handlebarsAs fun as bicycling can be, sometimes pain and numbness in the neck and hands get in the way. It is quite common to feel pain while cycling, especially if you are an avid rider. However, ignoring the pain now can cause severe problems down the road, like carpal tunnel, which can be tricky to fix.

What Causes Hand Pain?

The Ulnar nerve runs in the side of your hand to your pinky and ring fingers, and connects to the Median nerve which runs through your wrist and the center of your hand and to your other fingers. Pressure on these nerves is the cause of the tingling and numbness many cyclists feel while riding.

This pressure can happen through a number of reasons, including bending the wrist for an extended period of time (which contributes to carpal tunnel), keeping hands in the same position for too long, gripping too hard on the handles, or simply over using your muscles.

What Can You Do About It?

The good news is that the pain is manageable through a few adjustments and possible added accessories. Keep in mind that if you are feeling pain and tingling outside of cycling, you may have damage that needs to be addressed by a doctor.

Handlebar and Saddle Position

The bike fitting specialists at Bike Dynamics suggest checking the placement of your handlebars and saddle as possible causes of hand pain. If the saddle is too far forward, or bent too far downwards, your hands will have too much pressure placed on them. This pressure will lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers.

Checking handlebar width is also important, as bars that are too wide cause the rider to bend his wrist, which is a great contributor to hand pain. Your bars should be in a position that allows you to keep your wrist comfortably neutral. Likewise, if the handlebars are too far away, this will cause neck and  back pain. Bikefit.com has detailed instructions on how to properly fit a bicycle.

Nerve Protecting Gloves

Nerver protecting gloves work to remove the pressure from the center of your hand, and investing in these may be the thing that solves your hand pain, but be careful when choosing gloves, as some can cause more pain. Don’t settle for generic gloves with no nerve protection, or cheap gloves with improper nerve protection. If the gel in the glove sits on top of the nerve, instead of to the side of it, it is likely going to bring you more pain. Gloves that are heavily padded are usually worse as they put added pressure on the nerves. A glove designed like the Giro Bravo Glove or the Pearl Izumi can significantly reduce pain.

If you don’t want to deal with nerve protecting gloves, you can put some extra padding on your handlebars to cushion your hands, and in fact many people have found success in this.

Riding Position

Art’s Cyclery Blog advises bikers to adjust hand position every two to three miles. If you have straight handlebars, you can attach bar end grips, which give you the option of changing your hand position.

Riding with locked elbows can create strain on your joints and nerves; make sure your elbows are slightly bent and not tense.

Gripping too hard on the handles can cause your fingers to go numb and put pressure on your nerves. Riding relaxed doesn’t mean you can’t ride focused, and sometimes riders must have a firm grip on the handles; just be sure to balance your rides so that you have plenty of time to loosen your grip and relax.

Remember that numbing and tingling of the hands can be an indication of permanent damage if not addressed. The above techniques should be used to remove the pain while riding, but if you begin to experience a recurrence of pain throughout the day, please see a doctor.

Christensen & Hymas specializes in personal injury law. If you have been injured in an accident at the fault of another, please call our office for a free consultation at 801-506-0800.

Photo copy right of Gene Bisbee.