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Thread: Handlebar Palsy

  1. #1
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    Handlebar Palsy

    Does this happen to anyone of you? No hand pain,discomfort or numbness while riding. Bike fit seems great as I can comfortably ride 40-60 miles with no problems. When I'm done my pinky on my right hand is essentially paralyzed. It usually last for 4 to 5 days unless I put in more miles. I've searched the web and keep running into "handlebar palsy". I guess that my nerves in my right hand are just a little more sensitive

    In the picture I am trying to put all my fingers together in a line....

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  2. #2
    wyrd bi ful rd
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    I think you need to keep changing your hand position. And intermittently, stand up and pedal as well.

    I think a road bike posture is not the most ideal position for a human body. It fits some of us better that others.

    I had numbness on my left palm the other day for the first time and took me awhile to 'shake' it away. Unsure which position actually caused it but thereafter I kept changing my riding position.

    Stand or seated. Even when seated you can sit further forward or back. You can be in the drops, even here you have the position where you can pull in the brakes or right at the end of the bars, in the hoods, right at the corner at the bends or on top. And occasionally sit up straight and twist your upper body. And sometimes even stand with the pedal in the 3 and 9 o'clock position and stretch back such that your arms are straighten with your body weight over the back wheel. You can even stretch your hamstring with the pedal in the 6 o'clock position with your leg straighten and toe up.

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    Also try a good pair of padded gloves.
    "If you are going to be stupid then you have to be tough". - Tony Stewart

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    When I started I too could ride 20-50 miles with no problems... and then my hands hurt like hell for days. Numb pinky side palm, tingly fingers, aches, burning sensation. It doesn't always have to hurt on the bike, to be caused by the bike. If this is true, then the fit isn't great? a millimeter this way, a millimeter that way can make a big difference. Since I've had all sorts of issues with my palms, I can't tell you what ails you. I do know that a lot of people say higher and closer, too much weight. For me, after the fit, it turned out to be something slightly different...the angle my wrist made with the hood and bar was all wrong, leaving me with numb/burning palms for days. I used to run my bar parallel to the ground, which had me cocking my wrists down to grasp the hoods... it also put too much pressure pinky side. My fitter turned the bar up just a few degrees... now my wrists fall/drape over the hoods more naturally and weight is also distributed on the palm better as opposed to that hotspot on flat bars...if you run a large seat to bar drop, and have the bars flat, your wrists will naturally have a better angle at the hoods. When the bars are almost level with the seat, some upturn to the bars (so that the end of your drops is pointing towards your rear hub, or above it) helps...I found....your mileage may vary.

    If it's just your wrists, and not your lower back, knees, behind knees, outer knees, shoulders you're close... the bars are the last thing I got right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sully00 View Post
    Does this happen to anyone of you? No hand pain,discomfort or numbness while riding. Bike fit seems great as I can comfortably ride 40-60 miles with no problems. When I'm done my pinky on my right hand is essentially paralyzed. It usually last for 4 to 5 days unless I put in more miles. I've searched the web and keep running into "handlebar palsy". I guess that my nerves in my right hand are just a little more sensitive.
    You might also consider other aspects of your life. I had long-lasting numbness of the bottom two fingers in one hand that seemed to be caused by some long rides. Then one night I woke up and found that those two fingers were asleep because I was sleeping on my arm and pinching a nerve. I now sleep with my arm outstretched and haven't had the problem since. Riding aggravated it but the root cause was sleeping on my arm.

  6. #6
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    Handlebar Palsy

    4-5 days seems a bit much.

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    Just reaching out on a limb here, but maybe you have a deathgrip on the handlebars? I mean, you should guide the bike, not hold it in a death grip.

    Other than that, try to change up your hand placement... hoods, drops, tops.
    With people like Peter P. around, I am done posting on this website. Mean people have driven me off after 9 plus years. Good luck newbies beware.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the replies...I do try to vary my hand position as well as my position on the bike...My typical ride usually dictates that. Maybe I'll try going gloveless next ride or picking up some padless gloves. I don't recall it happening in the cold weather when and I was wearing my winter gloves with to padding in the palm.
    2013 Felt Z85 ~ Mavic Kysrium Elite S

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    You've done some damage to your Ulnar nerve. My son had this, thought it was from riding - in the end we figured out that it was from playing a game console too long.
    The damage can be in elbow or wrist, you may have done it by sitting at a desk and resting your elbow on the desk, could be cycling, could be cutting off circulation, or a combo of all.

