Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You're rattling down the bumpy Navajo sandstone on the long descent from the Swiss Cheese
Ridge at Slickrock. Your right hand becomes tingly and numb.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve
provides feeling in the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. It
also works the muscle that rolls your thumb around so it can aim at your fingers. Many
bikers develop temporary carpal tunnel symptoms when riding. These symptoms usually go
away after a few minutes by straightening the wrist out and resting it.
||As the symptoms become chronic, pain sets in. The hand and wrist become
painful. Pain may shoot or radiate up as far as the shoulder.
numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome spares the little finger -- although you might not
notice this unless you touch each finger. The shaded area the area of decreased skin
sensation and tingling.
Change your riding style (and your bike) to minimize pressure and vibration in the wrist.
If you ride with your wrist bent back so a couple of fingers are on the brake lever,
loosen the stem and tip the handle bar down slightly. This makes the wrist straighter
while you ride. To reduce weight on the wrist, raise the stem (if possible) and consider
replacing a straight stem with an upward angled stem -- a couple of inches increased
height of the handlebars makes a big difference in how much pressure you put on your
wrist. Put bar ends on your bike. During long smooth stretches, grasp the bar ends to
change your hand position.
|Evaluate your riding style -- see if you're leaning on your wrists.
Centering your weight more onto the pedals -- less on your butt and wrists -- might help.
And of course, a smooth dual-suspension system helps a lot. So if changes to stem angle,
handlebar angle, and riding technique don't eliminate the problem, go buy a new bike with
cushy shocks front and rear.
Bike rigged to avoid carpal
tunnel symptoms: brakes and shifters properly placed (see our bike
setup page), bar ends (to trade off wrist
position), riser to elevate stem, original stem replaced with 40 degree stem.
If carpal tunnel symptoms persist after the ride, the tightness in the carpal tunnel is a
bigger problem, and must be treated more aggressively. If symptoms become constant,
surgery may be necessary to ease the pressure on the nerve.
Straighten the wrist so the hand is aiming straight out from the forearm. Elevate the
wrist. If symptoms don't go away quickly, begin cold-packing the underside of the wrist
(right at the base of the hand).
If symptoms persist after resting and cold-packing, apply a wrist splint. Wear it for a
few days. Apply cold packs for 1/2 hour every two hours of the day. It's especially
important to wear the splint at night, because many people sleep with their wrists bent
sharply down. (Symptoms of chronic carpal tunnel syndrome usually flare at night.) Take an
anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen 600 mg four times a day.
If numbness, pain, or tingling persist after a few days of rest, splinting, and
cold-packs, see your doctor.
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