What kind of neck for arthritis of left thumb?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by andyjevans, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. andyjevans


    Jul 18, 2010
    Arthritis of the left thumb is really starting to bother me, and I`m wondering if fellow sufferers can give me any idea of what neck will put the least strain on the thumb joint at the base of the thumb. I wasn't`t so aware of it on my WAL fretless but it`s an issue on a new Hohner B fretted bass I bought. Maybe because I fitted Rotosound 77 Jazz flats, which have too much tension I think. The nut is 40.5mm.

    Should I be playing a thin neck like an Ibby SR at 38mm? Or is it also a radius question = I don`t think flat is good here, maybe needs 9ins or so like a jazz neck.... Surely lower tension strings = which for example?

    I`m even wondering if I should go short or medium scale instead of 34ins

    All ideas welcome here = It`s a problem.
  2. Rabidhamster


    Jan 15, 2014
    your hand is different than everyones here, you need to go to the store and try every neck you can. (not every neck attached to a bass you think you like, EVERY neck) once you find the couple that seem right, rest from playing a day and come back and play only those to narrow it down.
    Do you wrap your thumb over on top or anything?

    If the problem started when you got a new bass with new strings, lay off it and see what happens.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    What's that bass with the twisted neck that's meant to be more ergonomic?
  4. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
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  5. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    I lost half of my left thumb and the tips of my first and second fingers in an explosives accident as a boy. So far, the most comfortable neck to accommodate my unique hand configuration is from Tobias/MTD. The profile is asymmetric, meaning the treble side of the neck is thinner than the bass side. It allows for easier maneuvering over the fret board. I think that Carvin also did the asymmetric profile, but can't be certain.

    I've tried a few 30 inch short scales and can't get used to them. I've tried a couple of 32 inch medium scales and like the scale, but other features didn't jibe. Still searching...

    On a different note, I've had good response to acupuncture treatment for a number of different joint and muscle maladies. Maybe it will provide some relief from your arthritis?
  6. Skeezix


    Sep 28, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    I have arthritis in both thumbs.
    What helps me the most is thumb isolation braces
    that can be bought at any Walgreens or Wal-Mart.
    It keeps my thumb joint warm, which in my case
    keeps the pain away.
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  7. WindyCityHawk

    WindyCityHawk Inactive

    Jun 17, 2017
    I can relate to the OP:
    Last week I had both of my hands & wrists x-rayed -> pain in thumb joints & wrist joints were the thumb connects = diagnosis: 'moderate osteoarthritis'... Which equates to spurs (calcium deposits?) on the ends of the bones at the Metacarpophalangeal Joints & Carpometacarpol Joints - Now add bilateral Ulnar Nerve damage to the mix & a debilitating stroke and this aspiring new bassist (me) has some hurdles.

    All I can say is, man if this is 'moderate' I hate to see what severe is.

    The options I am considering are going lefty (right hand has a less damage/pain/more dexterity & strength than the left) or trying a fretless.

    The "... thumb isolation braces ..." mentioned by Skeezix sound like a doable option.

    *DITTO on what the OP posted, "All ideas welcome here..."

  8. I learned to avoid overusing my left thumb.
    - hold the body of your bass between your right forearm and your tummy.
    - left hand play without thumb touching neck, just fingers.
    - once you're comfortable with this hold, let the left thumb very gently rest behind the neck.

    It stopped my left hand pain AND improved my intonation on Fretless too (relaxed left hand). Try it & see if it helps.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
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  9. +1 to asymmetric neck. My Tobias is so easy to play. :thumbsup:

    Lighter gauge strings & lower action definitely help. TI's and play gently after a long day or when my hands are tired.

    Neck size/shape can be unpredictable - I have a B-width (1 3/4") P bass with a deep neck but very round profile that's super comfy. (Seafoam P in my profile pic).

    My thumb sits behind the D string and points toward the nut and I play with half my hand behind the neck (thumb very relaxed position). No pain or fatigue for 4-set gigs. Go figure.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
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  10. I have done a number of things to help combat my arthritis. I have gone primiarily to short scales, mainly uke basses and 30" short scale electric basses. I use lighter gauges of strings with less stiffness. I also stretch out my fingers and also take my arthritis medicine before playing. I no longer try to play as many notes per measure as I used to. Taking more breaks helps as well. I love my P basses but now play thinner necked basses when I do play long scale. Recently I acquired a Peavey 80s Foundation and an Ibanez SGR 400 which both have thin necks. 25 years ago I would have laughed at them as being toys. My how a couple of joint fusions can change your perspective.
    I wish you well in your search for alternative basses and strings. With the right choices and just taking care of yourself, you can still have many more years of playing enjoyment.
  11. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I have arthritic pain at the base of the thumb, left hand. After talking to a number of other musicians I went to a physiotherapist that specializes in sports injuries and has dealt with a number of musicians. After the first treatment the flexibility of the joint was dramatically improved and the pain was lessened by about 30%. After two more treatments I had more flexibility in that thumb than on my right hand. Treatments were some "adjustments" done by the therapist, followed by treatment with a TENS machine and a set of daily exercises. I would say the improvement after 2 months is in the 80-85% range. Highly recommended. But do find someone who specializes in athlete and musician injuries. The lead guitarist in my band has a similar problem and his physiotherapist only made things worse for him.
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  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013

