Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Melf, Jan 6, 2005.

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  1. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    I think I may be having wrist problems. When I played bass regularly a year ago, my wrists would feel fine while I was playing, but within 2-24 hours of me playing, I would get an odd burning sensation in a certain area. Palms up, the bottom and inside of both of my wrists would hurt. I could practice 30 minutes or two hours and the sensation would be there. It wouldn't matter if I took off two days or two weeks; whenever I played again that familiar burning would be there. I eventually gave up bass for many reasons, including that one.

    I recently started learning guitar, since I have a huge desire to produce music and I thought that perhaps the bass was just too large for my hands and that was why they were hurting. Well, for the past week I've been getting that damn sensation again when I wake up in the morning (I usually practice right before I go to bed). Even worse, I have a guitar teacher(a virtuoso who's been playing longer than I've been alive) and he tells me that my technique is very good and there's no way I should be hurting my wrist! Rock climbing, 3+ hours of computer gaming and writing 20+ page papers don't do a thing to my wrists, but whenever I pick up a guitar, they burn. This is incredibly frustrating to me because I can't figure out what's wrong. I would really appreciate any input you have.
  2. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    From what you describe, it sounds like inflammation of the tendons running through the carpal tunnel. Not necessarily carpal tunnel syndrome... yet. Here are some tips from a long time sufferer:

    2. Stretch BEFORE playing. I have a series of stretches for the hand, arm, back and leg (I'm an upright player who stands). It couldn't hurt to pick up a set of stretches from a physical therapist. They usually have them printed on sheets in their office and will give you one for free.

    3. Stretch AFTER playing. This is completely ignored by most players.

    4. Exercise. Not the finger sort. After pitchers throw 7 innings, they run 3 miles. The increased circulation improves healing.

    5. When it's bad, you can use a cold compress over the carpal tunnel. You can also take advil, which reduces swelling. Tylenol and aspirin don't reduce the inflammation.

    6. Take breaks. Don't play through the pain. When I was eighteen, I practiced 6 hours a day, but my technique wasn't up to snuff even though I had already been playing for many years. Ten years later, I still have hand problems from that time period. Most music is mental practice anyways.

    7. Focus on relaxed technique. (Tod Seeber, a BSO player in Boston, actually had me read Zen and the Art of Archery. No kidding. It helped.) Don't hold in tension. Watch a great soloist like Rick Vizachero, a player w/ the CSO, and you'll notice how integral breathing is to their playing.

    8. Focus on technique involving major muscle groups and natural positions. Use your back and biceps for strength and your smaller muscles for detailed work. Stand up straight, so that you don't compromise your big muscles and strain your little ones.

    Good luck.
  3. swampash


    Dec 13, 2004
    if your bass is strung too low it can cause added stress on this area as well, because of the abnormal tension from have your wrist permanently bent, also end up causing bad arthritis.
  4. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999

    Although many will have advice here, the only advice that I freely offer is to see a doctor. Pain means there is something wrong. Figure it out before you do serious damage.

    I am a bass player and not qualified to speak on the medical condition of anyone.

    I wish you the best and urge you to seek medical attention before trying anyone here's options

  5. Melf


    Mar 20, 2003
    Starkville, MS
    Thank you.
  6. Larzito


    Aug 1, 2000
    Dallas, Texas
    I encountered sleepy hands quite regularly while playing. I've experienced this for 15 years or more. Doctors want to call it this or that, tested for corpal tunnel syndrome, etc. Then they tell me to take some drugs and pay the bill. One did suggest that I sleep in wrist braces so that I don't contort my wrists so much while I sleep...works pretty well and a low cost solution.

    You do have to distunguish between pain from developing muscles used in playing (same as if you were to work out at the gym...muscles will get sore until they are used to the routine) and pain associated with something abnormal that could lead to serious problems later.

    I suspect the answer lies in your experimentation of a combination of stretching, technique, advil, posture, etc. Doctors these days rarely have the true interest in finding the root cause of the problem...but take these twice a day to fight the symptoms...
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999

    I ahve to say that it depends on the doc. I know a wonderful hand surgeon (who, btw, is a great sax player) who really cares about musicians.

