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Bass Playing and Occupational Therapy – Meet Rodney Jones

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By Guest Writer, Andrew Waite

Rodney Jones leans back in his chair, the soundboard and music studio behind him. He wears a black baseball cap backward and a long chain around his neck as he’s interviewed about his bass playing in a YouTube video uploaded in 2010.

Jones smiles often as he converses, and does a lot of talking with his hands. During one point in the video, his interviewer asks him about a recent single Jones co-wrote with gospel singer and pianist Smokie Norful. Jones nods his head and swivels his chair, clenching his left fist, which punches the center of the screen as he rotates.  When Jones filmed the interview, he wasn’t thinking about that left hand or its positioning in the frame. He was thinking about his musical career, lost in a question-and-answer session about his sound, style, and groove.

Little did Jones, 25, know then that 1 year later his left hand would become the center of his focus during a grueling recovery process that would teach him more about himself as a musician than he could possibly convey in the 2010 interview. Music runs in Jones’s family. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather were musicians. But Jones never fancied himself an artist.

“When I was a kid, they asked me what I wanted to be, and I said fireman,” Jones recalls with chuckle.

But when Jones’s grammar school choir needed a bassist, who was he to deny his lineage?

“So I started playing. And from that point on I have been a musician all my life,” he says in a gravelly voice fit for radio.

His mom, LaWanda, 48, immediately saw her son’s love for his instrument.

“He was very happy, very loving. He just had a passion to do it, and that was something that he strove to do really well. It meant more to him than doing homework, than going outside to hang out with the boys in the neighborhood,” LaWanda Jones says.

By 2006, Jones had made it. He was first call for many prominent musicians, including Avant, Stephanie Mills, and Donald Lawrence. First call means Jones fills in if an artist’s bassist is sick and can’t make a gig, no matter how prominent the venue.
He was playing venues like Chicago’s United Center, Los Angeles’s Staples Center and the Pori Jazz Festival.

On October 8, 2011, Jones flew back to Chicago from Washington, DC. He’d spent the past few days in the nation’s capital playing in a gospel and jazz festival. Two days later, Jones thought that might be the last concert of his life.

“It’s about 2 am on a Monday morning [Oct. 10, 2011.],” Jones recalls. “I was a passenger of the motorcycle. I was riding and she lost control on the expressway. When we hit the wall I went rolling and flipping… I flew for about a block. I really don’t remember seeing it because I had the helmet on.”

Jones went to the emergency room.

“I guess my adrenaline was still rushing, so the pain that they were expecting me to feel hadn’t kicked in yet,” Jones says. “I just wanted to go home and go to sleep and take a bath, but they told me I skinned my pinky down to the bone and lost all the tissue and muscle as well as [critically damaged] my left knee.”

LaWanda was horrified when she saw her son in the hospital.

“I couldn’t really look at him with the condition he was in. It was hard. His hand is messed up and his leg and stuff. Sometimes you see things and you just really start thinking the worst,” she recalls.

Jones needed a series of surgeries to repair the shredded left side of his body. After the procedures, Jones was in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk. But that’s not what upset him most.

“I didn’t see my hand until maybe 4 days after the surgery,” Jones recalls. “When I saw my hand I pretty much fainted. At that point I said that my music career was over. I was trying to think of other professions that I could pursue. So I counted it as a loss.”
Because of the plastic surgery required to repair his skinned hand, the extremity was stiff, seemingly frozen in a high-five position.

“The doctor was telling me that he wanted me to start making fists as soon as possible, and I couldn’t move my hand a half an inch toward a fist,” he says.

That’s when Jones was introduced to Sean Clancy, OTR/L, CHT, Hand Therapy program Coordinator at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“So the functional problem, the main problem, was his livelihood. He’s a professional bass player. The bass is four strings and the frets are pretty big, so it takes a lot of strength to push those things down,” Clancy says. “The guy’s a pro, so he could play with two fingers better than I probably could after 3 years. But he couldn’t play like he did. And he really prides himself on his tone, and his sound is kind of quick and funky, so he goes up and down quickly and he needs his pinky to reach up and abduct out. That was impossible at the time.”

Jones couldn’t shake a defeatist mentality.