    Good technique and good setup is more important than neck size.
  13. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Lots of guitarists with hand pain of various sorts seem to find thick necks to be better than thin ones. By thick I mean front to back. The idea is that the neck fills your palm and your grip is therefore less tightly clenched. But as others have said, your specific situation may require something different.
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  14. Some good info throughout the replies.

    I'll echo TPaul's recommendation: thicker may be better.

    Kay/Engelhardt basses are known to have a skinny neck, my first DB has an unusually thick neck so when I finally got to try an Engelhardt — I couldn't get comfortable on it. Since then, I've acquired a couple more basses that have a substantially slimmer neck profile than my first bass, but are still comfy compared to (my memory of) playing the Engelhardt.

    On my Jaguars the neck profile is similar to that of a Jazz, but I wonder if a P-bass profile might be more comfortable for me as I have big hands. I certainly wouldn't want to go slimmer than a Jazz neck.

    OP, see if you can rent something that "felt good on the showroom floor" for a longer trial period. Sometimes things that seem comfortable at the outset aren't so plush in the long run — bicycle saddles, for example.
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  15. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    My formula is ...

    1.5" Jazz neck, 4 string. Play with the baseball bat grip as much as possible, moving to thumb behind the neck only when needed for fast runs.

    Stay away from 5 strings.

    32" scale Warmoth is really, really the ticket.
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  16. I 100% agree with this. :thumbsup:
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  17. tjh


    Mar 22, 2006
    Left thumb (fretting hand) broken twice in high school (baseball catcher/hockey goalie), the second time it ended up being pinned in alignment for better part of a year ... now in my 60's it is an arthritic mess, unable to flatten hand, thumb is in a state of permanent abduction (rotated inward toward palm @ 45 degrees) ...

    I useJazz spec necks, thinner front-back (but not GL thin), and a 9.5" radius board is what works best ... I used 7.25 radius, thicker front-back (vintage specs) for years, but had to change the fretboard radius to flatter ...

    Thumb stays centered mostly to back of neck and rides the skunk stripe, and if the gig is a long one, I may even end up removing it from contacting the back of the neck, and just fretting the strings with no pressure from the back ... where this becomes important, is that I need to use a gauge string that facilitates no thumb pressure... But, most important, I raised the strap position of the bass significantly higher to afford better leverage at the wrist ... raising the bass to a higher playing position was by far the most beneficial, as it allowed for much better wrist/forearm inclination, greatly reducing thumb involvement ...

    Good luck, don't be afraid to experiment .. ;)
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  18. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Inactive

    That color just gave my eyes arthritis.
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  19. Jaimelarumba


    Dec 21, 2015
    I would start with this. What string depends on what you already use and like and if they have a lighter gauge available. I use dunlop super bright nickel 40-100 which have a great low tension whilst still retaining a massive low end. Any 40-95 in either flats or rounds will get you close. Nut measurements and string spacing shouldn't affect that much for a 4 string. 5 and 6 string spacing can vary greatly and probably will affect comfort and playability. I'll agree with some of the sentiments that sometimes a thicker neck is actually more comfortable. But again, too many variables to narrow it down to just that. If you haven't tried a lighter gauge set of strings then this is the cheapest and possibly best place to start.
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  20. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Wow--this thread is for me, too! I'm late '60s, and had a total shoulder replacement last December because osteoarthritis had destroyed the ball end of my humerus.

    The basal joints in my thumbs have become painful in the last couple years. Doc put me on a prescription NSAID which helped that (and the other hotspots), but the long-term side effects of a daily NSAID regimen are unappealing: tinnitus and gastric problems. Lately I stopped taking the pharmaceutical, and am trying a daily supplement of Turmeric/Curcumin with Ginger and Boswellia. (Cheap enough, on the Wal-Mart e-commerce site.) It definitely helps the pain in the basal joints. Once in a while they get super ouchy; when that happens I take a dose of the Meloxicam for just one day and then go back to the Curcumin supplement.

    I play a fiver, and the neck profile on the Sadowsky Will Lee works great for me. It's narrower, across the fingerboard, by an eighth of an inch at the nut. Doesn't sound like much, but it makes a big difference to me.

    And it helps to set the bass up carefully, so I don't need much finger pressure to fret the strings.

    Lemme page my buddy @Fergie Fulton here. He knows a lot about physical ailments related to playing bass.
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