a result of the surgery however. The pain used to keep me awake at night so I needed it corrected especially since I wanted to keep working at my at that time chosen profession.
    ueezb likes this.
  7. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    And you still play fine? Is it harder now?

    I think I have both too. My psych even suggested Raynaud's disease because my hands are usually cold all over, sometimes they feel frozen.
  8. NG51

    NG51 Supporting Member

    Aug 19, 2010
    Man,so sorry to hear this. Hope you can get this figured out, and feel better.
  9. I play fine no issues. I play 1 finger per fret also which a lot of folks say is a no no because it causes hand and wrist problems. Haven't had any issues so far, but I would strongly suggest you get a workup to identify whatever problems you have. Some folks do fine with physical therapy and exercise but you need to identify the issues before treatment. Good luck!
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  10. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    I didn't even realize 1 finger per fret was a thing. Coming from lead guitar I just kept playing the same way...I wouldn't even know how to play otherwise.
  11. Menorahman

    Menorahman Inactive

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Playing all those notes on bass probably didn't help my hands...
  12. I've played bass since I was about 14. Studied the proper way to play. Now I'm 57 and about 6 months ago bought an acoustic guitar to learn. Can't really seem to develop a like for it really! I maybe pick it up once a week and noodle around, but my heart and soul always connects with the bass!
  13. Thumper19605


    Jun 29, 2013
    I had carpel tunnel from my day job,Both hands. once you have surgery, playing becomes normal with no pain.
    Also light strings, low action and much less attack will be your normal.
    I wish you well.
  14. StudioGC


    Sep 20, 2015
    Short scale is another option to help.

    I'm not sure if I have Carpal Tunnel or arthritis, but about a month ago I started experimenting with 30" scale basses (Jaguar VM, Musicmaster and a Gibson SG) to help with numbness in my hand and wow what a relief the short scale is! Try a Squier Jaguar VM short scale. You won't break the bank because they are under $200 and sound great out of the box.

    I also work on hand stretching exercises too.
    Brian Wright and Short-scale like this.
  15. baileyboy


    Aug 12, 2010
    I'm not sure if this will help... my index finger on my plucking hand can get quite sore after a long bout of playing, so I learned to play with a pick just to have options. Similarly, if you can find some way to compensate in order to alleviate any wrist pain, I would put my focus there.
  16. JEBassman


    Jun 25, 2008
    I've had hand, arm & shoulder problems for years. Later, I became increasingly disabled after two separate car accidents. I've been to many doctors and specialists as a result.

    I would urge you to get medical advice, but to go further than thinking about a yes / no decision about surgery. Find a good physical therapy practice. Consider also going to a hand specialist, who is also an occupational therapist. You initially want to get relief from your pain, but it's urgent that you also have guidance and supervision building up other muscles and learning healthy, long term habits.

    I've had lots of occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). They both have helped me significantly. I speak from personal experience when I encourage you to pursue these goals now, and not let your symptoms and the behaviors that caused them get worse, and lead to additional problems.

    I hope you find relief and help very soon.
    unresolved, 1stnamebassist and 5below like this.
  17. JEBassman


    Jun 25, 2008
    Short scale basses can be part of your long term changes, that might make playing easier for you. Short scales are lighter and shorter (hence the name). Many bassists switch to smaller instruments.

    I would definitely get medical guidance first though; licensed PT and OT help people with all sorts of injuries. Invest in the time and effort and you won't regret it.
  18. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i know pretty much what you're going through. i have issues in both elbows, shoulders and wrists, so i'm always adjusting so i can play. things are better now i'm playing short scale, and i always use extra light strings. ergonomics sometimes require little shifts in posture, and it's actually impossible for me to play in proper form without pain, so i'm sort of inventing as i go along. that being said, i wasn't able to play for some time, except a ubass, so this is a great improvement for me.

    do have a doctor look at your arm. i didn't get much use from PT, but there's a chance you don't have carpal tunnel; there are several other things that could be wrong, and they may require different exercise, positioning and treatment. even if you don't want surgery, there's different things you can do to make things work better for you and your playing.
    JEBassman likes this.
  19. J Gold

    J Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2011
    I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand in September and will be doing the left hand in January.

    It's nice to not have stabbing pain and numbness anymore. I think I'm playing better too.
    Thumper19605 and JEBassman like this.
  20. One of our members posted a link to a series of exercises designed to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Hopefully they will see this and post the link again. They are simple exercises and can be done in about 5 minutes. I do them and so far so good. You might want to change to height and position of your bass. Maybe you could play the right side low and the fret side higher at a 45 degree angle. I find this to be quite comfortable and am able to keep both wrists fairly straight. As a result, there is no discomfort. I wish you well and hope you can keep playing. :);):thumbsup:
    JEBassman likes this.
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