Have you ever felt numbness, tingling or weakness in your hands when you have been riding your bike? This common condition is an irritation of the Ulnar nerve and is called Handlebar Palsy, when it effects the Median nerve is actually Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. These nerves supply the fingers of your hand with sensation, and the muscles of the fingers and hand with strength. Overuse from biking by using the same hand position over time, vibration from the road transmitted to the hand, and improper bike fitting, can cause a irritation or pinching of the Ulnar and Median nerves due to the compressive forces on them. Either of these conditions affects Triathlete’s due to the amount of time spent on the bike training. These conditions are worse in persons who spend time on computers, or work with power tools, due to underlying forearm and hand muscle overuse. In the beginning stages the tingling or numbness goes away when you change hand positions. Later stages of nerve inflammation and irritation can cause severe pain, and weakness of the fingers that is not relieved after changing the position of your hands, and can actually be so severe that you might not be able to bike for extended periods of time.
People who suffer from this condition need to switch hand positions every 15 minutes on the bike, or try to weight different parts of the hands. Padded gloves or padding on your handlebars can also help relieve pressure on the hands. Stretches of the Ulnar and Median nerves should be done daily to relieve tightness in the muscles of the forearm and hand. Exercises can be used to strengthen the flexors and extensors of the wrist, hand, and fingers. ask toolbar . If the problem persists some form of manual therapy like deep tissue massage, Active Release Techniques®, or Graston Technique® to help break up scar tissue that forms in and around the affected muscles of the forearm and hand.
If you are think you are experiencing symptoms like handlebar palsy that do not go away you should see a sports medicine professional, or a neurologist to get a proper examination of your neck, shoulder, arm, and hand to get an accurate diagnosis. When properly diagnosed a course of treatment can be prescribed and the recovery time is normally 2-4 weeks. As mentioned above, failure to treat this condition, or continued overuse can cause further injury. This could lead to a longer recovery time, decreased training time on, and possibly off the bike.
Dr. David Ness is a certified sports chiropractor practicing in New Paltz, N.Y. Dr. Ness is the official chiropractor and Active Release Techniques provider for the Vassar College Athletic Dept. Dr. Ness has worked at the Lake Placid Ironman event as part of the ART treatment team since 2004. Dr. Ness has been the ART provider for the Hudson Valley Tri Club since 2005 years providing free ART care after club races. Dr. Ness also provides treatment at NYTC races around the NY metro area, and continues to work as part of the SOS Triathlon post-race care team, and at American Zofingen Ultra Duathlon.