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Wrist Problems From Cycling | Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on April 17, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer who ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Don't let cycling wrist pain ruin your riding experience
Don't let cycling wrist pain ruin your riding experience | Source

A Guide To Cycling Related Wrist Pain

If you're riding your bike regularly there's a chance that you might experience wrist numbness or pain during or after a ride at some point in your cycling life. You might have experienced tingling, or a pain in your arms, hands, wrists, or maybe even your little finger?

Poor posture and bad bike fit can have a deep impact on your cycling enjoyment. This article looks at some of the wrist problems experienced by cyclists as well as suggestions to reduce future pain for trouble free riding.

Keep reading for less pain, numbness and a more comfortable experience whether you're due to right the Paris- Roubaix Cyclosportive over the cobbles or simply want a trouble free commute to work.

Compression Syndromes And Overuse Conditions From Cycling

There are two distinct forms of wrist problems which can lead to pain while cycling. i) compression syndromes and ii) overuse conditions.

The most popular compression problem from cycling is ulnar nerve lesions and the most popular overuse problem from cycling is de Quervain's tenosynovitis which is a condition affecting the tendons of the thumb.

Ulnar nerve compression has been a problem since cycling began so sufferers are definitely not alone. It is also known as cyclist's palsy.

Ulnar Nerve Compression And Cycling

Compression of the ulnar nerve, (Or ulnar nerve entrapment) is a commonly reported problem within cyclists and can often be broken down into two areas.

  1. Compression secondary to lesions such as the ganglia
  2. Compression secondary to trauma such as hand lacerations, fractures of the carpal bone or direct trauma such as the impact of a fall.

Ulnar Nerve Compression In Action

Ulnar nerve compression from cycling is more prominent whilst riding on the drops
Ulnar nerve compression from cycling is more prominent whilst riding on the drops | Source

Ulnar Compression- Guyon's Canal Syndrome

Guyon's canal syndrome (or Guyon's tunnel syndrome) is a common form of nerve compression for cyclists affecting the ulnar nerve as it passes through Guyon's canal. It is particularly popular from riding on the dropped section of a road bike handlebars as well as in office workers who place pressure from repetitive compression against a work desk.

Guyon's canal syndrome symptoms involve pins and needles and potential decreased sensation in a cyclist's little finger and ring fingers.

Cycling Can Cause Wrist Pain- Even For The Pro's

Have you ever experienced wrist pain or numbness from cycling? Pictured Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen
Have you ever experienced wrist pain or numbness from cycling? Pictured Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen | Source

The Cyclist's Palsy- Causes And Treatment

Inflammation of the ulnar nerve from cycling is known as cyclist's handlebar palsy.

Causes Of Handlebar Palsy

There are a number of factors which can be responsible for causing handlebar palsy

  • Excess pressure on ulnar nerve due to poor bike fit. An excessively raised saddle can force pronation at the wrists or a downward tilting saddle can force the hands to work excessively pushing the rider back onto the saddle.
  • Road vibrations constantly put stress through the ulnar nerve and can lead to irritation and subsequent inflammation.
  • Stress form poor road surfaces. Regular riding on rough surfaces can put shock forces consistently through the wrists and lead to ulnar neuropathy.
  • Failure to protect the wrist by wearing cycling gloves or mitts. A set of gloves with ulnar protectors help to provide protection from the long term effects of the above factors.

Cycling Gloves With Built-In Ulnar Nerve Protectors

Giro Bravo Cycling Glove
Giro Bravo Cycling Glove

Giro's Bravo cycling glove is anatomically designed with a specific ulnar protector to relieve pressure on the nerves whilst riding in summer.


Where De Quervain's Tenosynovitis Affects

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis affects the area between thumb and forearm (as starred)
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis affects the area between thumb and forearm (as starred) | Source

Overuse Problems- de Quervain's Tenosynovitis And Cycling

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis commonly causes wrist pain in cyclists between the thumb and forearm area on the medial side of the wrist. It affects two tendons within the wrist. The abductor pollicis longus (APL) and the extensor pollicis brevis (EPB). These tendons are connected to muscles on the back of the forearm and pass through a tunnel (The Thenar Snuffbox/ Retinaculum) which helps to hold the tendons in place.

The tendons pass through synovial sheaths which provide a degree of lubrication for the tendons to function easily. This sheath is often know as the tenosynovium and therefore it's subsequent inflammation is known astenosynovitis.

de Quervain's Tenosynovitis results from repeated performance of actions within the hand can lead to inflammation of the tenosynovitis. Other risk factors include arthritis and scar tissue from previous injuries which can restrict the flow of the tendons through the tenosynovium tunnel.

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Have Your Say On Cycling Wrist Pain

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Thank you for reading

Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness)


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    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

      Very interesting! I was not aware of gloves that had built in ulnar nerve protectors! Thank you for a well composed hub on cycling wrist problems!