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Long rides, fingers go numb... Any suggestions?(13 posts)

Long rides, fingers go numb... Any suggestions?spyderman
Jun 7, 2002 12:43 AM
Onset of carpal tunnel???
Which fingers?Spoke Wrench
Jun 7, 2002 3:34 AM
There are two nerve bundles that lead to the fingers.

The medial nerve passes through the carpal tunnel. If that nerve is impinged, it will affect the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Grandoe makes a glove with a groove in the padding that is designed to prevent pressure on the medial nerve.

A separate nerve, lateral maybe? serves the little finger and ring finger. Specialized Body Geometry gloves are designed to address numbness in that part of the hand.

I know of no absolute solution. Certainly, neither glove is 100% effective. Some other things you can try are raising your handlebars to reduce the pressure on your hands and using heavily padded handlebar tape. What seems to work best for me is moving my hands around so the pressure is in different areas.
Index, middle, then thumb.spyderman
Jun 7, 2002 1:03 PM
and sometimes ring.

When it gets bad I start flexing and it goes away. Makes me feel like John Kruk in the batters box...

re: Long rides, fingers go numb... Any suggestions?tarwheel
Jun 7, 2002 3:54 AM
I've had long-running problems with numbness in my hands. For me, the only quick solution was to raise my handlebars, which helped immediately. A shorter stem might also help. More long term, it helps to exercise your stomach and back muscles, which support your upper body when riding and can help keep some of the pressure off your hands. I notice that when I get lazy and don't go by the gym in a while, and don't do any ab/back excercises, my hands start to bother me more. Another thing that works for some people is to adjust their saddles so the nose is very slight elevated (or level if you tend to ride with the nose lower), which shifts your weight balance more toward the rear and off your hands. I also have rewrapped my handlebars with an extra strip of cork tape along the top of the handlebar and in the drops, which cuts down on vibration. Finally, although my numbness problem is in my little and ring fingers, the Specialized BGgloves don't seem to help much. I've had much better success with the Pearl Izumi Gel-Lite gloves.
position on bike, saddle, etc.?...JS Haiku Shop
Jun 7, 2002 4:21 AM
sounds like you might need more on the butt and less on the hands...? it's glove-independent for me, but not bike-independent. so, sounds like bike fit and/or position...
seen a lot of thislonefrontranger
Jun 7, 2002 4:31 AM
Late in a race, I often see riders "shaking out" their hands to ward off numbness. If the glove angle the other poster mentioned doesn't help, then maybe look at the problem from a whole different angle: do you have a lot of knots / tension in your shoulders? If so, then your problem doesn't originate in your wrists, and it's worth the money to hie thee to a good *sports* massage therapist. And by sports massage I mean someone strong enough to do you good, and experienced with athletes enough not to hurt you, not the touchy-feely New Age types who work on rich ladies at spas.

I work at a desk job involving a lot of keyboard time (secretary) and had wicked CT problems years ago, to the point where I couldn't ride much more than an hour without my hands tingling, going numb, etc... I also had trouble with waking up with numb hands/arms in the morning.

Carpal tunnel is oftentimes merely a symptom of a larger problem that originates in having "blocked" or tight muscles impeding the major nerve bundle that originates under your shoulder blades, runs over your funnybone and into the carpal tunnel in the wrist. You feel the resulting inflammation / irritation in your wrists from the tight shoulder muscles pulling on the entire nerve branch all the way down your arm. Complicating matters is that many of us with desk jobs tend to hunch our shoulders forward, which over time puts you extremely out of balance muscularly. Sitting in this static position "shortens" and stiffens the scalines (collarbone muscles in front), and causes the shoulder muscles in back to lengthen, weaken, and constantly be under stress and full of knots.

It may not be a "magic bullet" for everyone, but I know that in my own case I'd gotten to the point where I had the classic "curled fingers" of severe CT. I was actually facing surgery at one point before I became sponsored by a LMT at the team I raced with. Just 2 sessions with the massage guy caused a huge improvement, to the point where I could completely straighten my fingers, and had no pain or numbness, trouble sleeping, tingling/numb hands when cycling, etc...

With a regular course of massage therapy (I go at least once a month), I've not had CT problems in well over 5 years.

