Strap Length and Shoulder Issue - Related?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jaywa, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    For the past few months I have been experiencing some pain in my right shoulder, specifically the rotator cuff area, which gets worse the farther I raise my arm away from my body. It isn't affecting my playing (yet), but it is affecting my range of motion and how much weight I can lift.

    I'm wondering if how I hold my bass has anything to do with it. I.e., would dropping it down a notch or two help since it seems like my shoulder hurts the most as I'm lifting it up (as in shrugging shoulders).

    See picture below... I do wear my bass a tad higher than a lot of guys but nothing radical. My bass is a 78 Precision that's on the heavier side but I would think if anything that would affect my left shoulder (which is fine).

    FWIW I'm in decent shape (6'0 175), 46 years old and pretty much a clean medical history. I did injure this same shoulder lifting weights but that was 15 years ago and it healed on its own without surgery.

    Thanks in advance.

    Attached Files:

  2. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    From what I'm seeing in your photo, your left wrist is already fairly far from neutral. Should you lengthen your strap to help your right shoulder, you'll likely put your left wrist at greater risk for CTS.

    Odds are, what you are feeling are the effects of that 15-year old injury. If you do lower your bass, try to hold it at a greater angle to the floor. This should drop you right shoulder some but raise the neck so your left wrist can be more neutral. As a scientist and engineer, I know that the solution to one problem always begets another. So, it needs to be an iterative procedure to the extent possible.
  3. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    rotator cuff injury took me out of the game for about 18 months. I tempted fate by continuing to play until I could no longer use my left arm. Huge mistake.

    Believe it or not, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and rest were far more effective FOR ME than any of the approaches prescribed by medical doctors.

    Good luck!​
  4. Biggbass

    Biggbass Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Acupunture !!! +1 can't say enough good things about it.

    I suffered severe left shoulder and lower back damage in a motorcycle wreck in '96: Broken humerus, split humeral head, broken clavical, broken scapula, broken acromion, dislocated elbow, two broken ribs, cracked L4 & L5 vertebrae, and 3 broken teeth.

    I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room where I had immediate surgery, which, along with the related rotator cuff damage and other injury repair, left me out of commission and in physical therapy for almost 6 months. I healed well but in the long term my shoulder and leg bothered me for years afterward.

    Looking back I don't think I ever adjusted the straps on my basses or guitars. I did, however, resort to using a stool to lean on when I felt fatigued, which was mostly caused by the vertebrae and right side sciatic nerve damage. It took several years to regain full left arm strength to be able resist something as simple as the gravitational pull on my left arm when in a playing position. And I had to walk with a cane for five years after the wreck.

    Then, one day, a friend talked me into getting some acupuncture. After the first 45 minute treatment my sciatica was gone and the searing pain in my right hip, that had felt like I had a knife stuck in my pelvis, was gone. Then, eventually, no more right leg ache at all, no more left arm fatigue, no more shoulder ache, and finally no more needing a cane to walk or support myself when standing. I spent 6 months on the acupuncture table, 3 times a week, and it was the best money I've ever spent on any medical related expense. My insurance didn't cover a dime of it but I didn't care.
    It was well worth it.
  5. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    One other thing to keep in mind - problems in your shoulder can start all the way down at your wrist or down your back to your hips. Everything is connected in there, and a little tweak someplace (that may or may not be causing you pain) might be forcing your shoulder to compensate.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Great insights everyone. Thanks!

    In the meantime I talked to my guitarist (who's a few years older than me) and he said same thing happened to him and he was able to work it out through some light exercises prescribed by his doctor.

    So at this point I'm thinking I won't change the strap length but I'll see if those exercises help. I don't want to wind up losing gigs out of this and I definitely don't want to go under the knife for it.
  7. bassfran

    bassfran Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2012
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    I had some trouble after an injury and changed to a wider strap with thicker padding.

    Less strain overall and made a world of difference for me.
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    For sure i would be looking to take into consideration the injury to the rotor cuff as the source of the problem. Sorry to say but old injuries do come back to trouble us in later life.
    Fact is when young we repair and maintain injuries fast and well....but in later life as our body starts to slow down this process, repair and maintain does not readly happen as our bodies are
    "breaking down" naturally with age. In this process old injuries or problems our body has covered and protected well start to show up.
    Just part of the aging process i'm afraid as the body does not re-new cells it cannot maintain old injuries or repair as fast or as well any new ones.

    Learn to look at your posture, see if you do indeed favour on side?
    Does you hips tilt to favour a leg/...if so your spine will tilt to compansate, so your shoulder and neck will tilt to compansate etc etc. this applies when sitting as well, do you favour resting on one side?
    When you stand try and stand in a neutral posture, weight spead even. Be carefull in lifting and moving equipment, again problems there can aggrivate injuries. This sound easy but in life try and remember to keep your shoulders down, by that i mean relaxed. It alwasy amazes me how many people i met that have their shoulders "up" for various reasons..main one is "they did not realise it". Do some shoulder shrugs, lift and lower you shoulders a number of times, and when you stop and relax pull the down some will be surprised at how far they can still go down to be considered relaxed. This exercise is great for taking out any tension that "lifts the shoulders".

    For sure wider strap, with some padding and wear it to the out side of the shoulder, not on the neck, that is the soft tissue of the neck. Yes it may be where the pain is on the out side, but hwere you are looking to have the strap is on the bone of the shoulder not the soft muscle tissue of it or the neck.
    Strap should be no thinner then 3 inches and at least have padding on it.

    Learn to do stretches and muscle glides. Muscle glides are a great way to exercise/stretch neck and shoulders, they are good all round low impact exercises used by physios, not all device or gadgets you may see advertised on the net.

    In the link is some usefull info and the exercises 1 and 3 are muscle great ones to start with. If you decide to do no.2 as well make sure you do not aggrivate the hand and wrist in trying to do it.

    3 Shoulder Exercises for Rotator Cuff Injuries by Citihealth - YouTube

    I personally would seek out a physio and get some exercises specific to you and just check out your posture and form and have a chat about what you are feeling, your day job ( very important) how you sleep, ( lying in bed wrong/different can aggrivate a rotor cuff) and of course your playing.
  9. Nerk

    Nerk Guest

    Aug 26, 2010
    amen to that...

    currently going to physio for a shoulder injury... although mine is around my shoulders rolling in forward... being in IT I can almost directly relate it to work and using the mouse... I have had rotator cuff muscle tears in my left shoulder due to the seat belt in a car accident.. its not fun... I can relate to that...

    currently... I cant play sitting down... I have to stand and yes... the "looking cool" pose with my bass down to my knees has been out of the picture for a while now... trust me... you can play a lot better and more accurately with it up high and its better for your body in the end...

    great post... great tips and hope all you "youngins" out there follow this advice before its too late and end up paying for someone to fix your shoulders up...

    ps: I'm only 31 and look how I'm talking... man feel old :)