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Sore Left Thumb

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by StyleOverShow, Jan 8, 2012.


  1. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Sixteen gigs/jams/run throughs between Thanksgivings and New Year's Weekend, playing EGB and EUB/Upright, and my left thumb is sore at the base joint. Didn't think too much of it when it started aching last weekend, took some NASID's and it all worked out fine. Has been annoying all week and I down Ibuprofen with breakfast and dinner regularly.

    Did a showcase thing last night and could hardly think of anything else. It almost feels like arthritis.

    Anybody ever hear of this...something in my hand positioning (firmly behind the neck) or am I just worn out?
     
  2. I think both worn out and RSI.

    I'd suggest stopping for a bit, get a doctor's opinion. Massage the hand frequently.
     
  3. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Minnesota
    I have severe Basil Joint Arthritis in left thumb ... it causes the thumb to actually rotate inward towards the palm ... I had broken it when I was a teen and it was pinned during the healing process ... playing a lot lately as well, and it is really fired up ... I am finding I need to rely less on it for leverage, and try to lighten my touch as much as possible, and even need to remove the thumb completely from the neck at times ... if it is arthritis, especially osteo (from use) it may not get better, but simply be more manageable at times ... might be time to look at an alternative positioning/placement if rest is not an option ... I have a hot parafin wax machine, and that works for some temporary relief for a while ...
     
  4. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    @tjh - the inward rotation is funny. Thought that it was a protective instinct or something, but definitely have observed it.

    The wax machine therapy sounds like fun...
     
  5. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    An ache at the base of the thumb, it may be that you have overextended the thumb, time for a break and to get it checked out methinks.
     
  6. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Minnesota
    Style, I glanced at your profile ... you are an ol' coot too :) .. you are probably a candidate for this as well ... Basil Joint arthritis (base of the thumb) is quite common as we age and been tough on our hands ... the inward rotation is one of the most common signs of it I guess, along with loss of grip strength, agility, and then as you mentioned, the pain (constant ache) .. mine has gotten to the point that if I put both hands flat out in front of me, the right thumb is nice and straight on the same plane with the rest of the right hand, the left thumb points towards the ground at a 45 degree angle ... when I was first diagnosed about a year ago at the VA for it, I had to do all kinds of strength and agility tests .. one was picking up blocks and inserting into matching shape holes in a timed test ... I was 3x faster with my right hand than my left, and was even dropping blocks with the left hand due to lack of thumb coordination ... that was an eye opener ... nothing really corrects it, the parafin wax helps the pain, but it is temporary at best ...
     
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    In all probabilities and over use problem. Rest and the use of some ice packs on it would have be the immeadiate remedy. But now just use rest. One of the common factors in this injury, from any walk of life, is to much tension against the top area of the thumb, that causes the joint to collapse back on itself.
    This is a result of pushing the thumb on to the neck and the fingers pushing the strings down so you in fact are squeezing.

    If you stop and think for a moment about how your hands work you will realise two things about holding. You either hold by using your fingers to apply pressure to the object you hold and the thumb does nothing but act as a backstop to that pressure, or you use the thumb to apply the pressure and the fingers act as the backstop to it. When you use both it is squeezing, and due to the friction of the surface, more or less pressure can be used for objects of the same size, shape and weight because the surface finish of what is being held is a factor in the amount we need to apply. So an over use of the pressure in the need to hold can be applied when it is not needed.
    A bass guitar normally has support so does not need to be held, an up-right does not need to be held......just balanced and balanced against the fingers not the thumb.
    When we grip things tight it is normally an increase in thumb pressure not finger pressure, so when ever we lighten a grip it is the thumb pressure that lessens not the finger pressure.

    Try it and see. Take up your bass guitar and apply the hands, now fret a note, now squeeze it down hard. Notice where the pressure is coming from to do this, and look at that thumb. Now holding that note down with that pressure strike the note again and gently release the thumb pressure. You will notice that the note still sounds, even to the extent that the thumb can be lifted off the neck.
    With the double bass lean it away from you enough that it is in the fingers rather than the thumb, now using just the fingers bring it back till there is little or no pressure being use other than to balance it. This would be the neutral playing position to adopt more most if not all playing.

    So we can say that any pressure to fret comes from the fingers pushing against the fretboard and the thumb is just a backstop to the neck for support, not from any pressure from the thumb to actually squeeze the fingers into the fretboard. The thumb merely rests against the neck.......end of its involvement.

    If it does not clear up with rest then see a doctor as you may well have done some damage that needs attention.
     
  8. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Perhaps you can try not putting your thumb right on the back of the neck. I do this sometimes on easy tunes. Kinda rest the neck in your hand, so to speak. That way you're not demanding too much from your thumb. Won't work on upright, but will on electric. Otherwise, maybe you just need a break, or find a way not to overexert in order to play more. I'm playing about as much as you are with no problems (I'm 62). I'd see a doc if I were you.
     
  9. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Minnesota
    I would say that a large part of hand/thumb problems of us in the 50-60+ range are not nescessarily a direct result of only our playing, but more than likely compounded by the abuse that our hands have taken over the years in our other activities ... I know this is true in my case ... for instance a life long insurance sales person is more than likely not going to experience the same hand issues later in life as a construction type worker ... often times it is not the activity that agravates that is/was the actual cause of the present issue ... I was a personal trainer for several years, and when training individuals for specific performance, we used the expression "the body becomes its function" ... in other words, if you have a primary activity that you are doing, the body can be taught to develop FOR that activity, and the incidence of injury are less likely, as well as the performance enhanced ... however, doing this, it MAY also cause areas of weakness for other activities, because you may create a developed imbalance of sorts ... all good advice in the posts above, but the bottom line to playing with any type of injuries, especially if rest is not an option, is making the adaption to go on ... pain killers, braces, injections, therapy, etc are all options in the world of athletics, and areas of soft tissue can be rested, repaired and/or strengthened to help correct the issue, but for worn out joints there are unfortunately less alternatives ... sometimes we need to recruit tendons, ligaments and stress insertions that are not usually used for a function to be called into play to help us continue ... for playing the bass, that usually involves altering technique, and more than likely a lighter touch .. JMHO
     
  10. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Very interesting reply, pal. It makes me think of something that happened to me recently. I had been having pain in my right hand for weeks that ran all the way up my arm, ending between my shoulder blades. Apparently something out of whack in my spine, I thought. I figured it was gonna come to going to the doc to get looked at. But no. As has often been the case with me the problem has gotten worked out by another activity---climbing. Not rock climbing, but rather hiking in a preserve I like where you have to grab hold of things to go up and down steep banks. The stretching and exertion has seemingly cured the ailment. I had also strained my Achilles tendon last year. Because I could not stay off my feet for long enough for it to heal completely as it should it put stress on other things. But, in the end I am still able to hike and climb. One thing helps another, I guess. Many years ago a doc told me that my inflamed Plantar's tendon wouldn't just go away, but I worked it out and it never came back.

    I'm not saying that you can overcome everything like that, but often there is a way. Kinda like evolution.
     

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