Dealing with Repetitive Stress Injuries

Q: Every morning, when I wake up at about 5 am to practice my bass, I find that my fingers get cold and blood stops going to them. When I stop and rest, I feel the blood rushing back to them. This started happening since I upgraded my practice time from four hours to about seven hours. Have you ever heard of anything like this, or have any experience with this? I find it very annoying and need a solution please.

A: You need to be very careful! First and foremost, don’t ignore the pain. Stop playing and take a break if you’re losing sensation or feeling pain.

I had an issue like that and wound up isolating the issue to my strap pinching something in my neck.

You really need to isolate the issue.

Does it happen when you sit and play as well or only standing?

If it’s only when standing for long periods, it may be due to your strap.

You said you are upgrading your practice time from four to seven hours a day? That very well may just simply be too much practicing. Try to reduce the amount of time for a period, and see if the symptoms go away.

Be very careful about repetitive motion injuries. You’ll be heartbroken if you practice so hard that you need to not play at all for six months in order to get your arms and fingers back in shape (I’ve seen it happen). You can definitely over do it and hurt yourself by practicing too much and/or with improper form.

Initially, I’d probably evaluate my form and body positioning, then I’d take a look at my hands and wrists (are your arms relaxed? Is your wrist at an extreme angle? Are you pressing too hard with your fingers?) You want to be relaxed and at ease when you play and you certainly don’t need to press too hard in order to get a good sound.

If it’s a persistent problem, I would definitely suggest talking to a specialist of some kind. Quote possibly, a physical therapist or sports medicine specialist can help with repetitive stress avoidance. You might even want to bring your bass and demonstrate your form and technique so they can evaluate what may be causing the issue.

My personal advice, play it safe and see a physical therapist or athletic doctor. You don’t want to work so hard at something only to lose the ability to enjoy it at all as a result!

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts

  1. buster

    Bass Player had an interview with John Wetton of Asia who suffered carpal tunnel syndrome and lamented not getting it checked out sooner. I’d recommend seeing a doctor, pronto.

    Also, are you going from 4 hours to 7 hours a day? That is a huge increase in playing time. This should be approached in increments over time–like maybe 10 more minutes a day for a week, and then another ten, and so on. More to the point–what exactly do you hope to accomplish playing your instrument 7 hours a day? I love the bass, too, but I also have a life.

  2. Reddy

    I totally agree with the advice so far. I work in Occupational Health and Safety and disability management as well as being a 40 year bass player. One common problem when people suffer these type of injuries in their arms, elbows, wrists, hands etc. and they don’t cut back on whatever the cause source is that the condition will often take much longer to heal which can be months and months which adds to the frustration.

    Often because people have never experienced such a condition they think its something that will go away and they keep going.

    Good luck. I hope the best for you.