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Really bad cramp

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by dllive, Oct 18, 2013.

  1. dllive


    Dec 30, 2011
    Hi guys,

    I had to stop halfway through a gig last week and the band had to carry on without me...

    While I was playing, my index finger (on my fretting hand) curled up and I had to use my right hand to uncurl it. It became unusable as each time I needed my index finger (which was every other note!) it did the same. My ring and middle finger then started to do the same and I was just down to playing a one note bass line with my thumb.

    This is a real concern. Is this just cramp? Or is it a tendon thing? I tried to 'shake it out' but it wouldnt go and the hand became almost unusable for another couple of hours. This happened once before a couple of years ago. I do warm up before each gig.

    I *think* its because we play a couple of songs in F, which is a big stretch for me on the bass. Maybe if we play them in A or E that will help.

    I just wandered if any of you guys have experienced this or have any solutions? Ive heard buying a short scale bass might help.

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    I've experienced that. I use to have my hand cramp up during a gig when I lived in Saudi Arabia and we would do our load-in in the afternoon (90% humidity and over 110F). It was from dehydration. The fix as to drink lots of water during load-in and also drink some Gatorade. The ultimate fix was to hire some Sri Lankan's to do the load-in.

    You should work on your functional strength for bass playing and learn how to relax your hand in the tough parts. That and make sure you're hydrated when playing.
  3. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Muscles need hydration as mentioned, water is good, as are any of the enery drinks available, avoid caffine drinks. Food...your musslce need fuel, so eat good fuel foods, such as energy bars before, during and after the gig, eat small amounts regular rather than big meals.

    Stretches and warm ups will help keep flexors from contracting, help balance out extensor use against flexor use, check out the link,

    Here are some foods thoughts to consider

    Potassium must be rightly included in your daily diet to reduce the risk of heart attacks and blood pressure problems.
    Potassium is a good source of cramp prevention and relief.
    Sufficient potassium can be consumed by including the potassium rich foods in our daily diet.
    Potassium rich foods are listed below and are categorized according to the fruits, vegetables, dairy products and other potassium rich foods.
    Proper amount of potassium must be included in food.
    There are two main problems associated with Potassium levels that can develop, hyperkalemia or hypokalemia.
    Hyperkalemia is excessive storage of potassium and hypokalemia is deficiency of potassium.
    A balanced diet should be enough to sustain a healthy Potassium and vitamin level as well as most of the chemical elements the body needs.

    Acorn squash
    Baked beans
    Butternut squash
    Bamboo shoots
    Fresh or boiled beet
    Black beans
    Lima beans
    Brussels sprouts
    Dried peas and beans
    Hubbard squash
    Turnip cabbage
    Refried beans
    Cooked spinach
    Tomatoes and tomato products
    Yellow turnips
    Vegetable juices
    Kidney beans

    Kiwi fruit
    Orange and orange juice
    Watermelon juices
    Prunes and prune juice


    Red wine
    White wine

    Bran products
    Nuts and seeds
    Peanut Butter
    Ice milk
    Wheat bread
    Apple cider vinegar
    Cottage cheese
    Ricotta cheese
    Vanilla Ice-cream
    Cinnamon raisin bagel
    Plain bagel
    French bread
    Plain bagel
    Onion, poppy and sesame seed bagel
    Oatmeal bread
    English muffins
    Cocoa powder
  4. dllive


    Dec 30, 2011
    Thanks guys - some good advice in there. I have a gig in 3 hours, so Ill be drinking lots of water, taking ibuprofen and stretching. I hope it is just a case of dehydration - it was pretty scary having no control over my fingers like that.
  5. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    A friend of mine had this problem on his right hand, and he showed me how he was playing and I think he was also cutting off the circulation resting his arm on the upper bout of the bass. Which would probably cause the same kind of issue -- lack of oxygen to the tissues.

    What we do is actually athletic in nature, it's just that you are a hand-athlete instead of a whole-body athlete.
  6. aquamentus


    Apr 15, 2005
    Keokuk, IA
    I have this EXACT problem. So i know everything youre going through. It's very frustrating when you know you can play and know your parts, but your hands just won't work. I wondered if anyone else had the fingers curling up thing. Or basically like your fingers lock up. Someone suggested spraying WD40 on my hands to keep them from cramping. Something about the fish oil in WD40. I usually take about 2 or 3 arthritis pills before each gig, but not sure if that's been helping at all.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    WD40 will make no difference on the hands, the problem is in the flexor muscles in the forearm, as all finger cramp issues from playing evolve.
    The problem starts deep within the muscle fibres in the forearm, it is only flexors that will pull the hand closed.
    Be careful of taking pills and drugs for conditions you may never develop, but you may develop other issues as a result of what you take, and ultimately negate the value of such a drug if you ever need it for real.
  8. kikstand454


    Sep 28, 2012
    Drink lots of water before during and after the gig. Drink more water during your everyday life.

    Right before your warm up routine, go wash your hands thoroughly with the water as hot as you can stand. Wash your wrists and forearms too. Then after you warm up, do it again before performing. This gets the blood vessels pumping and exercising .

    Good luck.
  9. aquamentus


    Apr 15, 2005
    Keokuk, IA
    Have you ever seen those brace/wrap things people have on their forearms? Usually it has like a nylon black strap with a rubber like white part. Sits about half way up on the forearm. People that do a lot of lifting on their jobs will wear them. Do you thnk that'd be any help?
  10. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    In most cases cramps are caused by dehydration and sometimes over use. Drink plenty of water, warm up and stretch.
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    No the brace is for the restriction of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB) attached to the elbow, so its influence to the palm is not an issue unless it is inflamed, then you have a different set of symptoms with pain... you would know it as Tennis Elbow. If you Suffer such symptoms then yes it will being a big relief, it will reduce the contraction pressure (the pulling on the tendon at the fixed area on the elbow) so reduce the pain.

    As I posted, fuel the muscles with good energy laden foods and keep them lubricated with fluid is the best analogy to think of.
  12. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Drink a lot of water, use a Gripmaster or Varigrip to train your muscles in your fingers / hands and try to take a look at the amount of pressure you use when you play. It's possible that you press the strings down too hard.
  13. 6stringpanda


    Aug 9, 2013
    Not going to try to convert everyone to be a vegitarian and not a secret PETA bass player but I can say this.

    When I stopped eating red meat (advise of my doctor) and all of my finger and joint pain went away.
  14. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    No, not a good idea. These devices develop grip, which is not required to play the bass.
  15. smcgov

    smcgov Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2010
    Northshore Mass
    I used to have severe cramping that scared me and at that time I was playing a soundgear with a really thin neck, i found that thicker neck profiles don't seem to make me cramp as bad. I'm talking necks that are like a rickenbacker, p bass etc...

    what kind of bass is this happening with? or is it happening regardless of which bass you are playing?
  16. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    I have the exact same problem playing some songs in F on basses with a thin/flat neck. I mangled my hand/forearm in a skiing accident years ago (big bruise, stretched tendons, etc.) and ever since, I need a thick neck or my hand can start to cramp. To me, a deep C or even a U feels best, with little taper, if possible. I sold a Classic 50's p-bass because the neck wasn't thick enough. Shortscale might also be an option.

    I do try to stay hydrated and focus on loosening up while playing, but sometimes, I just play the part higher up the neck.

    The nut on your bass might also be cut too high, which can aggravate the situation.

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