Preventing Hand Pain When Road Bike Cycling
One of the most common cycling issues is known as handlebar palsy. What happens is a compression of the ulnar nerve. This is the nerve that runs to your little finger and ring finger. This will lead to issues like leaving your hands weak, numb, and tingling or making it harder to change gears.;
Almost all riders will experience this in their riding lifetime. And with cycling now regularly featuring in CrossFit events, the issue is of concern to millions of CrossFit athletes right across the world. But actually, it does not need to be a normal part of bike riding. A little bit of discomfort is common when youre first starting out, but there is a lot you can do to alleviate it.
There are a number of things that can help make it easier.;
Median Nerve Compression / Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the median nerve which causes tingling in the thumb, index, middle and ring finger is called carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpel tunnel is surrounded by the carpal bones on the dorsum of the wrist and tough connective tissue on the ventral aspect. Carpal tunnel syndrome , which is an overuse injury, occurs when the median nerve on the palm side of the wrist is compressed affecting the median nerve and flexor tendons of the fingers passing through the carpal tunnel. The area then becomes inflamed and narrowed, compressing the structures and it can cause pain, tingling or weakness in the thumb, fingers, and hand.
It is difficult to determine the exact incidence rate for these 2 types of non-traumatic overuse injury, as individuals often consider this injury not severe enough to seek medical care. This means that patient records are not always available. The prevalence of hand and wrist non-traumatic ulnar or median nerve compression described in the literature ranges from 10% to 70%.
What Is Causing My Hand Numbness
There are several nerves in your hand and if they are compressed then you will start to feel that tingling sensation.;The ulnar nerve runs through the bottom of your wrist and to your pinky and ring finger, where as the median nerve runs through the middle of your wrist and to your thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger.
It is much more common to have the ulnar nerve pinched on a road bike due to the hand position in the drops and on top of the hoods. To prevent;numbness setting in you need to ensure that your wrist and hand position is in line with your forearm. If there is a bend in your wrist it will cause a pinch in the nerve and your hands will go numb. If you adjust your position;and you find that you are unable to get your forearms, wrists and hands flush it may be an issue with your bike fit.
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Bmx Related Elbow Pain
BMX riding unfortunately has many of the same risk factors as Mountain Biking and Motocross.
It may not involve as much vibration but the impact stresses that are involved are very harsh.
That, along with the need to be gripping hard much of the time to stay in control, puts BMX riders at a significant for elbow injuries.
How Is Wrist Pain From Cycling Diagnosed
Diagnosing wrist pain from cycling isnt as difficult as it seems. A trip to your doctor is all you need to get the process started. So the minute you start feeling any weird pain in your wrist, visit your doctor for prompt diagnosis.
For a start, your doctor will take a look at the site of the injury to investigate where you are feeling the pain. He may even ask you to try to flex your wrist in different directions, to be sure about the wrist problem youre dealing with.
This may also be followed by a series of questions to find out if your wrist pain is as a result of existing wrist conditions.
Should all of these not suffice, your doctor may recommend more elaborate tests like CT scans, X-rays and MRI scans that are more reliable when diagnosing wrist pain.
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What To Know About Cycling And Wrist Pain
When we think about cycling safety, wearing a helmet may be the first thing that comes to mind. Thats a must, for sure, but your head isnt the only body part that needs protecting during bike rides.
What may surprise people is that seemingly small things like incorrect positioning on the handlebars can lead to hand and wrist painor aggravate existing conditions, says , an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand and wrist issues at HSS in Manhattan and Florida. This is true for riders of all ages.
One such condition is . The carpal tunnel, found in the palm, contains the medial nerve, which goes from the thumb to the ring finger. Resting too much weight on this area while cycling can result in symptoms such as pain when moving the wrist and/or numbness and tingling in the fingers. This condition is very common, and riders of all ages and all levels of fitness can develop it, says Dr. Carlson. The ulnar nerve, which runs to the pinky, can also be irritated by too much pressure.
Dont let fears of possible wrist issues keep you out of the saddle, though, says Dr. Carlson. Cycling is an efficient form of cardiovascular exercise, and its a great low-impact alternative to running thats easier on your joints.
Instead, use her tips below for healthier wrists before, during and after rides.
One Reason We Ride Incorrectly Is Simply Due To Lack Of Knowledge Or Bad Habits But Another Reason Can Be Weak Wrist Flexors
To conduct the test of your hand position you will need a set of grips, a suspension trainer, or a set of rings. You are going to check for correct wrist alignment while you perform a push up on this gear.
Elbows should be slightly flexed like the cyclist shown here:
This allows any movement of the handlebars to be taken up by the elbow flexing. If you ride with your elbows stiff or locked, then vibration and shocks may extend the elbow too far and lead to trauma.