“It was a major downer moment, depression moment, because in my career, normally, whatever I do I am always the best,” Jones says.

Fortunately, Clancy believed in his client. The therapist worked on scar mobilization in Jones’s tendons, strengthened range of motion, and employed custom-fabricated orthotics to help stretch the web space in Jones’s hand. Clancy also pushed Jones to make a fist.

“He said that if I didn’t make a fist now, later it was going to be harder to make that fist. So pretty much he just kept having me going through exercises of having to close my hand and open it,” Jones recalls. “It was a lot of pain because every time I would stretch it past one point to get to the next level, and my hand would swell up. Then I’d be sitting with a balloon for a left hand.”

Slowly, Jones made progress. And after a few weeks, there was nothing left to do but play the bass––even if Jones could only use two fingers on his left hand.

“[Clancy] kept advising me to go play, play, play, play. It helps when you are working with someone who has such a positive attitude,” Jones says.

When not in therapy, Jones did his homework and constantly tested his range of motion. He regularly utilized Clancy’s splints to help expand his web spacing.

By December, Jones could almost make a full fist. His pinky only needed another quarter of an inch to reach the palm.
“I was playing with three fingers and the week after that I am playing with my pinky and it wasn’t hurting. So when I realized that my career wasn’t over, I came out of depression,” Jones says.

Clancy saw the change in his client.

“Now it’s like the artist has come out. The marketer, the fast talker, the charmer. He’s totally back to himself. He’s working. He’s doing the stuff he’s supposed to do,” Clancy says.

Jones even claims he is playing better now than at any point in his career. Consequently, he just released a new solo album. To find out more about Jones and his music, visit www.rodneyjonesjr.com.

“Going to therapy is like going to the gym. It’s exercising, so you have no choice but to get stronger. [Clancy] showed me a lot of these different techniques and exercises on what to do, how to spread my fingers apart, and how to strengthen all the muscles in my fingers,” Jones says. “So at first let’s say I am playing for an hour or two. A lot of times my pinky may get tired because the pinky is the weakest finger on your hand. Now, my pinky is the strongest finger on my hand because I had to work it out so much.”

The recovery process taught Jones about the robustness of his self-discipline. Before, he never would have imagined adhering to such a strict exercise and stretching routine. In fact, going to therapy and strengthening his hand inspired Jones to purchase a gym membership and get the rest of his body in shape.

“I approach my instrument differently now,” Jones explains. “I approach it professionally, of course, but now I also know the pain that has been there. I know the feeling of hurt.”

And as for that fist––once the source of stinging agony?

“No pain,” Jones says. “Every time I make a fist now there is just joy.”

Andrew Waite is the associate editor at the American Occupational Therapy Association. He can be reached at awaite@aota.org or at 301-652-6611 x 2853.  The American Occupational Therapy Association: www.aota.org

© 2012 American Occupational Therapy Association


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Bass Player Health

Do You Have Trigger Finger? with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Do You Have Trigger Finger?

In this month’s video, we will cover trigger finger and possible treatments.

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

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Bass Player Health

Play Every Note with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Play Every Note…

In this month’s video, we will cover the best approach to practice on your bass fretboard.

Please make sure to cast your Vote for Dr. Kertz >>> CLICK HERE
Category: Audio Education Technology
Title: Injury Prevention & Management for Musicians – The Pianist’s Guide

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

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Bass Player Health

Believe the Hype… Internet Wisdom, with Dr. Randy Kertz

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Dr Randal Kertz - Bass Player Health - Oct 2022

Believe the Hype… Internet Wisdom…

In this month’s video, we will shed some light on Internet wisdom and how to proceed.

Dr. Randall Kertz is the author or The Bassist’s Guide to Injury Management, Prevention and Better Health – Volumes One & Two. Click here to get your copies today!

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Bass Player Health

Most Injuries Are Self-inflicted… A look Into the Mirror of Bass Player’s Health

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Anna Achimowicz

When you want to professionally approach your body for playing bass, you will be required to look into the mirror of how you treat yourself… every day.

