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Hand Cramp?


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Does anyone have a remedy for hand cramps?  I used to sometimes get cramps after a gig, but it's been getting steadily worse over the last couple of years.   It's now at the stage where I can't make it through a set of more than about an hour and a half without a hand spasm that stops me playing.

 

I've tried regulating my salt intake, taking potassium supplements, drinking more water (even when playing a beer festival FFS!)

 

I need a fix or I may just have to stop playing - or worse I may even have to swap to bass guitar.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Cramp has many causes, and each of them requires a different fix. Most people assume that cramp is caused either by dehydration or by lack of salt, and those can definitely cause cramp, yes.

 

My cramps are completely different and come about through poor posture derived from having flat feet. For me the solution has been a long-term program of Pilates combined with daily stretches and close attention to how I'm standing, moving, picking things up, etc.

 

Have a look at this, see if it helps at all. The bit about hands starts around 7:30.

 

 

Edited by Happy Jack
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I think it's unlikely a lack of physical capacity causes you to cramp. Much more likely you have been getting away with doing it all wrong until recently.

 

An Alexander Technique teacher may be able to sort you out quite quickly. Or a bass teacher who is familiar. It's all about accomplishing an action with only the necessary muscle contractions, no extraneous tension.

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I’m no expert but there are a few things that have come up for me in trying to reduce hand tension. You may well be doing all this already...

- playing on the tips of the fingers so that the end section of the finger is close to vertical on the string with a sharp bend at the first joint.

- relaxing the thumb so that you’re not squeezing the neck, you’re pulling the strings down with the weight of your arm.

- experimenting with the position of the instrument so that you’re not taking the weight of it on your thumb at all, and you’re almost leaning it forward onto the fingers of your left hand.

- keeping some first finger pressure on the string when you’re playing on your other fingers.

All this stuff works differently on different areas of the neck and it’s more things to experiment with than solid rules, but it’s all about relaxing the thumb and using minimal effort to hold down the strings.

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19 hours ago, Owen said:

I must admit, I am immediately thinking of left hand positioning here.

Yes, I agree, left hand position. Also whole body position has an impact. The left hand should be a relaxed 'C' shape. Straight wrist. Use the shoulder muscles to pull the arm back, which in turn pulls the hand and fingers to make good contact with the string. Only use the pressure you need to play a clean note - most people use too much.

Also well set up bass.

As mentioned by others Alexander Technique can help and anything that makes you more aware of your body and how you are using it.

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When I saw the topic I thought it would be someone starting out but clearly you've been playing for a while. You don't say much about yourself in terms of style of music, setup of your instrument etc which could all have an impact. For what it's worth, my experience of hand cramp (in the left hand) is luckily not too frequent.

I remember finding it harder when I first played the instrument but have worked a lot on technique since that point and I feel like lots of little-and-often practice outside of the gig context would be useful for making sure you're playing the instrument as efficiently as possible.

 

Then there's the setup, I have at various times experimented with having a high action but I have quite a low one at the moment, for playing jazz. It's possible that you're punishing yourself with your setup, whether that's with high tension strings or a high action or both. The other thing that I think of that really does bring on the cramps is repetitive playing. Playing simple riffs on the double bass that would be easy on the bass guitar can be absolutely punishing if you're having to do the same thing again and again. If I do have to play a repetitive figure I often make the point of finding some kind of alternative fingering or variation just to give my hand a rest. 

 

Do you have a teacher? I think a good one would probably be able to diagnose all of this a lot more easily than speculative comments on Basschat. 

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Two other things - string tension? Might be worth experimenting with some softer strings. And the nut - playing all night up at the top of the neck when the strings are too high at the nut would definitely cause a bit of discomfort. But I think it’s a delicate business getting that right, a matter of tenths of a millimetre...

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Sounds simple but lots of deep breaths! (For some reason I hold my breath on difficult bits!) 

 

Also keeping your entire body loose when playing.  Take your hands off your instrument between numbers to entirely release tension and shake. I stand/dance for this reason. 

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On 01/05/2022 at 09:47, Paddy Morris said:

Does anyone have a remedy for hand cramps?  I used to sometimes get cramps after a gig, but it's been getting steadily worse over the last couple of years.   It's now at the stage where I can't make it through a set of more than about an hour and a half without a hand spasm that stops me playing.

 

I've tried regulating my salt intake, taking potassium supplements, drinking more water (even when playing a beer festival FFS!)

 

I need a fix or I may just have to stop playing - or worse I may even have to swap to bass guitar.

 

 

I,ve suffered with hand cramps for 20 years. Unfortunately there,s different degrees of this. If yours is akin too mine then its not so treatable. I find i can now only play jazz necks and absolutely no 5 strings. Had to sell my loved p bass last week after trying again. 

Its the stretch between your thumb and 1st finger at certain angles with applied pressure that causes it. I just find a thin neck cuts this angle down across the smaller surface area. Maybe consider a short scale. Really hope you find a solution too this......

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I suffered horrendous cramp in my feet and legs a while ago. My consultant suggested Andrews liver salts. I was somewhat sceptical but it made a massive difference. At worst it won’t cause any harm so perhaps worth a try.

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Maybe see a physio?  Might need some stretching exercises. 

 

I had a right hand cramp problem a few years back ... Nothing to do with bass playing, it was ulnar neve damage from the way I used my computer.  It was just that bass playing made it hurt.

 

Also what GUYL says.  Breathe, don't forget to breathe!

 

 

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