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Hand Problems from Cycling - de Quervain's Tensosynovitis and Cyclist's Palsy Syndrome

Updated on December 29, 2012
CyclingFitness profile image

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.

Paris- Roubaix. Responsible for hand problems?

Many Professional Cyclists have finished Paris Roubaix and complained of a buzzing effect on their hands due to the vibration as the wheel bounces off the cobblestones
Many Professional Cyclists have finished Paris Roubaix and complained of a buzzing effect on their hands due to the vibration as the wheel bounces off the cobblestones

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 since the sport and leisure activity began. Ulnar nerve compression from cycling produces both sensatory symptoms and muscular weaknesses that lead to decreased comfort. This nerve compression is often referred to as Cyclists Palsy.

Ulnar Nerve lesions are the most popular handlebar contact related compression syndrome found in cyclists and the most common overuse problem is de Quevains tensosynovitis which affects the tendons of the thumb as a result of it wrapping around the bike' handlebars leading to numbness.

Having issues with your hands from bicycling?

de Quervain's tensosynovitis affecrs the thumb tendons
de Quervain's tensosynovitis affecrs the thumb tendons

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 de Quervain's Tensosynovitis while cycling

Management of Cycling Palsy

To take pressure off the medial side of the hand you can;

  • 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 moire comfortable over long rides
  • Add a second layer of handlebar tape if you are on a road bike
  • Mountain Bikers/ Leisure Bikers can change their handlebar grips for a different type
  • Invest in some cycling mitts/ long finger gloves which have a separate pad to protect the medial side of the hand. Specialized have their own 'Body Concept' Gloves which have an ulnar nerve area protector.
  • Suspension forks are an ideal investment for mountain bikers to reduce vibration.

Purchasing some of the below if you don't already have them will make life on the bike more comfortable.

Products to help avoid Cyclist's Palsy and discomfort

Avenir Comfy Gel Cycling Gloves
Avenir Comfy Gel Cycling Gloves
Ulnar protection for a more comfortable long distance cycling experience

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 to the nerves as an extreme last resort.

Cycling can put pressure on your hands

Cycling in the Mountains of County Mayo can be hard on the hands and body
Cycling in the Mountains of County Mayo can be hard on the hands and body

Photo Credits

Hands on Cycle Handlebars from Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious' on Flickr

Paris Roubaix Jack999 on Flickr

Cycling in County Mayo from sludgegulper on Flickr


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    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      8 years ago from Nottingham UK

      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

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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!

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      9 years ago from Nottingham UK

      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 profile image


      9 years ago from Cambridge, UK

      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.


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