Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist as well as being a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
What Is De Quervain's Tenosynovitis?
Your hands are a key contact point when biking. Compression of the ulnar nerve from cycling has been recognised as a problem associated with cycling ever since the sport and leisure activity began.
Ulnar nerve compression from cycling produces both sensory symptoms and muscular weaknesses that lead to decreased comfort. This nerve compression is often referred to as cyclist's palsy.
Ulnar nerve lesions are the most popular handlebar contact-related compression syndrome found in cyclists. The most common overuse problem is De Quervain's Tenosynovitis, which affects the tendons of the thumb as a result of the thumb wrapping around the bike's handlebars, leading to numbness.
Causes of Cyclist's Palsy
The most common cause of cyclist's palsy is compression of the ulnar nerve as it enters the hand through an area known as the canal of Guyon (yes, it sounds like something from the Lord of The Rings). The canal of Guyon is on the medial side of the wrist (closest to your little finger/ pinky).
The condition is made worse by vibration. Imagine how bad a professional cyclist must feel after over 200 kilometers on the cobbles of Paris - Roubaix causing a jarring and vibration effect.
Many professional cyclists complain of numbness or a buzzing vibration in their hands for some time after the race as a result of the vibration as the wheels bounce off the cobblestones.
Management of Cyclist's Palsy While Cycling
To take pressure off the medial side of the hand you can try the following:
- Adjust your bar position or height to reduce pressure.
- Change to a different style of bars- some road cyclists find that a thicker, wider bar proves to be more comfortable over long rides.
- Add a second layer of handlebar tape if you are on a road bike.
- Mountain bikers and leisure bikers can change their handlebar grips for a different type.
- Invest in some cycling mitts and/or long finger gloves which have a separate pad to protect the medial side of the hand. Specialized gloves can have their own ulnar nerve area protector.
- Suspension forks are an ideal investment for mountain bikers to reduce vibration.
Purchasing gloves like the ones below (if you don't already have them) will make life on the bike more comfortable.
Medical Management of Cyclist's Palsy
Cyclist's Palsy can be treated with NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory devices) or through cortisone injects which may be required in severe resistant cases.
Surgery may be required for the nerves as an extreme last resort.
Try These Gloves to Avoid Cyclist's Palsy and Discomfort
- Hands-on Cycle Handlebars from Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious' on Flickr
- Paris Roubaix Jack999 on Flickr
- Cycling in County Mayo from sludgegulper on Flickr
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on May 04, 2012:
Hey Goonz, Thanks for the reply. The pressure can be unbearable at times. I'd recommend getting a professional bike fitting if you possibly can- especially prior to a 24 hour event as you'll end up learning so much about your body in such an event that you never knew and have to really be comfortable.
Thanks for your feedback
Goonz on May 02, 2012:
Hi thanks for this, I have just switched from a mountain bike to a road bike and I experience a lot of numbness in my left hand whilst cycling.
I do occasionally shake it off and it feels normal again for a while but then the pressure builds up again.
Still trying to perfect the fit of the bike so a few adjustments here and there will have to be made. Hoping I can get it right before a 24hr cycle event!
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on September 06, 2011:
Thanks Fumpy, Regularly changing your hand position by putting your hands on the flats can help depending on how you hold the bars. Thanks for your comments CF
Fumpy from Cambridge, UK on September 06, 2011:
Very interseting hub, i just hate the sensation in my hands after a while on my bike. But in my expirience putting your hands on the flat of the bars really relives your hand and wrist area.