wrist pain... early carpal tunnel?
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  1. #1
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    wrist pain... early carpal tunnel?

    hello hello
    I am a mountain biker who bought my first road bike about 8 weeks ago. I've been doing at least one long ride (over 100km), plus one or two short rides, a daily commute, and 2 mountain rides per week. I started having problems with my fingers going numb, and it got progressively worse, so both my hands hands would be completely numb, even after my short (17km) commute to work. It's the absolute worst when I do hill repeats and am spending a larger than usual chunk of time standing. Now, I'm having problems with finger numbness on my mountain bike, a problem I never had last season. I bought some gloves with gel in them, and they help a bit... I can stave off the numbness til about 40km and then "shake it out"... but my wrists are really weak and sore all the time, even when I'm not riding (had to readjust my grip to pick up a pop bottle today). I've been told it's probably early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome... has anyone had similar problems? I don't want to do permanent damage this early in the season (or my life)!
    Thanks!
    Mary

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by xcroadie
    hello hello
    I am a mountain biker who bought my first road bike about 8 weeks ago. I've been doing at least one long ride (over 100km), plus one or two short rides, a daily commute, and 2 mountain rides per week. I started having problems with my fingers going numb, and it got progressively worse, so both my hands hands would be completely numb, even after my short (17km) commute to work. It's the absolute worst when I do hill repeats and am spending a larger than usual chunk of time standing. Now, I'm having problems with finger numbness on my mountain bike, a problem I never had last season. I bought some gloves with gel in them, and they help a bit... I can stave off the numbness til about 40km and then "shake it out"... but my wrists are really weak and sore all the time, even when I'm not riding (had to readjust my grip to pick up a pop bottle today). I've been told it's probably early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome... has anyone had similar problems? I don't want to do permanent damage this early in the season (or my life)!
    Thanks!
    Mary
    Could be early carpal tunnel syndrome brought about by a recent change in the stress on your wrists and subsequent inflamation in the wrist joint/tendon structure. Classically, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a collection of symptoms brought about by compression of the median nerve in the wrist just below the creases of the wrist at the heel of the palm, will affect the thumb, index, middle, and one half of the fourth finger, the little finger can be involved, but most often is not (you could also stir up Guyon's tunnel syndrome in the wrist and affect a branch of the ulnar nerve giving you symptoms in the fifth finger also however). It is generally a slowly progressive problem, and will often resolve with the first episode brought about by stress on the wrist-such as what you have experienced, or by hammering or other stressful/repetitive activity. People with diabetes are a little more at risk for quicker progression of carpal tunnel syndrome, but it is very unusual for significant nerve problems to develop for a long time (months and usually years) Even if you get to the point where your fingers are numb for several months, the problem can usually be fully resolved with a simple surgery.

    In your situation antiinflammatory medication such as Advil or Aleve is likely to help calm down the inflammation, but you need to diminish the stress on the wrist as well. Keeping you wrist in as neutral a position as possible may help (the least amount of bend one way or another). Other than seeing your hands on the bars it would be hard to suggest other position changes. Padding the bar may help too, and any other changes that may reduce vibration could be helpful also.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome can also come on with other medical problems of serious nature, and if it persists you should check in with your doctor as it might be that there is an underlying problem that a modest increase in wrist stress added to, giving you this problem. It is remotely possible that the problem is in you neck, and the more head back position on the road bike is stirring this up, affecting nerves/spinal cord in the neck. Carpal tunnel syndrome occasionally shows up with a first pregnancy.

  3. #3
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    Hand position and strengthening

    Are you keeping your hands in the same position all the time when on the road bike? If so, this is likely the cause of the problem. The key to hand comfort on the road is to be constantly moving your hands so that they never get numb in the first place. At the first sign of numbness, alternately remove your hands from the bars and hold them behind your back or let them dangle at your side until the numbness subsides. When you put your hand back on the bar, put it someplace else.

