Our Osteopaths in Glen Iris have recently been talking with our local cycling groups. We asked about their current frustrations on the bike. The general consensus was “Nothing ruins a rider quicker than pain. Back pain and neck pain were common complaints, but most were suffering wrist and hand pain, possibly, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or symptoms mimicking CTS. Here are some tips to help:
If you’ve ever experienced numbness or pain in the wrists or hands on the bike, carpal tunnel syndrome could be the culprit. While carpal tunnel syndrome is most often associated with long hours on a computer, and repetitive activities it’s also a common irritation among cyclists.
Here is a quick overview of what you may expect if you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a few quick fixes, and some considerations.
SO, what exactly is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist. This path or tunnel allows the nerves (Median), blood vessels and tendons of the forearm to pass into the hand. It is formed by our wrist bones (known as the carpals) and ligaments. It’s a jammed pack space, and as you can image any inflammation or compression is going to have an effect on the structures inside.
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?
Common symptoms include:
- Pins and needles into the hands and fingers ( Thumb middle and index primarily)
- Pain in the hand
- Radiated or referred pain into the arm and shoulder
- Weakness of the hand
- Generally the little finger and half of the ring finger are unaffected.
So what can be done?
It goes without saying any machine that is not working at its optimum is going to cause problems. A poorly fitting bike can be the main cause of generalised aches and pains. From lower back and neck problems to wrist and hands.
Excessive weight put through the handle bars may indict your saddle is too high, or your handle bars are too low. Ensuring optimum weight distribution thorough the bike will go a long way to ensuring a comfortable ride.
Bars and Brakes:
As with your bike fit, ensuring the width of your handle bars is essential. Changing the shape of your handle bars may also provide you with the relief you seek. Especially when you are down on the drops.
Your Brake hoods and levels are just as important as your saddle set up. Your wrist pain may be a result of poorly position brakes. Altering your reach for the levers is sometimes possible and may reduce strain placed on the wrist.
Padded Gloves and Hand Position:
Gloves not only protect your hands from the weather and falls, but can also help alleviate pain in your hands. Newer padded gloves have specifically placed extra padding to protect the wrist complex and reduce the irritation on the nerves and carpal tunnel.
On your road bike we generally have 3 positions – Tops / Hoods and Drops. Altering your hand position to accomdatoe for the type of riding is essential – but try and get into the habit of altering your hand position even on the long straight flat.
OFF THE BIKE?
So we have talked about what you can do to your bike, it’s set up and maybe using gloves to reduce the pressure of your wrist. But what can be done OFF the bike? We are big believers in “prevention is always better than cure”. So we need to take a look at your life outside of the bike. Is your work station set up with your ergonomics in mind?. Just as a poorly set up bike can cause pain on the ride, a poorly fitting work station can result in multiple postural problems. And unfortunately we spend more time at the desk than on the bike.
Neck and Back:
In some cases the problem may NOT be in your wrist and hands, but lie in your neck and upper back. Poor posture, shoulder and neck weakness may lead to strain and pressure placed on the nerves which may lead to numbness and pain felt in the arms and hands. Having a therapist review your back and neck posture may provide the relief and solution to your wrist and hand pain.
This article was written by the Osteopath at Equilibrium Sports and Spinal clinic.