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Occupational And Physical Therapy Treatments
If your hand numbness worsens or becomes persistent, you may want to seek medical help from an occupational or physical therapist.
Treatment will depend on your therapists assessment of the cause of the problem. Common approaches include stretching and strengthening exercises. Your therapist may also recommend taping and splints to reduce pressure on your wrists.
Manual therapy such as massage, instrument-assisted massage, dry needling and contract-relax techniques may help. Nerve gliding exercises can improve the mobility of the nerves through surrounding soft tissue. To reduce swelling and pain, your therapist may also employ modalities such as ultrasound, heat and low-level laser therapy. Learn more about rehabilitation therapy services at CVMC.
How To Prevent Wrist Pain On Road Bikes
When I started bike-commuting with my road bike I developed chronic pain in my wrists. It probably took a year to go away, and now I have been free of complaints for several years. My wife just started bike-commuting with her road bike and she started to complain about painful wrists as well. I assume this has to do with holding weak wrists at an angle for an extended period of time. I was thinking about pointing her handlebars downward a bit, but am worried that she will slide off the grips mounted to the top of the handle bar when she rides with her hands above the bar and has to brake abruptly. Something else we were thinking about trying is wrapping her wrists with elastic bandages, but we weren’t sure if we were going to exacerbate or at least prolong the problem, since she would probably use her wrist muscles less.
I switched bikes a year ago, and I noticed on my rides at the time that I had some numbness / cramp / pain in my hands and wrists, it was so bad on some rides that I need two hands to change gear. The bike had slightly different geometry than my previous road bike. I now ride frequently 100km and even up to 180km with little or no pain.
Here’s what I did and what changed:
1) I took the bike to my LBS and asked them if there was something they could do. The adjusted the shifters outwards so that I wasn’t stretching so far to change gear. A good bike fit may be the only solution you need.
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Your Wrists Should Be Straight Not Flexed
In other words, if viewed from the side, there should be a straight line from your knuckles to your elbows when youre gripping the handlebars. If youre struggling to keep your wrists in line with your arms, consider investing in a new pair of ergonomic handlebar grips with platforms to support your wrists. Theyll keep your wrists straight, as well as disperse the pressure of the handlebar over a wider area of your palm. A win-win!
Wrist Pain From Mountain Biking Source #2 Poor Bike Setup
Assuming youve cleaned up all of the postural items, the next most common culprit is a poor cockpit configuration.
Handlebars that are too far from your seat can cause overreaching, and too much load placed on the hands. Whereas a seat that is too close to the handlebars can lead to awkward wrist positions that prevent you from reaching a more comfortable neutral one.
Check the sweep of the handlebars as well to ensure that theyre angled appropriately to allow for a comfortable wrist position. Look to find a position that causes equal pressure on the inside and outside of your palms.
If you feel more pressure on the outside of your hand, it means theyre too far forward. More pressure on the inside of the hand means theyre too far back.
Similarly, too high of a saddle or handlebars that are set too low can also create this forward shift of weight.
Stem length and angle
While focusing on the handlebars, another key component that cant be ignored is your stem length and angle. While a long stem can be fantastic for climbing, it may not be the best fit for your type of riding. A shorter stem may be a better fit to ensure that youre not placing your weight too far forward.
While a long stem can be fantastic for climbing, it may not be the best fit for your type of riding. A shorter stem may be a better option to ensure that youre not placing your weight too far forward. Most riders find that a 50 80 mm stem length is ideal.
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Make Sure You Fit Your E
Next, you should be looking at the positioning of your e-Bikes saddle and handlebars, primarily.;;
Adjustments that should be made to your e-Bike include raising or lowering your saddle to approximately the same height as your handlebar grips. Your handlebars should also not be too low, so as to avoid the aforementioned leaning forward.;
These adjustments will allow your body to be more balanced and upright. Some riders have even noted that angled handlebars have aided in improving wrist and hand pain, as well as using grips that have palm rests.;
You should also be checking your gear controls to ensure that they are not slipping. Slipping may be causing your wrists to be placed at an unnatural angle, so a good rule of thumb is that your controls should be lined up with your forearms. This positioning will ensure that when you are braking, you are simply curling your fingers up to do so, as opposed to inclining your wrist upwards .;
Additionally, your e-Bike handlebar grips should be helping your hands and wrists to be in a comfortable position. Proper grips will help to support you while riding, as well as optimizing the range of motion in your hands and wrists as opposed to restricting them. If your current grips are not optimal for this, consider investing in new ones.;
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Double Wrap Those Bars
I love to choose the right color of handlebar tape to match my bike, but handlebar tape is more than just a cosmetic. It also helps with grip and absorbing shock. When you roll over a bumpy patch of road the handlebar tape should help absorb the vibration that your hands would otherwise be feeling. If your tape is worn out and torn than you should replace it so that it can properly do its job. The more youre able to reduce the vibration and shock in your hands the better.