‘Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that make him sick.’- HIPPOCRATES

As artists we often think pain and strain, to some extent, is the measure of our coolness, our rebellion on stage, a measure of growth, the originality and uniqueness of how much your body can withstand without sleeping, hydrating, changing our stage costume that was never comfortable to begin with, etc. However, if we go down that road to outsmart our health, competing band or cooler player than you, it can be a short path very quickly.

Growth and development and pushing ones boundaries, especially on stage, is often simply self-inflicted harm and mistreating the body’s early signals, that something is not serving us. That first sensation of discomfort, burning, tingling, that subjective “somethings off” but, never mind, that subtle moment, we’ve crossed a threshold, because we didn’t listen.

How many times did you sit in a session until your leg went numb? How many hours in an evening did you hold on, not having a single sip of water, cause you ‘have to’ drink a toast with every fan you meet after the show? How many times your headpiece pierced into your scull inflicting an initially dull headache that would after many hours cut circulation, press against sensitive sutures of your scull until it inflicts blurry vision, impaired hearing, dizziness or nausea? How hard did you head-bang, feeling the next day you probably sustained a mild concussion?

These are just some extreme examples of what musicians and bass playing performers put themselves through. For the crowds, for the applause, for recognition or fame. Sacrificing their health, their body and wellbeing. That only accumulates, in our cellular memory, yet cannot continue to regenerate, properly heal and reconstruct.

Most of the time, pain, discomfort or dysbalance the body projects onto you, is your nerve system communicating with you, “Your habits are harming me and my health. I need rest, the position you’re playing in is causing wear and tear, the free stage dives without any warm up or preparation are going to fracture a bone or inflict a decent strain of muscles or ligaments. If you don’t properly hydrate, and drink alcohol instead it’s going to develop and inflammatory state or an infection and heal much much slower than you could”.

Yes, that is you, the touring musician overlooked, ignored, brushed off, numbed with a painkiller or worse, glued with superglue and scotch tape because there is no time for that being on tour, performing, recording, writing under the pressure of a label, management, or the very first fans or followers of a newly established project.

Most of injuries and heath problems, are self-inflicted.

Most are functional and come from self-sabotaging habits that neglect your health, look for quick fixes on the go temporary solution hacks, pain-killers, walk-in massages or dangerous chiropractic manipulation manouvres, 3 hour-long nights with minimum sleep, followed with lots of coffee or energy drinks, open wounded blisters closed with industrial glue. Should I go on with examples? You know who you are.

All of this might seem cool and rebellious, when you’re a teenager, but when you’ve passed a certain age of biological maturity, it all Is just detrimental to your health in the long run, causing chain reactions leading to sickness, injury, burn-out, depression and chronic health problems that take months if not years to treat, and sometimes leave irreversible damage for a surgeon to contemplate on.

If you’re willing to commit and admit how you’ve been treating your body, your instrument of your artistic expression, worse than what it deserves, you are ready to face the mirror.

I’ve developed a special service allowing you work with me individually. The Medical Throne of Wisdom is an exclusive health experience with me, a performing arts medicine expert and Physiotherapist for Rockstars. Find out more here:
achimowiczanna.wixsite.com/musicbandaid/medicalthroneofwisdom

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Bass Player Health

Your Elbow Tendonitis Starts at the Pelvis… Welcome to ‘The Matrix’ 

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Interview With Bassist and Physiotherapist Anna Achimowicz

Elbow Tendonitis…

If I got a dollar for every time I heard a weak muscle needs to be strengthened, I would probably be a millionaire by now. The fact that I’m not (yet) is only my fault, I never asked for the pay-up! Now that’s gonna change.

If you read this article, from now on every time you hear that from a trainer, a doctor, a coach or an uninformed bandmate, you send me a dollar! Kidding! (Not)

But when we think of a muscle being ‘weak’ it has nothing to do with being untrained, giving in, or that the song or chord progression is too complicated at the time for your stamina to sustain. That might be the case, and we’ll get to that later, but in principle any muscle. Flexor Carpus Radialis, Rectus Femoris, or Biceps Brachii, all of them, have 3 stages or states of its functionality. And by functionality, I mean proper ’sources’ to work Normal and be Normal-reactive.

A “weak” or painful muscle is not an untrained muscle.

