Pain in forearm/elbow fretting hand

Hey all, I’ve been playing about a year and a half Lately I have getting pain in my forearm/elbow area that is getting more pronounced. Like when I lift up my coffee cup. When I play I don’t feel it but when I straighten my arm, I certainly do. I practice 1-2 hours a day. I’ve been practicing very repetitive movements because of more complicated baselines. The logical thing would be to take some time off and see if it gets better but I don’t want to lose time or what I learned. I kept thinking I just needed to push through it. But that isn’t working. Just frustrated and wondered if anyone else had that experience.

Update: I just googled again and found what describes my pain - tennis elbow! Aw crap. It says rest and don’t do the action that aggravates it. Aw c’mon.


This is not a fun feeling.
I seem to have developed tennis elbow from playing pickleball in my plucking hand. Similar to you, it doesn’t seem to hurt while I’m playing bass. However, I am also still concerned. I’ll take a break from playing pickleball and when I go back, I’ll play using my fretting (left) hand. Hopefully I won’t have the same issue as you are experiencing.


You can get an appointment with a physical therapist to try to resolve it faster. The good ones will give you only the really necessary limitations on activities, but unfortunately those ones aren’t the easiest to find and many want you to just stop doing the activity.


I went to therapy to help with issues with my left arm and fretting, which are different from your issues, but here’s my experience

  • my therapist was good, and understood that my goal was to be playing bass and was onboard with achieving that.

  • he gave me stretching exercises which really helped

  • I did end up not playing for some time

Other things I’ve noticed

  • I played with the angling of the bass and that helped a bit

  • I microshifted more. Not stretching my pinky to reach the frets really made a huge difference.

  • I tried short scales and that helped a lot. It’s a lot less tension on my arm, less stretching. I can play short scale today for quite a while, long scale for perhaps 10 minutes.

So sum it up, don’t give up. Try PT, or occupational therapy, it might help. A good therapist will be all about helping you achieve your goals. Try different positions and techniques to lesson the strain. And adopt good posture.

My 2 cents.


My bass teacher suggested a different angle too. Going to try that. I’m taking a few days off to see what happens too. And was just starting to get the hang of pinky rolls and hammer ons. Sigh.

If you reach the point of pain when playing you may need to resort to the classical position.

Lots of progressive players adopt this style due to their enthusiastic practice of up to 10-12 hours a day. Their repetitive injuries on the instrument can be serious.



It’s funny that it seems mostly the classical players who focus on what I’d think of as “proper position” to play. That how you set up your body to play the instrument is extremely important. Not just in terms of health, but your capabilities.

Another instrument I play my first lesson was basically all about setting it up properly, the angle of my arm, the position of my fingers. Over and over. Because otherwise you end up injured, stalled in your technique, (and you’ll never reach your peak speed). It might be a long time, or short, but it will happen. I thought it was tedious and frustrating, but now I understand.


There’s an ergonomic and proper way to hold the bass or guitar that yield the lease amount of effort. Then there’s the one position you like or want to hold the bass.

I hold the bass almost flat almost parallel to the floor. It’s one of the most uncomfortable position as it forces your left wrist to be in quite an extreme position but many of my heroes hold the bass like that, Nathan East, Will Lee, even Joe Dart, to name a few. I like it so I go for it. It’s not that bad, I only have to endure a few hundred hours of discomfort and now its second nature :joy:

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