    In regards to my sons damage, he had a complete recovery, the nerve will regenerate at 1mm per day. It seemed I knew more then the Orthopedic MD when we went in to have it looked at. He didn't have much to say, more sit around and wait and talk about rehab latter. We came up with our own exercises (rubber bands) and messages, when all was said and done the bad hand was stronger than the other hand. My biggest suggestion is don't let the muscle atrophy start working on the hand as the nerve regenerates.

  10. #10
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    Your padless glove idea could work. I remember a few decades ago buying heavily padded gloves and being in agony. I eventually found some very thin leather-palmed lycra-backed gloves from UK, almost feels like you're gloveless. That worked for years but lately I'm getting left thumb pains in the joint where it attaches to my hand/wrist (maybe arthritis?) These are manageable by constantly changing hand position on road bike but still haven't figured a workaround for mountain biking.

  11. #11
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    I had serious numbness problems with my hands. Tried all sorts of remedies -- thicker gloves, padded bar tape, moving hands around more often on bars, exercising core muscles, etc. The cure, in my case, was to raise my handlebar higher. When I raised my handlebar so it is the same height as my saddle, the numbness issues went away immediately and have never bothered me again. My bike is also much more comfortable for me to ride, and I am able to ride in the drops for as long as I want.

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    I would try riding without gloves, sometimes I find my gloves have a tendency to pull the webbing tight between my fingers and that causes discomfort, though nothing like what you are experiencing.
    Miles of agony for moments of ahhh!

  13. #13
    wrm
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    I had serious numbness problems with my hands. Tried all sorts of remedies -- thicker gloves, padded bar tape, moving hands around more often on bars, exercising core muscles, etc. The cure, in my case, was to raise my handlebar higher. When I raised my handlebar so it is the same height as my saddle, the numbness issues went away immediately and have never bothered me again. My bike is also much more comfortable for me to ride, and I am able to ride in the drops for as long as I want.
    You might find this comfortable but it doesn't address the underlying core problem. As for riding in the drops all day, if the drops are the same height as the hoods on a normal bike why wouldn't it be comfortable ? The vast majority of cyclists have their handlebars lower than the seat. Often much lower. Mine is probably 5 inches lower. And I've had neck surgery and two fused disks. I also ride without gloves. My hands move continually tops, corners, hood, drops and back. I don't even think about it.

    you could also put some "ape hangers" on your bike. That'd be comfortable too.

    Bill

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    Interesting picture and and a number of attempts to explain you problem.some of them are close to the mark but not quite.you have transient compression to the deep palmar branch of the ulnar nerve. This is strictly motor which is the reason you have only weakness and not numbness.the terminal sensory branch comes off in the wrist and is not generally subject to pressure in the hand itself.the nerve supplies the interosseus muscles which adduct(bring together)your fingers.this is directly proportional

    to how long the pressure is applied to the nerve.I fear you may run the risk of more permanent or long lasting nerve damage if you don't shake things up a bit.this may reflect a bike setup issue placing to much pressure on your palms or you could be in perfect position and simply have a predisposition to this problem.padding(more of it and not less)might make a difference or consider a flat bar such as a Fsa K wing. Good luck and ride safe.

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    ^^^ Sh*t just got real in here.

    On a more serious note, glad to have you aboard Doc! There is enough newb pain and suffering on these boards to keep your virtual practice humming through the night, six nights a week. Ha.

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    sounds like u need to take weight off your hands by moving saddle back and shorter stem and/or raise bars....get your centre of gravity back a bit.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Data_God View Post
    You might find this comfortable but it doesn't address the underlying core problem. As for riding in the drops all day, if the drops are the same height as the hoods on a normal bike why wouldn't it be comfortable ? The vast majority of cyclists have their handlebars lower than the seat. Often much lower. Mine is probably 5 inches lower. And I've had neck surgery and two fused disks. I also ride without gloves. My hands move continually tops, corners, hood, drops and back. I don't even think about it.

    you could also put some "ape hangers" on your bike. That'd be comfortable too.

    Bill
    What exactly is the point you are trying to make? That it's only proper to ride a bicycle if your handlebars are 5" lower than the saddle? There are plenty of cyclists who are not comfortable with large amounts of drop, and running handlebars at the same height as saddles is not exactly resorting to ape-hangers.

    I have been cycling for 40+ years and ride more than 8,000 miles a year. Riding all of that mileage I have figured out what works for me, and many other cyclists have reached similar conclusions. If you are comfortable riding with a 5" handlebar drop, good for you -- but it's a matter of individual fit and comfort, not something to brag about.