If you're not finding relief from other solutions, I'd say getting a couple half-hour blocks of massage therapy is worth a try anyway, because it feels good and won't do any harm. You should expect to pay anywhere from $20-40 for a half-hour's work from a good qualified sports massage type. To me that's cheaper than suffering anyhow.
re: Long rides, fingers go numb... Any suggestions?Dave Hickey
Jun 7, 2002 4:34 AM
Bend your arm all the way so your fingers touch your shoulders. Do this a couple of times. Bending your arm pumps blood into your fingers. It works great for me.
Also try "butterfly fingers" and other techniquesTig
Jun 7, 2002 6:48 AM
With your hands resting on the top bar, you can relieve some types of numbness by fluttering your fingers on one hand at a time. The other hand can hold the bar firmly for safety while you flutter your fingers almost like playing a piano. Speaking of firmly, make sure you don't have a death grip on the bar. As long as both thumbs are wrapped around the bar, even a sudden pothole won't dislodge them.

Also move your hands to several different positions on the bar throughout a ride. I see most people holding only the hoods. Try scooting your hands back a little to the curved part of the bar.

A strong lower back (requires strengthened abdominal's) will also take pressure off of your hands and arms. Try this test. Ride in your normal, comfortable position with your hands on the top bar. Now slowly lift your hands off the bar without changing the angle of your body position. The hands can lightly rest on the bars for safety, but don't apply any weight to them. Can you hold this position at all? for a few seconds? for 10-15+ seconds? If not at all, you may need to strengthen your lower back/abdominal's, and/or raise your stem a little.

Straight, locked elbows are also a sign of too much weight on your hands or a too low bar height that doesn't suit your body.
Sports massage therapist concursp chop
Jun 7, 2002 7:33 AM
...with the advice about fluttering the fingers every so often, and also about the shoulder involvement (range of motion during rides and good stretching off the bike). Also: important to avoid resting the arms forward or down on bent wrists, with the hands bent back... a major way to cause all kinds of tension in bad places.

The LMT over here is my wife, who works on pro athletes. (She also works on some rich ladies in spas, but true enough: seek a sports massage therapist. Try for area referrals; you might have to call them with your query.)
She continues:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by fluid pressure accumulating in the tendon sheaths around the median nerve as it passes through the wrist. The hand and finger range of motion exercise (fluttering) helps to mobilize fluid and relieve pressure. Massage also helps, and some massage therapists are trained specifically in this area. Ask about it when seeking one.

The median nerve has a branch to the thumb that lies in the pad at the base of the thumb in the hand, that is also vulnerable to impingement with pressure.

The pinky-side nerve into the hand is the ulnar nerve; further up the arm, this is the one that gets hit when you hit your funny bone. Compression on it gives tingling in the two littlest fingers.

The median nerve can be stressed by muscle strain up near the elbow, too, as alluded to in a post above, giving carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms but with a different origin.

Hope this helps!
Sports massage therapist concursJoe Nordic
Jun 7, 2002 11:48 AM
"The median nerve has a branch to the thumb that lies in the pad at the base of the thumb in the hand, that is also vulnerable to impingement with pressure."

That is exactly the problem I have when I ride - never
happens at any other time. And only in my right hand.
Gel gloves have helped some.
Are you saying that massage can help? Anything else?
Sports massage therapist concursp chop
Jun 7, 2002 6:30 PM
Massage could probably help if you do it to your own hand while riding, but keeping the impingement off the nerve is the immediate problem, I think. I had the same problem with the pinky side of the hand while doing a coast-to-coast on a flat bar with bar-ends. I wrapped those bar-ends with cork, changed positions constantly, but with eights hours a day on the bike I just suffered. Every night my fingers felt electric shocks in the shower (or wherever if there wasn't one). When I switched to a road bike, I started having the same problem on the thumb side, until I lowered my seat and it almost completely went away.

One other thing I thought of trying was skooching the brake levers to change the shape of where my hands rested where they meet the bar. Maybe that would be an idea for you. What's your bar setup?

Sports massage therapist concursJoe Nordic
Jun 8, 2002 1:55 AM
I have ITM Europa bars and Campy levers. I have the
bar rotated upward so that the hoods are a little
above level. I have tried rotating a bit higher and it
did not seem to help ease hand pressure. I went from a
10cm stem to an 8cm, and raised the bars to level with
the saddle, and that feels better than before.
Great tips everyone... Many thanks!spyderman
Jun 7, 2002 1:13 PM
I'm gonna try them all until it goes away.

Time to hit the road!!!