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Hand Numbness

I encountered a new problem last year on Ragbrai and still don’t know if there is a simple solution or ??

After day 3 I started to experience numbness in both hands, but more so the left hand.  By the last day I couldn’t change gears using the left hand at all and couldn’t move my fingers very well on either hand – with a lot of numbness in the pads of my hands.

I had a custom fit on my bike and I’m thinking they got it wrong.  I’ve had the levers adjusted so I reach them more easily (I have small hands), but I’m still experiencing numbness after long rides.  I know it’s from too much pressure on the pads of my hands.

Anyone encounter this before?  Is my fit wrong?  If it’s wrong, in which direction?  Height of the handlebars too low or they are too far away from the seat?    

Any suggestions?

27 Replies

Michrider !!!, March 15, 2011 at 5:23 am

RM, check out Sheldon Brown’s info about bike fit.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-sizing.html

#25005

Gypsy Rose, March 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

Racingmom said:  I’m still experiencing numbness after long rides.  I know it’s from too much pressure on the pads of my hands.

Anyone encounter this before?  Is my fit wrong?  If it’s wrong, in which direction?  Height of the handlebars too low or they are too far away from the seat?    

Any suggestions?

Racingmom,

What type of bike? (Road? Hybrid?) What type of bar? (Flat? Dropped?) Are you wearing padded gloves? If you’re riding a road bike with a dropped bar, are you keeping your hands in the same position throughout the ride?

~ Kevin

#25006

indianafrank, March 15, 2011 at 7:42 am

I suspect that you are essentially leaning on your hands when you ride, holding up your body with your arms and hands.
I would suggest you work on improving your core strength. This will allow you to hold your body in the correct position. Your hands would then have less pressure on them, doing little other than steering the bike. I would suggest pushups, not a ladylike thing to do but it should help.
Also, consider exactly where you allow the pressure on your hands, and change your hand position often. I ride in the drops and let the bar touch my hands where the fingers meet the palms.
The entire goal is, reduce the pressure on your hands.

#25007

jwsknk, March 15, 2011 at 7:52 am

Racingmom said:  Anyone encounter this before?  Is my fit wrong?  If it’s wrong, in which direction?  Height of the handlebars too low or they are too far away from the seat?     Any suggestions?

yes I have. could be a taller stem height or a shorter one that a different angle that dosent put the bars so far forward  could help, or maybe it’s not the distance put where the levers are on the bars and how the are adjusted. Using drop bars? are the bottoms of the bars level with the ground ot an angle? for me I had to roll the bars up a little so the top dosen’t drop off as nuch to the hoods and the bottom of the drops are maybe 15 degrees off level, the end of the bar lower. Another tip from the bike shop, use your back more to hold yourself up, not your arms, don’t lock elbows and lhave a relaxed  the grip on the bars.

#25008

benherr, March 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

Excellent suggestions, Guys. Racingmom, have you ever had a fit done on that particular bike. A “fitting” would probably tell you if you need a higher bar, closer – thus shorter stem, adjustment on your seating position, or what. Having a “fit” done speeds up finding the problem. Or you can do like I normally do, try adjusting everything. Finally getting frustrated (because the problem isn’t fixed) and go to my LBS. Good luck.

ben

#25009

IdaGrovian, March 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

You’ll see lots of people on the ride having to flop their hands at their side and shake them to get the feeling back.  You’ll also get lots of advice about adjusting this or that on this forum – some of it probably good, some of it worth exactly what you paid for it. 

You could try all of those things or you could just switch to a recumbent bike, have a very enjoyable week, and not have to worry about  numb hands (or any other numbness ; ) ever again!

#25010

Paul, March 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

+1 for considering a recumbent. – See you on the ride!

#25011

Porter20, March 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

A lot of good advice from the above posters (except the recumbent advice – JK Guys!). 

There is a good chance that you pain may be from bad form.  Many times riders ride with what I refer to as “rigor mortis” where they lock out their elbows & grip the bars so tight; it causes engery sapping muscle tension & ultimately cramping, stiffess & soreness felt in the hands, arms or the shoulders.

As you ride around, make sure your shoulders are relaxed, elbows are bent & hands are holding the bars like you would with a small child across the street – firm enough not to let go but gentle enough not to crush their hands.