  18. #18
    wrm
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    What exactly is the point you are trying to make? That it's only proper to ride a bicycle if your handlebars are 5" lower than the saddle? There are plenty of cyclists who are not comfortable with large amounts of drop, and running handlebars at the same height as saddles is not exactly resorting to ape-hangers.

    I have been cycling for 40+ years and ride more than 8,000 miles a year. Riding all of that mileage I have figured out what works for me, and many other cyclists have reached similar conclusions. If you are comfortable riding with a 5" handlebar drop, good for you -- but it's a matter of individual fit and comfort, not something to brag about.
    Try reading for content. Raising the handlebars does not address the core problem. I clearly stated this so it's not hard to see. The vast majority of road bikes have handlebars somewhat lower than the saddle. This does not cause problems for these riders hands. Plain enough ? If hands are a problem it's better to look for the cause. Most experienced riders quickly figure out that by bending the elbows and using them as shock absorbers and moving their hands periodically is a better solution.

    Bragging ?!?!? I don't recall doing that. I provided empirical data. I know of riders who have had lower back problems and choose to ride in a more upright position. That's entirely their choice. But it wasn't because of their hands.

    And yeah - I've been riding for well over 40 years too. And being rather old I think it's probably a fact that I have less flexibility than most.

    Your turn Sparky.




    Bill

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    Pass the popcorn please!!

  20. #20
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    It really doesn't matter if "most" cyclists ride with their handlebars lower than their saddles, although I am not really certain that this is a true statement aside from pro cyclists and racers. What matters is what works for an individual cyclist.

    In my case, I injured my neck as a child. My neck literally will not flex like most people, and if I ride with my handlebars lower it pinches a nerve and my hands go numb. It took me several years of experimentation and a trips to the doctor, chiropracter and X-rays to figure out what was going on.

    But that's beside the point. There are many serious cyclists who simply are not comfortable riding with low handlebars. For proof -- go to any group ride, and you will see many bikes with riser stems and tons of spacers. It's also one of the leading complaints from people who try cycling and then quit or only ride occasionally. Finally, there is a whole school of cyclists -- Grant Peterson of Rivendell being the most prominent -- who advocate riding with higher handlebars for comfort as well as fit.

    If you are a pro cyclist or race, you probably need low handlebars for the aerodynamic advantages. For the average cyclist, low handlebars achieve no purpose at all unless you just so happen to find them more comfortable and aerodynamics are important to you. BTW, the aerodynamic issue is really not a big deal with higher handlebars because you can overcome that by riding in the drops -- something that most cyclists with low handlebars seldom do judging from the group rides I have participated in.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    It really doesn't matter if "most" cyclists ride with their handlebars lower than their saddles, although I am not really certain that this is a true statement aside from pro cyclists and racers. What matters is what works for an individual cyclist.
    I absolutely agree. But I also know that many people start out with a specific setup and then simply leave it at that while they could probably lower the bars over a period of time as the back/neck etc loosen up. Simply because they ride it one way doesn't preclude that it is always *best* for them.

    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    In my case, I injured my neck as a child. My neck literally will not flex like most people, and if I ride with my handlebars lower it pinches a nerve and my hands go numb. It took me several years of experimentation and a trips to the doctor, chiropracter and X-rays to figure out what was going on.
    Believe me I feel your pain. I had a lot of neck problems due to a Hockey injury and needed surgery to repair and as a part of that repair I ended up with some discs fused. Spinal cord impingement left me with a 30% loss on my left side prior so it really wasn't optional. And specifically some adjustments had to be made. Thankfully not on my road bike. But my TT position is not as low as it once was. But ..... you will agree that most people probably don't suffer from these type of problems and to suggest raising the bars might be expeditious - it might not be the best solution if there isn't an underlying medical issue. My experience is that many cyclists put far too much weight on their hands. There are a number of reasons for this. Lack of core abdominal strength. Poor position on the bike. Not bending the elbows etc etc. It's entirely possible that wearing gloves might mask some of these problems since they have padding. But generally speaking if your position is sound and you have good core strength then you should have very little weight on your hands. Unless of course someone has a death grip on the bars which is another problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    But that's beside the point. There are many serious cyclists who simply are not comfortable riding with low handlebars. For proof -- go to any group ride, and you will see many bikes with riser stems and tons of spacers. It's also one of the leading complaints from people who try cycling and then quit or only ride occasionally. Finally, there is a whole school of cyclists -- Grant Peterson of Rivendell being the most prominent -- who advocate riding with higher handlebars for comfort as well as fit.
    On the group rides that I participate in this isn't usually the case. And there are those that have the stem slammed and ride small frames. And they have no issues with doing so. Doesn't make them right or wrong mind you. But it does make them efficient. And that is usually the goal for most of us. *If* the handle bars can be lower without causing discomfort and it's more efficient why would you, or anyone else suggest otherwise ? This assumes that the fundamental reason for the discomfort is recognized and dealt with. If it's technique would you be against that ?!?!? Hopefully not.

