Bassist Elbow aka. Tennis elbow

I know this is a dated thread but too make a mention of something - i have carpal tunnel/tendonitis flare ups frequently - a few things helped me.
*PROPER SETUP on a bass - low action.
If you don’t know how to do this yourself, youtube Dave’s World of Fun Stuff - he is a friend of mine and pretty black and white - gives ALL his info on setups - sift thru the titles.

*The one finger per fret technique - biggest reason to CAUSE flareups - lots of true info online that support this - plus my own personal trials - from the 5th fret upwards sure - 1-5th fret, not a chance.
The finger/hand spread creates strain on tendons and muscles - doesn’t matter stretches or ‘you have to do it more often to get used too it’ - simply not true - those people just don’t have the inherit hand/arm issues - so they don’t realize that you simply can’t ‘work past it’. My respect gets lowered when someone THINKS it will simply ‘go away’. It does NOT.

*Technique - following up with my prior comment, just being conscience of a lighter death grip - some people find a chinkier neck also helps with carpal tunnel - less squeeze required - distance wise - on the hand itself.
Let’s face it - most of us do this for fun and won’t make it as a world class musician - so wouldn’t you rather be a good player (with decent technique) than not being able to play at all due to hand/arm injuries cuz you TRIED to follow the ‘PROPER technique’?
It should be a guideline - not a MUST.
(Look at numerous famous musicians - not PROPER techniques - Geddy Lee - mostly plucks with his index finder - tons of info from himself, stated his reasons - he did ok in life! :wink:

*pick versus alternating finger technique - I prefer fingers to a pick - but if my fingers slow down and become sloppy - i know carpal tunnel flareup is on the horizon…BUT if i start with my fingers and switch to a pick (when i feel the sluggish dexterity happening), then it seems to give me a break and allows me to keep playing - AND teaches me finger AND pick abilities. (win win)

These are my personal opinions on the subject - might be in the minority but meh…i do this for fun and mental escape from life. :slight_smile:


Thank you so much, this is quite helpful.

I certainly agree with the sentiment of “I’m here for some fun, not to be a pro” and that being unable to play due to pain is the worst of all possible outcomes.

Maybe I am too new to the bass, or just from a different era, but what does “chinkier neck” mean?

I will check the videos you recommended regarding setup. I just got my bass, first instrument ever, and I didn’t really bother to look into all the technical setups quite yet. I figured when I get good enough for this to matter I will. The person I bought from is a guitar teacher and he said he set it up the way he would for his students. I just trust that he did.


Oops - typo - CHUNKIER (fatter) neck lol… my bad


String height (pressing the 12th) and measuring on the 17th should be around 5/64" - bottom of string to top of fret metal. Chances are - it’s higher on yours. (more effort to play which causes issues)


What?! You know Dave?!
I’ve watched quite a few of his videos. Yes, he does not mince words.


Hahaha - yessir. Good buddy of mine …plus i do all his stickers for resale. He was at my shop last week picking up another 300.
He is doing the bass part for a new Killer Dwarfs tune thats coming up (unless he meant his other band Penny Black) - haven’t met russ Dwarf yet - talked too him on the phone though - another good guy.


Just want to chime in here that I also experienced wrist pain in my fretting hand. I don’t have any conditions but just overdid it and also death gripped.
I also rushed through the first few modules but at first my skin was the thing that kept me from overdoing it.
Then my skin on my fingertips got harder and I could play for hours with just little breaks to take a sip to drink or something like that …or so I thought. I reached a point that at the next day I barely could stretch my fingers out.
I decided that I overdid it and had to take a break. From then on I was a little bit easier on myself. I immediately stop at stronger discomfort. I still notice that my endurance builds up though. The progress isn’t noticable day to day but looking back a week it got better in the way that I could play longer.

When I learn something new I cramp up more often and have to take more and longer breaks.

While I overdid it I still think the discomfort at the start will be there for everyone who hasn’t played a stringed instrument because the muscles just aren’t usually used that way.


I have one of them, black on orange. Most excelent.
I never miss any of Daves shows.


That was a GREAT POST, and I agree with everything you said in general. Also as you pointed out, or was it another post, that not all people are the same, so not all things run true for everybody.
So, IME, my hand got much stronger and more limber with time, and I am able to do MUCH more then when I started. So while that statement is certainly true for people with CT and other hand / wrist issues, this might not ever be attainable, and for some with alien fingers, it never was question, but, at least for me, and a good number of others, I am sure that “The more you do it, the better it will get” does in fact ring true.

No argument, just pointing out that for some, that does work.


Never heard of Penny Black, but Killer Dwarves are pretty bad ass.


Same singer - except Dave (from DWOFS) plays bass in this band.


Yes. I had a closer look at @Graphics1988 post and I agree with most of the points. I would have worded some different but the basic sentiment I agree with.

As my technique got better I put less strain on my hand overall.
I think it’s both but if you don’t try to fix your technique or even worse train bad habits then it probably won’t matter how much of it you do. You’ll probably build muscles but it doesn’t help.

I doubt I could have played longer than 15 minutes when I started even with proper technique and relaxed hand. I just did not have the endurance and strenght for it.


You can try magnetic therapy, it is supposed to relieve pain, you can read a article on biomag website (can’t paste links), and buy it, idk from Amazon? Mby Biomag also sells this devices.

I was suffering from tennis elbow because of work related stuff for two years straight (too much work on a computer, mouse work and all that stuff.

There are two phases to tennis elbow. The acute phase. This is where you should avoid any strain and rest as much as possible.

If this doesn’t heal out quite fine, the second phase starts: The chronical one. In this phase, totally avoiding any movement is not the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean you should press through the pain. You definitely shouldn’t!
But it is very important to have movement. What you need to do is give the muscles around the sinew some workout. What works well here is doing some pushups (be careful with the placement of your wrists, moving them a bit outward might release some strain you might otherwise get on the elbows).

The best exercise for me was to take a barbell without any weights on it, hold it at one end in the hand and then turn it 180° left and right (so from horizontal to horizontal). Something like 20 repetitions, 3 sets. Do it slowly, rather start out with fewer repetitions.

If the tennis elbow got chronical, it will take time!

I have been having some serious issues with my left elbow. It’s been two years chasing one scan after another and seeing different doctors. They finally seem to all say I have an issue with the Ulnar Nerve being compressed in the Cubital Tunnel and need surgery to correct it. Depending on what is seen when they open it up the fix may be a real significant surgical event. If simply opening the tunnel works, its a pretty easy thing. If the nerve moves around after the tunnel is opened they move the location of the nerve to about the elbow instead of it going down thru the elbow. To move the never the muscle and ligament is removed from the upper arm bone then reattached after the nerve is moved to the new location. It’s 6 months to a year before a person gets back to normal from this surgery. I have tried injections and they help but the issue returns in 3-4 weeks. The elbow hurts so bad I can’t sleep at night and though my bass playing isn’t affected or so it seems I am sure it irritates that nerve to the point it complains (hurts) all night after. Has anyone else seen this kind of thing? The doctors tell me this is a common thing with bass players but most simply need the tunnel opened up and its and easy fix??

Wow that is terrible.
I would certanly get second opinion for sure.