Also, as you ride; make sure you change your position.  One way to do this, is start developing different habits for how you ride.  For example, when I hit a hill or am resting; I use one hand position on my bars; for steady riding; I use another position & when I sprint or ride hard; I may use another.  Practice riding in the drops, the hoods & the top bar – if you rotate those positions through your ride; it will help break the lactic acid up & make you more comfortable.

#25012

nwiabikr, March 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Probably Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
 In addition to the above make sure you wear a good pair of padded biking gloves. At night  you may consider wearing a wrist splint that holds the wrist in a neutral position.  Don’t lean on the palms of your hands when you ride.  I’ve had the same problem.

#25013

mclousing, March 16, 2011 at 6:59 am

Get the fit it will help.  Also to narrow down where this is actually coming from, what finger does your numbness start with and affect.  If it is your pinky through the “Your number One finger” you are having some issues with the Ulnar nerve running through your elbow (This is the one I always had the most issues with until I took the advice posted above of getting a bike fit, and using my core strength to keep my hands light on the handlebars).  If it is your indx finger and thumb it is your Carpal Tunnel Nerve.  Again this is fixed by a good fitting.  If it is the Caral Tunnel Nerve I would bet that you are cocking your hand and wrist causing the pinching, easy to see when you look down and don’t see at least a smooth angle between your arm and your fingers.

Just m two cents and what I have had in the past.

#25014

westecdel, March 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I have been riding a long time and started experiencing this problem in my mid 30’s.
The bend of the wrist blocks circulation for me. (My hands will go numb if I sleep on my arms.)  My solution was to install aero (elbow-rest) handlebars so I can rest on my elbows and give my wrists and hands a break. Only caution is the breaks aren’t at your hand anymore if you need to stop on a dime. Hope that helps.

#25015

John L, March 22, 2011 at 3:09 am

Move, move, move on the bike…stand up, sit, one hand then the other. I love the stretch where you put one hand behind the back and lift it gently up the spine toward the shoulder blades (thumb up), then switch it with other hand…feels great on the shoulders (and takes your mind off how bad your hands are hurting!).  My friend was new to riding and he had to learn to move on  a stationary bike and then transfer it to a moving bike. You can also take frequent breaks. Yes fit is critical and once you have the fit, if it still occurs, you just need to spend time getting comfortable moving around on that bike. Good luck…see you in Iowa!

#25016

papawheelie, March 22, 2011 at 10:43 am

All of the above suggestions are good. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of gloves and have found that the main stream offerings (Specialized, TREK, REI) were always no good. Some have LARGE pads that actually bear against nerves and make it worse. The best ones I’ve found were: Louis Garneau (yeah, expensive but worth it) and Castelli. Sometimes the leaner, racing gloves worked better than the over padded ones.

#25017

Racingmom, March 23, 2011 at 3:35 am

What great responses, thank you!

A few answers, for the questions that stuck out in my mind:

Yes, I got a custom fit on my bike.   I’m doing another fit appointment – so I’m printing out the responses and will check the angle of the handle bars very thoroughly.

I need to move my hands around, that’s certain.  I’m not comfortable on the drops (will work on this) and did lock up too much.  Also need to change body position more often, absolutely.  You’re bringing back painful memories, which is good!

Numbness was from the pinky finger in, so not carpal tunnel.

I’m working on my core with a trainer and when I ride I always use gloves with gel padding. 

Are some gloves better than others? 

#25018

Gypsy Rose, March 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

Racingmom said: I need to move my hands around, that’s certain.  I’m not comfortable on the drops (will work on this) and did lock up too much.  Also need to change body position more often, absolutely.

RM,

Whenever I ride a bike with flat bars, no matter what the “fit,” I get numbness in my hands. The problem for me is the limitation on hand positions. With drop bars I have at least five distinctly different positions that I rotate through continuously over the course of a ride. The position I spend most time in is with hands on the hoods (with the pressure focused between the thumb and forefinger). That’s the one that gives me the least trouble. (My hands are most prone to numbing with pressure applied across the palm toward the little finger, as is the case with a flat bar.)

While bike fit is important and can be a factor, I think that riding style, varying hand positions, and good riding gloves are the keys to hand comfort on the bike.

Good luck sorting it out!

~ Kevin

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