The normal healthy state of a muscle is called NORMO-reactive, we have also HYPER – which is too much, too much contraction versus relaxation, and HYPO- too little, too little contraction versus relaxation, on a general neurological impulse-based level. Hyper-reactive muscles and Hypo-reactive muscles are understood as dysreactive, and always have a reason for them being so, that should be corrected, enhanced or treated.

A muscle contraction is a chemical reaction that causes the nerve system to fire an impulse that contracts the muscles of your forearm and palm to finger a specific note on the fingerboard. In order to do so we need these 8 parameters to be consistent in your body. HYPO-reactivity (“weak”) can be caused by 1) the lymphatic system, especially in dehydration! 2) crania-sacral system, 3) neuro-vascular, 4) nerve system, spine segment lesion responsible for its respective muscle pair, 5) biochemical imbalance, 6) muscle organ connection 8) structural lesion, the for-mentioned- pelvis.

The pelvis – The Bass(e)

The pelvis is the base foundation of everything. Period. In the human body that is, not universally and philosophically. Just like the drums and bass are the foundation of time within a band or a song, fusing everything together in a mutual drive, beat, tone, and tempo. Well so does the pelvis for your whole body. Now, there are over 365 micro lesions, malpositions, and subluxations of the iliol-sacral complex, but for our purposes, we’re gonna focus on the main 3 types, Category I, II, and III, which are the most common, the most typical yet causing a multitude of issues, including as an indirect relation, your elbow lateral or medial epicondylitis. Often named a golfer or tennis elbow, but having to do very little in fact at all, as these symptoms occur rarely as a result of playing the sport, I know at least one bass player that plays golf in his free time, but we need to focus on a wider population, thousands of bass players around the world, and that’s you.

In my practice it’s often the discussion of what was first, the chicken or the egg, meaning, has the injury occurred first and the pelvis just ‘ran with it’ and went into a functional malposition of the so-called ’twisted pelvis’. Or was it the ’twisted pelvis’, that in result led to the injury? The answer is the latter, on most occasions. As medical professionals, applied anatomists, and biomechanists we do not know why that occurs, some claim, it starts in the womb, being curled up to one side, others claim it’s habitual and our one-side dominant arm and leg that is being taught early on in school, others blame it on bad daily habits, such as sitting on one’s wallet in your back jeans pocket, always tapping with the same foot to the rhythm while playing… We’re not quite sure, what we are sure of, is that it occurs almost in everybody, and is mostly indeed correctable but left untreated causes a vast majority of problems.

A ’twisted pelvis’ is functional to your body like a bass guitar cable halfway plugged into an amp. Might transmit some signal but sure doesn’t do its job nor sounds how you rehearsed it for.

Functionally the pelvis is one of the biggest and strongest complexes of joints when in an asymmetric position leads to a chain reaction disrupting nerve function and impulse transmission, which deregulated the automatic activity of muscles supporting the bone structure, especially the hamstrings, compromising the stability of the pelvis, hip joints, spinal column, everything else just follows. A twisted pelvis in any category, left untreated, causes a slue of complex health problems from tinnitus, to ankle joint subluxation, hearing loss, muscle cramps, tendonitis, lumbar spine pain and so much many others, one book could not simply have space for unless it’s a 6000-page long manuscript. That will in time come in book form from me.

What I can say is, in my 15 years of medical experience as a practitioner, I’ve seen only one symmetrical pelvis In my office, and it was a contemporary dancer.

What’s most tricky about it, a twisted pelvis doesn’t hurt, you don’t feel it, and it is very little you can do to correct it with your willpower, body awareness, or training, which would make things even worse. What you do feel however is a pain-chain compensatory reaction, ending up around your elbow manifesting in pain, tingling, numbness, burning and many other sensations including muscle weakness and disc ordination while playing and in daily function. And that’s just simply the consequential symptom. Not diagnosis.

You can find more information about how to book a session with me as well as Anna’s Activation Method, Physiotherapy for Rockstars and Body Management for bass players seminars and the #NEW ‘Medical Endorsement’ available from Performing Arts Medicine CMT at the links below:

achimowiczanna.wixsite.com/bandaid
facebook.com/PerformingArtsMedicineEU
facebook.com/AnnasActivationMethod

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