    Quote Originally Posted by tarwheel2 View Post
    If you are a pro cyclist or race, you probably need low handlebars for the aerodynamic advantages. For the average cyclist, low handlebars achieve no purpose at all unless you just so happen to find them more comfortable and aerodynamics are important to you. BTW, the aerodynamic issue is really not a big deal with higher handlebars because you can overcome that by riding in the drops -- something that most cyclists with low handlebars seldom do judging from the group rides I have participated in.
    I probably fall into the camp of wanting to be the most efficient that I can be. Riding along at 14 mph when I could be riding at 22 mph would make a difference to me. The people I ride with hurt me on a fairly regular basis and I need to be as efficient as possible to minimize my time in the pain cave.

    Also - for the record. My position on the bars is exactly the same regardless of if I'm on the drops or not. I have a pronounced bend in my elbows when riding on the tops. Thus my back is at the same angle.

    Bill

  22. #22
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    I think we are in agreement that comfort and fit are the most important issues. I just think that aerodynamics and weight are over-emphasized in their importance by many cyclists. They are important if your goal is the maximum possible average speed, but they do not have as much effect on the typical cyclist as many would have you believe. If you are racing or time-trialing, this could be important, but not for the typical recreational or group ride.

    For example, I lost 30 lbs. a couple of years ago and would have expected to see my average speeds go up by some tremendous amount by what the weight-weenies would have you believe. Climbing has become easier, but the weight loss really hasn't effect my average speeds by much. Aerodynamics -- specifically lowering handlebars -- are a similar situation. I definitely can go a little faster when I ride in the drops, but it is not a huge difference -- and it's meaningless on a group ride unless you are the one taking a pull or you are cycling near the limit of your speed. On a group ride, drafting will more than make up for any loss in aerodynamics from higher handlebars. Also, I ride in my drops much more than most cyclists because my handlebars are high enough that I can do so comfortable. When I go on group rides, I rarely ever see other riders using their drops.

    Anyway, back to the original post -- raising your handlebars is one potential solution to the problem you are having with your hands. It's not the answer for everyone, but might be the solution if you have exhausted other options. It worked for me.
    Last edited by tarwheel2; 07-02-2013 at 11:57 AM.

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    Any more Dr advice please !!

    This condition just creeped up on me and it's threatening my new love and passion. I stumbled across median nerve damage in cycling glove product descriptions. Clearly in my case it's compression of the nerve and surrounding tissue in my hand. My existing gloves are not effective at padding this area. I am going to go in for another fit at the bike shop. I had this done about 8 months ago when I went with cleats and cycling shoes, but I have changed seat, seat post, crankset and handlebars since then, as well as lowered the bars and raised the seat. New wheels don't figure in here. And put on about 1,200 miles all hills. The changes dropped the bike weight from 24.0 to 19.15 pounds btw.

    My affliction is mild soreness across the palm of my left hand, during and shortly after riding, but persistent mild numbness and buzz in my fingers and joints, especially the little finger. I am not ready to bug my DR yet if I can get this on my own with a simple shift in riding position, etc. I try to shift my hands and arms around as the miles pile up on my rides.

    No way I'm cutting back riding, I kept at it through the winter and now have lost 30 lbs and am being reborn as a old vengeful bug killing grey haired cycle fiend !! Any more replies - thank you !!!
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    A doc will tell you what you damaged, a bike guy will tell you why you damaged it. I'm neither.

    You dropped five pounds of weight from the bike? Wheels could not have been more than one pound, let's call it 1.15. Where'd the other four come from? Wow.

    Moving your bars higher will put more weight on your ass, and take it off your hands. However, saddle tilt and fwd/back position also has a great deal to do with this. You didn't mention that you changed anything, so the fit wasn't a total success then was it?

  25. #25
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    Oh by the way, I too found that my old gloves had padding in all the wrong places. On my PI Gel Vents the padding was towards the outside of the glove, leaving the area right above the wrist middle palm exposed. I poked around and finally settled on Louis Garneau Mondo gloves. Check them out, they have this strip of padding that goes right through the middle from thumb to pinky. Whereas, most gloves will have padding by the base of the thumb and by the pinky. Obviously, there's a reason for this, these companies do have R&D budgets, but in the few rides I've done, I like how Mondo's padding is right where I lean on my palms.

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