Rock Band Rocks my Wrists
July 3, 2008 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Drumming on Rock Band is killing my wrists. What should I do?

I've had the game for less than 2 months and I've even taken a week off here and there to let my wrists heal up. In other words I am definitely not overplaying. I only play like 4 songs a session, maybe twice a day. I have however progressed rapidly to the difficult songs; I am halfway through expert mode. Songs like Reptilia with rapid beats really punish my forearms.
First I analyzed my lazy-ass playing style and fixed that: I was reclining in my office chair with my elbows in my lap and only moving my wrists. Now I perch on the end of my office chair and try to emphasize elbow joint movement.
My wrists are definitely tender beyond muscle soreness. I am only in this for fun so I am not willing to do elaborate stretching and massaging. I don't feel that I am unnaturally banging hard on the drums. I have looked up drumming technique and believe I am doing it as correctly as any casual drummer would.
I am thinking maybe I could get a wrist brace but I don't know. Any ideas?
posted by GleepGlop to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I hate to sound like the punch line to an old joke, but STOP PLAYING THE DRUMS IN ROCK BAND.

Seriously though as someone who has had repetitive motion injury wrist issues, and still persists in biking to work and typing all day I feel your pain, literally. You may want to look into the cheap-o wrist braces sold at Walgreens CVS etc. Make sure you aren't sleeping on your hands that really effs them up.
posted by Ponderance at 11:35 AM on July 3, 2008

Wrist braces are pretty cheap and readily available, and unlikely to make things worse. Might as well give it a shot.
posted by box at 11:36 AM on July 3, 2008

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

Have you tried singing?

More seriously, have you tried playing on a stool (a "drum throne"). When I tried playing the drums on Rock Band, my ankles hurt me way before my wrists ever got tired.
posted by demiurge at 11:37 AM on July 3, 2008

How are you holding the sticks? I found that holding them with my thumbs facing up and using a looser grip hurt a lot less than a tight grip with my thumbs rotated more down.
posted by olinerd at 11:39 AM on July 3, 2008

Stop playing the game. See a doctor. Do you really want to risk permanent life-long wrist damage for a game? Real drummers work for years to develop the wrist and forearm strength to perform those actions. And even then professional drummers are still at high rish for tendonitis, etc. You are seriously in danger of screwing something up, but good.

Do not exacerbate this problem by suppressing the warning signals with wrist braces.

Stop playing. See a doctor. Soon.
posted by Aquaman at 11:45 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah my thumbs face up and it's what I would call a loose grip.
posted by GleepGlop at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2008

I think you should stop. If you do continue to play:
Don't move your wrists when you play. Your wrists should be still. You're (kind of) playing drums without having learned the proper technique. Self-taught piano players do the same thing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:48 AM on July 3, 2008

Aquaman: this was a theory of mine, that the game makes it so easy to play songs that it would take a drummer learning the old fashioned way years to be able to play... I just think its weird that presumably most people don't have problems.
posted by GleepGlop at 11:49 AM on July 3, 2008

At least, I believe your wrists should be still. Perhaps not in real drumming - I don't play drums but I've played rock band drums. I don't think the motions required of that game require wrist movement.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2008

For all of the people saying I should stop: I plan to stop if I can't come up with a solution. But I need to at least TRY to come up with a solution.
posted by GleepGlop at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2008

Stretch for at least 5 minutes before you play. Keep your hand and forearm muscles relaxed while you play. Maybe try to not to hit the pads so hard. Real drums are bouncy and forgiving, Rock Band drum pads not so much.
posted by gnutron at 11:54 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was thinking one of those carpal tunnel wrist braces even though I don't know how they work, but googling lead me to this. It looks like just a wrist band; I don't know how this would do anything.
My problem is definitely a repetitive strain thing, it's just a question of whether it is repetitive wrist motion or just repetitive ass kicking of the muscles and tendons of my forearms.
posted by GleepGlop at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2008

I'm pretty sure that you've hurt yourself because you're tense. Playing drums, like all instruments, requires you to be relaxed otherwise you will hurt yourself. That's why people practice proper playing technique. You probably don't realize that you're tensing something, but in all likelihood you are. Good drum technique requires strong but relaxed wrists but the fingers do a lot too. I see that you're playing with your thumbs up (we called this 'French grip' when I used to have drum lessons, although, on review this sounds rude). Maybe this isn't the best grip for you. You can also turn the hand over so that the backs of your hands are facing upwards. That might change something, but really you need to take a break and not play for a while to give your injury time to heal, and then try something new.

Years ago a teacher of mine showed me how dangerous tension was when playing an instrument by getting me to just tense up my thumb whilst not playing. Pretty soon with a tense thumb your whole hand will be tense and this tension will start making its way up the arm. I'm pretty sure that the more you get into the game the more you tense up and the reason why this doesn't happen to others is that they're able not to tense up. It's very tempting, when things are fast to use tension to achieve the speed that is required of you. This is bad technique and you have to build this up slowly otherwise you'll get what you've unfortunately done to yourself.
posted by ob at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Never played Rock Band.

Do you need to use sticks, or can you just tap on the pads with your hand? Would it maybe be less painful to do that?

I mean, I know that real drummers don't just use their hands. Real guitarists don't play lying down on the couch, neither, but I often play GH3 with complete assal horizontology... it's its own challenge.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2008

A friend at EA has outfitted his Rock Band kit with bouncy rubber gasket-type material cut to the size of the pads. It makes the game much more enjoyable, and way more like playing the real drums, or at least a not-too-crappy V-drum set. I'm an acoustic drummer, and playing the modded kit definitely felt way, way better.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:59 PM on July 3, 2008

You're either holding the sticks too tightly, playing "through" the drums, or both. Your wrists should not be moving downward when the stick hits the surface. If you're playing match grip, holding both sticks in your fists (so to speak), your wrists should be parallel to the ground or the drum's surface so that they act more like a hinge. This is easier on your wrists than if your thumbs are on top and you are effectively moving your wrists side-to-side w.r.t. to the palms of your hands.
posted by rhizome at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2008

Take it from me; you DO NOT want to keep playing through hurting wrists. I'd been using a computer since I was 7-8 years old, so when my wrists started acting up while I was playing (of all things) that piece of crap "Black&White", I figured I'd just see if I could shake it off and would stop after a few days if it didn't get better.

I quit 3 days later when it got worse. A week after that I couldn't type a single letter without pain. A week after that (despite having quit playing games or typing) it started to hurt to use a fork or drive.

I could use a computer for real again about 2 YEARS later.
posted by Justinian at 1:50 PM on July 3, 2008

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