Overuse injuries that occur among cyclists include wrist injuries that are often overlooked. In reality, most cases of overuse injuries due to bicycling involve the wrists or hands. Since millions of individuals engage in cycling, many have reported hands and wrist injuries. The most common wrist injuries that occur among cyclists include carpal tunnel syndrome and handlebar palsy that both cause wrist pain.
What is handlebar palsy?
Handlebar palsy or ulnar neuropathy is quite common among individuals who engage in cycling. This condition is triggered by the compression of the ulnar nerve at the wrist and hand. This is due to the direct pressure placed on the nerve by the grip on the handlebars.
The ulnar nerve is responsible for controlling the sensation in the ring and little finger as well as most of the muscular function in the hand. The symptoms of this condition typically include tingling and numbness in the ring and little fingers along with hand weakness. This condition can last for several days up to several months to fully resolve depending on the severity. In most cases, the condition is managed with rest, stretching and anti-inflammatory medications.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is considered less common than the handlebar palsy among cyclists. This condition is generally triggered by holding onto the upper part of the handlebars and applying pressure on the median nerve. This nerve travels from the forearm up to the palm of the hand and controls the sensation on the palm side of the fingers and thumb with an exception on the little finger.
Always bear in mind that carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling or numbness in the index, thumb, ring and middle fingers along with weakness in the hand. In addition, this condition typically resolves on its own with adequate rest.
Stretching and proper form
It is important to note that both carpal tunnel syndrome and handlebar palsy can be prevented with proper stretching of the hands and wrists before a ride. Regular stretching of the wrist and forearms via weight training can help develop the wrist joint and neighboring muscles to prevent injury.
The individual should change hand positions during rides to help prevent wrist pain. It is recommended to shift the weight in the hands from the middle of the palms to the exterior of the hands as often as possible during a ride to minimize constant pressure on the nerves. In addition, always keep the elbows slightly bent to help absorb shock and do not allow the wrists to drop below the level of the handlebars.
The handlebars should be properly adjusted as well as the pedals and seat to suit the body and allow being seated in an upright position. By sitting upright, it helps take away weight and pressure off the wrists and hands. It is also recommended to use padded gloves to minimize shock and jolts to the body that travels into the wrist joints from the terrain that can trigger pain.