I think I gave myself carpal tunnel

So, thinking I’m totally indestructible, I took the “Hardcore Plan” very hardcore. Rather, I would sometimes miss a day or two, and then do multiple lessons/modules in one day to catch up to the schedule. I would still pick the bass up and work on some riffs on days I knew I wouldn’t have time to do 3 lessons.

I admit it, I was unforgiving and careless toward my own health and now I have to slow down a lot and take a lot of special measures to make sure I do not irritate my wrist. I should be around day 20 right now, instead I’m on day 10. It happened pretty fast. Don’t do what I did, folks, unless you’re absolutely sure you’re holding and playing your bass correctly. I definitely wasn’t.

It seems to be mild so far, thankfully, as I get a bit of tingling with not so much pain. It is in my fretting hand, which seems to surprise some people!

Some things I’m doing to help:

  • Finding some wrist stretches online for this purpose, and doing them before I play.
  • Taking steps to really look at and correct the positioning of my hand and wrist, as well as applying less pressure/grip, and therefore less strain.
  • I do not play seated. I never did this to begin with since I want to ensure the position of the bass is correct.
  • Taking it slower. I will begin to alternate my lesson plan with interval training or other music theory topics. OR I will simply do less lessons in one sitting. I will have to do these things at some point anyway if I want to be a good bassist!
  • Ordered a new guitar strap. The one I have is frankly a bit painful!
  • Ordered roundwound strings and will be giving my bass a professional setup - I’ve been told that my bass is harder to play than it should be, which I confirmed later.
  • Getting a brace to wear at night.
  • Texting and typing less (for now).

Who else has dealt with this and what else can one do to help? Any tips or input is appreciated!

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Ouch! Sorry to hear this.

I am pretty certain this video saved me from a RSI:

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Wow, thanks for this resource Howard. Glad I posted. This may be my ultimate key to healthy fretting.

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My pleasure!

Here’s another thread where I talk about a left hand issue I had:

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I’ll check this out! I may have been death gripping in some form or other, myself.

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The death grip is so easy to get into the habit of doing. It’s really a case of telling yourself over and over that you don’t have to strangle the bass to make it sound good.
I think it was @howard that really helped me by suggesting that I should try and play without using my thumb on the back of the neck? Certainly helped heaps

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That Adam Neely video has some very interesting points!
I just realised: My thumb always wants to go into the position that he uses, and I always tried to force it in a position somwhere behind the index finger or middle finger, because I thought that would be the proper technique.

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Yeah, I really miss the days when Adam primarily did bass videos, because they were so useful like this.

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(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, don’t listen to me, etc.)

Tingling might be a symptom of a nerve being irritated or pinched somewhere along the way (neck, shoulder, arm, hand). Your strap being in an uncomfortable spot, or your shoulder being at an awkward angle can easily cause such issues for example.

See if playing without a strap (with the bass resting on your leg) makes a difference. If it does, then the issue might be around your neck or shoulder, not your hand.

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Seconded. I had a trigger-finger sort of thing happen a few months ago from rapid-fire plucking (and not taking breaks) which had tingles worse than pain. First thing your doc will check is your nerves. By the by - if you ever go in for a check-up related to musical ‘injury’ it’s not a bad idea to take your instrument so your physician can see what you’re doing that might be causing you the pain. Ask first, but mine’s cool with it.

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@zeef, the advice the others gave is quite sound, as is the Adam Neely video that @howard shared. I will toss in my 2 cents worth also.
Before I retired, I spent 25 years as a magazine writer/editor, typing furiously nearly every hour of the working day. When I retired from that, it was back to college to get a second degree, followed by 10 years as a paralegal in a busy law firm; again, days filled with furious typing of legal pleadings. I was a CTS case waiting to happen, and I knew it, so took proper precautions such as regular “wrist shaking” proper sitting and hand position, etc. I managed to avoid CTS.
What does this have to do with playing bass? Alot. Think about the similarities in wrist and finger motion, With the former, I was looking at a monitor while my wrist and fingers were dancing around the keyboard, and with the latter, looking at a music sheet or computer monitor while plucking and fretting. I could see from the start how that anchoring of my thumb and stretching up and down to pluck stings, could possibly cause problems. I also recognized early on that I was “death gripping” the neck, and could feel the tinge of pain after practice.
So, I did two things to prevent CTS from happening:
(1) I learned to relax my fretting hand, and gently massage the neck, rather than try to strangle it.
(2) I ditched the “anchored thumb” for plucking, and learned to play with the floating thumb technique instead. I know Josh and most other bass teaches advocate the anchored thumb, but it doesn’t work for me. The floating thumb has helped me avoid any symptoms of CTS in my right hand.
This is my story, so take it for what it’s worth (2 cents).
YMMV

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I am glad you mentioned this. I ALWAYS play my bass with a strap and the only purpose my thumb serves is to stop the bass neck from moving. Very little pressure is required to keep the neck in place.

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If you think you might be over-gripping, check out this video and link:

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sore is OK. pain is not. if you are experiencing pain, do NOT try to push through it. take time to heal, your bass will still be there. I haven’t played in over a month because I strained both my thumbs lifting boxes while moving.

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Having had CTS and surgery in both wrists, I would tell you that you would know if you have it. And it takes a bit to get it. Zillions of hours of programming way before anyone cares about ergonomics, or breaks, or any healthy repetitive motion did the trick for me. My symptoms felt like someone had shoved knitting needles up my forearms.

Some soreness, or numbness or stiffness etc is your body telling you to stop and take a break.
If you seem to always feel the same (in a bad way) after you play, then check your ergos.

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Without using the thumb? Interesting exercise, I may try this.

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Yeah it’s a great exercise. Requires your bass to have a good setup (and is also a decent indictor that your bass my need a setup as well, if you cannot do it.)

On a properly set up bass you will be surprised how little pressure is actually needed to fret a note well.

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I have CTS in my fretting hand and had to first stop playing guitar (I only played guitar back then, no bass) for over a year and then had to wear an orthesis all night every night. Eventuell that did not help anymore and I had to get surgery.

It all comes down to not bent the wrist while fretting. Adam Neely‘s video about save technique was an eye opener to me.

Now since I started to play bass a few months ago, I startet to notice my always present CTS in my picking hand to get noticeably worse. I bent my wrist while picking with my fingers as taught in so many bass guitar beginner courses. Switching to the floating thumb technique as suggested in another fret here and in another Neely video really worked for me. Now I can pick with a straight wrist. I don’t notice anymore CTS symptoms in my picking hand any longer.

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Another sufferer here - dominant hand is the worst.
Main problem I had was pain/numbness at night which was disturbing sleep - wearing an wrist guard helped me to deal with it. Exercise and ergo is the key. If I overdo my practice numbness comes back.

And yes, I agree with itsratso. You shouldn’t push it. Before any nerve or muscle damage occurred, it can be fixed without meds.

Also, thanks for sharing the videos, howard and JS.

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How old are you, I started to get stiff carpals at about 55. Just dig in and eventually it will subside eventually.
Be a trooper😁