Another technique is to double wrap your handlebars with bar tape. In fact, professional riders will often double wrap their handlebars when they know theyll be racing on a route that is known to be bumpy . If numb hands are an issue than you can try this method out.
If your bicycle doesnt have handlebar tape than youll want to make sure your grips are comfortable and good shock absorbers. I recently put OURY grips on my Mountain Bike and I am happy with their feel and shock absorbency.
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Wrist Hand And Arm Pain
Pain in the upper body often occurs when too much pressure is being transmitted through the hands, wrists, or arms. Ideally, about 60% of your weight should be positioned on the rear of your bike, and only 40% on the front of the bike. Make sure your reach to the handlebars is not too long, and that your handlebars are not set too low. Wrist pain can occur when your grip is incorrect or your handlebar position is off, forcing your hands and wrists into an unnatural angle. Cyclists often develop a condition known as handlebar palsy, causing numbness, weakness, and tingling in the pinky and ring finger due to pressure on the Ulnar nerve. This is often associated with pressure on the handlebars for long periods of time. If you experience pain, numbness, or tingling in the thumb, index, or middle fingers, carpal tunnel syndrome is probably the culprit. This usually occurs when cyclists hold the handlebars on top, putting pressure on the median nerve. Symptoms for both of these conditions will usually resolve with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching. To prevent hand and wrist injuries, change your position on the handlebars often, wear padded gloves, ride with your elbows slightly bent to act as a shock absorber, and alternate pressure on the inside and outside of your palm while riding.
Additional Ways To Prevent Wrist Pain From Mountain Biking
As weve already covered, the most important things that you can do to prevent wrist pain from mountain biking are to develop good postural riding habits and get your bike properly set up. Once youve got those two in line youre off to a fantastic, pain-free start.
However, there are also a few gear-related items that can help to spare your wrists.
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Tips For Motocross Riders
In this video, Gregg Albertson of G.A.M.E MX Training offers some tips on elbow and grip positioning.
Elbows Up and Regripping // G.A.M.E. Motocross Techniques
; One of the key takeaways being that in order to maintain control of your dirt bike, its best to be in what Gregg calls an aggressive position.
However, this aggressive, high-elbow position is inherently putting your shoulder into a position thats a high risk for Impingement Especially on the throttle side.
Impingement Syndrome is a Repetitive Strain Injury that happens to the topmost Rotator Cuff tendon of the shoulder called the Supraspinatus.
It involves friction, swelling and increased pressure in a limited space, which becomes a self-perpetuating problem, since, as the pressure increases, so does the friction on the tendon, in turn causing more irritation, swelling and pressure.
The Impingement Risk Position
When the shoulder is in an abducted and internally rotated position, it tends to put more pressure and friction on the Supraspinatus Tendon, which can lead to Impingement Syndrome.
This becomes a greater risk the longer one spends in this position and the greater the forces involved on the shoulder.
This is a necessary evil but with any Rotator Cuff problem or injury tends to follow either Tennis or Golfers Elbow.
In the simplest terms, because of the compensations you get into with your hands and forearms, gripping harder to maintain stability, for example.
How Can You Avoid Problems
Bike fit The first step in avoiding pain in the butt is a good bike fit:
- Your weight should be properly distributed between the saddle and the handlebars. With your hands on the brake hoods your torso should form about a 45-degree angle with the top hood.
- Your saddle should be at the right height so that your hips arent rocking, which causes friction.
- If one hip drops more than the other hip as you pedal, then that leg may be shorter than the other one, making that side of your butt more prone to pain.
Saddle choice Because your butt is individual, your saddle should be the right one for you:
- It should be the right width so that your sitz bones are supporting you, not your crotch. Specialized makes a tool to measure the width of your sitz bones .;
- The curve between the nose of the saddle and the broader part you sit on should accommodate the width of your thighs. Although a wider saddle may seem more comfortable for the butt, it will increase friction.
- It may have a cutout. For women, a cutout may reduce problems with abraded soft tissue.
- A cutout may reduce pressure for man who is developing an enlarged prostate.;
- It should be lightly padded if your problem is pain under your sitz bones. However, heavier padding will allow your butt to rock, causing friction.
- It should be smooth enough so that you slide easily without friction.
Fitness How much you have been riding contributes to sitz bone pain:
Some riders develop thicker skin after many hours of riding.
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