Fix hand problems fast

You’ve got enough to worry about when you’re out on your bike without stressing about sore hands, so next time your hands hurt, follow this advice to prevent painful paws from ruining your ride…

Cyclist’s palsy

This is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve as it runs through the wrist and into the hand. A squashed or stretched ulnar nerve causes numbness or tingling in the ring and little finger, hand weakness or a combination of both. This can be caused by riding with the wrist over-extended or by pressure on the heel of the hand on the little finger side – usually when riding on the drops. Prevention involves a good bike fit, keeping the wrists straight and well-padded gloves. Treatment includes rest, stretches and anti-inflammatories.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Similar to cyclist’s palsy, but this involves the median nerve. This supplies the thumb, index and middle finger, so symptoms affect those digits instead. The median nerve runs in the gap between the two bumps at the base of the palm. This area can be compressed when riding on the tops for long periods, again with an over-extended wrist. Prevention again involves assessing bike fit – particularly avoiding too much weight on the hands (bar too low, saddle too high or angled downwards). Prolonged symptoms should be assessed by a doctor to rule out other causes.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

This causes pain, tenderness and swelling of the wrist around the base of the thumb. The tendons that move the thumb run in a protective sheath. In De Quervain’s this sheath becomes inflamed and thickened, making movements of the thumb painful and affecting grip. Repetitive movements of the thumb generally cause it (smartphone use has been implicated), but cycling can also be a trigger. Prolonged gripping can put strain on the tendons, so riding with a relaxed hand position can help and bike fit is important in this. Treatment may need a special thumb splint, so medical assessment is advisable.

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