Cyclists often suffer from pain, numbness and tingling in their hands and fingers that is the result of the pressure and vibration of grasping the handlebars. The condition can evolve into a feeling of weakness of the hand grip, or clumsiness of the hand in motor functions. This condition is called “Cyclist’s Palsy” or “Handlebar Palsy”.
While many cyclists simply try to “shake it off”, if left untreated the ulnar nerve entrapment can cause atrophy of the hand muscles, as well as permanent paralysis of the hand muscles affected by the ulnar nerve.
The good news is that Cyclist’s Palsy can be effectively prevented. In this article, board certified hand doctor Dr. Rehman offers tips for reducing the possibility of compressing the ulnar nerve while cycling – to help prevent Handlebar Palsy.
Hand Doctor’s Tips to Prevent Handlebar Palsy
Lowering the bicycle seat, as well as shifting the seat backward helps reduce the forward leaning position of the upper body – which results in less transfer of weight onto the arms and hands. A comfortable riding posture also keeps the trunk musculature from getting fatigued and putting more weight on the hands to stabilize themselves.
Using a thicker foam-type handlebar tape creates greater shock absorption, shielding the wrist and nerves from vibration.
Changing hand position frequently, and avoiding riding in the drops can also alleviate harmful pressure on the hands and wrist.
When riding off-road or mountain biking, always adjust the shock absorption levels of the front shocks commensurately with the degree of terrain roughness.
Rotating the brake levers downward can be helpful in reducing the extension of the wrists.
Wearing gloves with padding in the area of the Guyon’s Canal has been demonstrated to reduce the pressure on the ulnar nerve by 10 to 28 percent.
Individual sizing and fitting of the bicycle and handlebar is essential to ensure proper posture and riding position that does not place undue weight or pressure on the hands and writs.
Taking oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and/or applying topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce inflammation.
In some cases – especially those where the nerve compression is related to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome -wrist splinting can help alleviate pain and position the nerve for healing.
In more severe cases a hand doctor might inject a corticosteroid into the area of the Guyon’s Canal or carpal tunnel.
Top Hand Doctor Detroit Area
If you are a cyclist who is suffering from an injury or pain in your fingers, wrist, elbow or arm, contact board certified Detroit area hand surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. As with most medical conditions, early detection, awareness, and a prevention or treatment plan is the most effective way to combat the effects of conditions like Cyclist’s Palsy.
If left untreated Cyclist’s Palsy can cause atrophy of the hand muscles, as well as permanent paralysis of the hand muscles affected by the ulnar nerve.
Doctor Rehman will assess your individual situation, and prescribe the treatments, therapies and prevention strategies that are best for you – so you can enjoy cycling in good health for years to come.