    Is the weakness truely that, or is is pain/discomfort that prevents you from fully using your strength. If it is weakness, you might consider some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles. If it is numbness/pain, then you have to address that. Also, recognize that recovery from something like this can be slow, and that once you have the injury/condition, activities that would not have caused a problem when you were healthy can be an issue now that your are injured. Be willing to accept slow recovery - you may get a medical recommendation to completely quit the offending activity to get the fastest recovery, but if you want to keep riding, this is a problem.

    Finally, I had a hand numbness issue that was agravated by long distance riding, but was actually caused by sleeping on my arm. I only realized this when I woke up one night and found my hand asleep. Prior to that, I assumed it was all due to riding.

  4. #4
    hi, I'm Larry
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    It may be seat position

    With a properly positioned seat, very little weight is carried by the arms.

    If the nose of the seat is down and the seat is too far forward it will force a lot of weight into the arms. Then if you ride with locked elbows this can cause a lot of problems in the hands and forearms.

    Have someone hold the bike while you sit on it. Put your hands on the hoods with the elbows slightly bent, then let go. If you feel like your falling forward then the seat is too far forward and/or tilted too far down (should be about level with the ground). Good seat fore aft position is right at the ballance point.

    It could also be as simple as grasping the bars too tightly. Try loosening up on the hands and let the bike kind of float on it's own.

    Last thing, what's your tire pressure? If your running pressures over 120 or so, the ride will be rough and you will get a lot of vibration up through the fork and into the arms. I feel a huge difference in the ride with only a 10 pound change in air pressure.

    Quote Originally Posted by xcroadie
    hello hello
    I am a mountain biker who bought my first road bike about 8 weeks ago. I've been doing at least one long ride (over 100km), plus one or two short rides, a daily commute, and 2 mountain rides per week. I started having problems with my fingers going numb, and it got progressively worse, so both my hands hands would be completely numb, even after my short (17km) commute to work. It's the absolute worst when I do hill repeats and am spending a larger than usual chunk of time standing. Now, I'm having problems with finger numbness on my mountain bike, a problem I never had last season. I bought some gloves with gel in them, and they help a bit... I can stave off the numbness til about 40km and then "shake it out"... but my wrists are really weak and sore all the time, even when I'm not riding (had to readjust my grip to pick up a pop bottle today). I've been told it's probably early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome... has anyone had similar problems? I don't want to do permanent damage this early in the season (or my life)!
    Thanks!
    Mary

  5. #5
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    I definately don't keep my hands in the same place... I rotate around in the hoods, move out of them completely, change the number of fingers I have where, and sometimes move back to the flat part. I almost never ride in my drops, except when decending. When I do start to feel "tingling" in my fingertips, I shake out my hands, which helps, but it always comes back, and progressively faster.
    I usually run 115psi on my road bike.... I'll try softening up a little (to 110 maybe) for this weekend, and maybe playing around with my saddle.
    Thanks for the advice, everyone!

  6. #6
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    I have had the same problem. Recently I moved my seat, it was way off. This changed my reach and has made my numbness problem much better. I also make a conscience effort to watch for the cowering turtle problem with your shoulders shruged up. Also, be light on the grip, move your hands frequently as well.

    I found that all of these have helped greatly. I wasn't changing these to help the numbness, I was just adusting my form and this was the fallout. It might help but might not. By the way, I wouldn't be surprised if I also had CTS, being a software developer, I spend more time on computers and performing other *high risk* activities

  7. #7
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    I experienced the same problem this year for the first time after about 20 years of road riding. I could barely use one of my hands for about 2 weeks and all out of the saddle efforts took all my strength to keep pulling up on the hoods. A slight saddle adjustment in the opposite direction that you would assume, I moved the saddle about 2 cm further back from the bars, and continued riding. I don't know if it was the saddle adjustment or the riding through the pain that corrected the problem, but its gone now.

    The funny thing was that I started my outdoor riding in February this year and the problem did not start until April. Also, I figuered on more comfort this year as I switched from a compact aluminum frame to a compact carbon frame. Whatever, the problem is gone now, I would try to bear with it for a few weeks before any drastic changes or anti inflammatory drugs.

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