    My chiropracter has also helped me a great deal. I had some wrist issues that he actually found was caused in my elbow and fixed it right up.

    I just think that we, as a group, are TOTALLY unqualified to make any recommendations

  8. I kind of have a solution for you and yet also haven't completely abolished my hand problems. Basically I had really bad problems when I studied for 4 yrs at the Conservatorium of Music here in Australia. I was exclusively playing fretless then and since that time have played pretty much 4+ hrs a day AND gigged as my only job. Despite being told by every naturopath, hand surgeon, chiropractor, accupuncturist etc. that I needed THEM to FIX me....the only thing that worked was A) finding technique which suited MY body B) getting really into excersise C) avoiding certain foods that an allergist found me to be mildly allergic to.

    My condition - basically - is that every now and then (seemingly regardless of how much playing I'm doing), I get this soreness on the back of my wrist, right in the middle. If I don't relax and let this tension fade it intensifies. Eventually for a few days my wrist feels sprained and every time i stretch during playing I can feel pain. If this persists my whole arm can start to feel really tense and my right hand as well.

    Now I said I hadn't completely abolished the problem. Firstly, according to my sister (a medical doctor) some people are just prone to tension in certain areas and you have to adopt an attitude of MANAGING the problem.... not neccessarily an attitude of "one day I'll be able to play and never worry about ever getting sore again."

    However I am one of those people who dreams of being "the man" on my instrument which means solving all these niggly problems associated with it.

    My pain, I am pretty sure, only comes when I have been playing tonnes of fretless and really been committed to a one finger per/fret style of playing.

    By straightening my wrists out (especially my left hand) and playing with my thumb sitting naturally behind the neck (where it wants to be - not forcing a textbook- like postion) I can usually play for ever but like i said - as soon as I do intense work on the fretless where the left hand tends to stretch more I have problems. Of course - these days I know to just adopt a more liberal left hand aproach so that the tension fades.

    The thing is - when my wrist is fine - I feel like I can do anything - I mean I regularly bench press my own weight in the gym (i don't think we should wrap ourselves in cotton wool just because we are serious about playing) but when I can feel the wrist blues approaching every action feels like it could either contribute or resolve the problem depending on how i use my body - wether it's the piano, keyboard, mouse, doorhandle or bass.

    Just remember that we are all just as capable of effortless technique. And don't get down on yourself when you see others with sloppy technique not having your problems (I used to do that).

    Also. When you're in pain it gives you the unique opportunity the find which playing positions truly have the least resistance.

    Look..... I'm sure you can tell I have alot to say on this so I'll leave it there. Send me a message or something if you want to talk more about it.

    PWF (www.pwfarrell.com)
  9. 2 more things:

    1. before the critisism roles in - i had problems before the weights training started.....it actually helped my playing because it improved my core - thus making the bass not feel heavy

    you do need to make sure you don't lose your dexterity, however.

    2. my left hand situation is unique in that despite being over 6feet and having hands that should not have any problems (size-wise) I do have a crooked index finger (family trait) that probably means i need to stretch a little harder than some.

  10. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Stretch. A lot. As a bassist with diagnosed CTS, all I can say is stretch, before you play, during breaks, and after you play.

    Eat healthy. Good diet means good circulation, less pain.

    Use ergonomic things whenever possible. Wrist rests for keyboards, mice, etc. And good posture always helps.
  11. Jpat


    Mar 13, 2005
    Leonardville Kansas
    Hi, I'm new to the TB community, however I've been playing bass for almost 18 years now. What I would suggest is trying a new position that you hold your bass at. You may be putting your wrist in an awkward position.
  12. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    Or too high. Putting your bass way up on your chest may feel good for the fretting hand, but if it puts your plucking wrist at a severe angle you're asking for big trouble in my humble not-medically-qualified opinion.
  13. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    I appreciate everybody's response. But I MUST reiterate that none of us are qualified medical personnel. It might be as simple as hand position/technique or it might have an underlying medical cause. Since it is irresponsible for us to make any realy recommendations, I am going to close this thread.


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