Sore Hands & Wrists When Cycling

Cycling, especially for longer distances places a number of stresses on the body - and as we ride, we may experience pain & discomfort in a number of places, caused by a number of different factors, such as saddle height.

One of the biggest issues bringing discomfort to many cyclists is wrist and hand pain when on the bike. This may present itself as pain and discomfort, or tingling and numbness in the hands and wrist. In this post, we look at the causation and the treatment of sore hands & wrists on any type of bike, be that a mountain bike or a road bike - and anything in between.

Handlebar Palsy

One of the biggest causes of hand and wrist pain, has become known and understood as handlebar palsy. This condition is known as Ulnar Neuropathy in the medical field. It can be described as a contact injury caused by the handlebar compressing and irritating the ulnar nerve at the Guyon's Canal - on the little finger side of the wrist. The biggest symptom of handlebar palsy is numbness and tingling, but paralysis of the hand can also be a symptom. Further down the post, we will look into some of the things you can do on the bike, to help prevent handlebar palsy, and prevent any further symptoms if you begin to experience the condition.

Cycling Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Another condition which affects cyclists, is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - which most of us have heard of outside of the world of cycling. It’s caused by pressure on the bar tops or flat bars - and manifests itself with pain and tingling in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. A common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is weakness in the hands.

How to Prevent Wrist & Hand Pain Cycling

Although the above conditions and symptoms are pretty unpleasant, there are many things you can do to both prevent and treat hand and wrist conditions.

One of the biggest reasons for hand and wrist pain is body position on the bike. Although small adjustments can be made in how you sit on the bike - the best way to sort out seating positions and issues is to adjust parts of the bike. Common issues are a saddle which is too high, and bars which are too low. This all cramps up the riding position, putting excess strain and weight on the hands and wrists.

An easy way to help alleviate the symptoms of hand and wrist pain is to relax when riding the bike, many riders have a ‘death grip’ which places unnecessary stress on the hands and wrists. Another great way of reducing wrist pain, is to wear padded cycling gloves - these gloves alleviate pressure on the hands, and reduce pressure on the ulnar nerve in particular, the leading cause of handlebar palsy.

If you prefer, you can place the required padding directly on the bars - using bar tape which protects the hands to a degree, from the vibrations and shocks going through the handlebars. Other than that, move hands around the bars regularly - adopting different positions to prevent staying in one position for too long. Also make sure that brake levers can be reached and used with ease, and that your hands are not over stretching when you pull them in.