Cycling and wrist discomfort

Matthew mentioned in a comment that his fingers go numb while cycling. There are a couple of things that can cause wrist, hand and finger discomfort while cycling.

  • Wrist pronation. Stand up with your arms hanging down the sides of your body. Your hands are probably more or less flat against your thighs. Now bend your elbows so your forearms are parallel to the ground. The ‘natural’ position of your hands is still perpendicular to the ground. To grasp a typical horizontal mountain bike riser handlebar, you must rotate your hands in about 90 degrees.

    This wrist pronation can decrease circulation in the forearm and wrist and put pressure on some sensitive nerves and tendons. To avoid pain, it’s important to move your hands around. This is why I favor handlebars with multiple hand positions such as drop bars and bullhorn bars; for long distance cycling these types of bars are essential. Various bar ends or extenders can be attached to horizontal riser handlebars to give you the additional hand positions you need to avoid discomfort.

  • Nerve pressure. Another common cause of hand pain and numbness is pressure on the nerves in your hands. One problem pressure point is the middle of the base of your palm. Padding in gloves or handlebars is key to reducing this problem. Be sure to use quality gloves — some poorly designed gloves that are heavily padded may make the problem worse by increasing the pressure in the middle of your palm.

    Positioning and fit can have a dramatic impact on your palm pressure. Handlebars that are too low, for example, puts more weight on your arms, where are more upright position moves the weight back to your seat and legs. A saddle that is nose down also forces more pressure to your arms and hands, as you must push back to keep yourself from sliding off of the saddle.

    Finally, don’t lock your elbows when you ride, but keep your elbows relaxed so your arms can bend to absorb the shock of riding.

Commute By Bike is not a medical resource. Prevention is the best medicine, but if you suffer from pain or numbness you should see a health professional for evaluation.

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