Bass Guitar Blues

It figures. I have a hobby that I really enjoy that doesn’t require a lot of lung power, only to find out I have to cut way back or give it up all together. You see, musicians are athletes of sorts( especially bass players), and just like with most sports, repetitive motion can cause injuries. Well, instead of suffering leg or foot injuries from walking too much, Ive now developed a pretty nasty tendonitis from playing the bass too much. Doing things in moderation isn’t one of my stronger traits. As with all of my passions, I tend to overdo it. Im also one of those who doesn’t listen to their body very well until the damage is already done.

Tendonitis of the elbow ( aka lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow) is so common among guitar and bass players, that they actually refer to it as “Guitar Elbow”. Brought on by inflammation and sometimes tears in the tendons that lead from the fingers and wrist to the elbow, elbow tendonitis is one of those conditions that sneaks up on you slowly over time. It usually starts off as annoying stiffness or achiness in the outer elbow that gradually gets worse. Mine has progressed to the point now where its difficult for me to hold or grip anything with my left hand, not to mention the pain that results.

Anyways, Ive done a lot research on the subject and the various treatment options, and they all basically boil down to the same thing, and that is…. STOP doing the activity that is causing the injury, reduce the inflammation, and slowly rehab the effected tendons and muscles. In a small number of cases, surgery is necessary. And of course just like with all other injuries, the older you are, the longer it usually takes for this kind of injury to heal. Ive heard estimates of 3 to 18 months or longer.

Thankfully, playing the bass is just a hobby and Im not dependent on it to make a living. But still, it’s something that gives me immense pleasure and is a huge, although temporary, escape from my world of crappy breathing. The thought of an extended break from it really depresses me.

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One thought on “Bass Guitar Blues

  1. Yeah, i can certainly relate to not understanding moderation and not listening to an unreliable body. When you find something you not only enjoy, but can in fact do, the passion goes into overdrive and that irrepressible zeal and determination gives you something else to focus on. It lights you up on the inside and you’re glad to be alive! Then that damn body comes and rains on your parade, maybe it thought you were having too much fun!

    I have the same in my “good” arm, the arm that supports my weight as i walk with a crutch (and does the vast majority of everything, since the right arm is CR(a)PS! Actually, the crutch is because the legs are too, so i’d already run out of limbs to use!) Simply resting it and stop putting so much strain on it like the advice says, was impossible for me to even attempt, so it’s more a case of figuring out new and creative ways to accommodate it, rather than the standard “stop doing it”. And when a physio told me that voltaren gel would unlikely affect my asthma because it’s such a small amount, they obviously didn’t know what they were talking about 😉

    Would switching sides be an option? Or altering technique in any way, or ‘concentrating on technique’ with just the good arm? Learning to be somewhat ambidextrous has its own advantages, and while the process is especially frustrating, it can divide the load somewhat, engage other muscles and tendons and certainly gives you something else to focus on! It took me probably 2 years or so to switch from right- to left-handed writing after my initial accident. While it still isn’t as natural a feeling as my dominant arm was, it kept me from giving up something i loved and distracted me enough from all the other stuff to keep me from going mad. When that arm started to fall apart, i had to try resuming at least part of the load a bit more bilaterally. By that time i was more used to the limitations i had that i was able to troubleshoot better solutions.

    But then again, maybe you shouldn’t listen to me 🙂 i did only have CRPS in my arms until a big winter froze all the canals and i took back to iceskating like a bat out of hell, forgetting that fragility of my body and how much it likes to ruin all the fun. Though i suspect the condition was already spreading by that stage, a minor fall on the ice while showing off was all it took for the fires to spread and land me in this predicament! But no matter, it could have been a much less fun fall on the stairs or on the footpath that did the trick too. And then i wouldn’t have had the memories of those brilliant days where i thought i could fly and pain was just like annoying chatter in the middle of a rock concert! 🙂

    I remember my doctor telling me that people don’t realise how troublesome soft tissues are to heal. Bones are relatively easy, but tendons, ligaments and nerves are really stubborn and uncooperative!

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