Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling - After long ride my hand strength is weaker
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05-12-07, 06:27 PM
Something kind of strange happen to me last week. I am pretty new to road biking but have been doing a lot of rides the past few months and even did a century a few weeks ago and my hands have been fine. Last week I did my 2nd century and and the weather turned pretty bad with snow/rain and very strong headwinds which took me 8.5 hours of riding time to finish. I pushed myself extremely hard.
That night I noticed that my hand strength was a lot weaker. My hands really didn't hurt but I had a hard time gripping things and then using my hand strength. Doing such things as opening up a jar, or peeling back the wrapper for a piece of string cheese. I figured my hands where just tired and that they would recover pretty quickly. It has now been about a week and even though I have a little more strength, it is not near what it use to be. Like I said, my hands don't hurt at all and feel pretty normal but when I try and use them to do something that requires a little more strength, they don't really hurt, but I just don't have the muscle to do certain things.
You probably have some temporary nerve damage and if nothing more serious is going on your hand strength should gradually come back.
You need some better grips and more hand positions options and possibly better gloves. To help with this problem.
You don't mention what type of handlebars you have and if you used any hand position strategies. If you were riding with flat bars and standard grade grips this is not surprising.
Usually for rides longer than 4 -5 hours this is a common problem which most riders have to find a way to deal with.
One thing that helps with drop bars is to use two layers of thick cushioning bar tape. Also, make sure that you rotate hand positions every ten minutes or so, so blood is not cut off too much in one spot.
Also, some fingerless gloves are not properly made for biking. Good biking gloves have a recess area over the ulnar nerve to relieve pressure on that nerve. If you have been using other kinds of fingerless gloves that may be the problem.
If none of these ideas work and you still have problems you may have to get some aero bars to mount so that you can ride for long periods of time without any pressure on your palms.
The ulnar nerve runs right up the center of the palm and is the usual culprit for this problem.
05-12-07, 08:47 PM
Thanks Hezz! That was a lot of really good information.
My bars are drop bars but I was using light work gloves that I bought at Home Depot that morning because it was so cold. They were not proper biking gloves and it sounds like that was probably the problem. Guess I will buy some good quality full finger bike gloves for cold weather.
thanks for all the tips!
Hezz had some really good information. As he said you need to look into better gloves made for cycling, with pads in the palms to protect the nerves. Also you can use Cinelli Cork tape on the bars to give your hands even more cushioning. And finally keep your hands loose-don't have a death grip on the bars, keep your hands moving more, and raise your handlebar so your not putting so much body weight on your palms therefore putting more weight on your butt which is designed for that!
05-13-07, 09:08 AM
Have someone push down on your hands with your arms extended in front of you.
Resist the downward force while trying to keep your hands extended in front of you.
This is easier to do if you are seated and the person assisting you is standing.
If there is a significant difference between left and right arm strength, the problem is at the neck not the hands.
Higher stem is needed.
Having said that, I would see a doctor if the weakness has been observed for over a week. Also, it may be obvious, but you need to give your body a rest.
Also notice whether you are gripping the bars tightly. You should have a very light grip on the bars, except when on rough surfaces like old road repairs. When the road is smooth not only should you be changing positions but you should also let go with one hand at a time and hold it down and flex your fingers to get the circulation going again.
There's a good chance you were gripping the handlebars harder than usual with all that bad weather.
And ... as you increase your distance, you'll discover that weak hands after a ride becomes pretty normal. After all, you've got three contact points: the balls of your feet, your sitbones, and your hands. It isn't surprising that the hands can take a beating on a ride.
On one 600K brevet I did, which had about 150 kms of very rough road, my hands were mostly paralyzed for about three weeks after. I couldn't pick up anything small or flat off a desktop (like a paperclip or piece of paper), I couldn't open a bottle of pop, and I struggled to open doors. I had to use the heels of my hands or my forearms to turn knobs. It was a tough three weeks!
But I did a lot of stretching with my forearms, wrists, and hands to try to get it back. I practiced picking up paperclips (which would have looked hilarious if anyone had been watching me). I saw my chiropractor (who was well versed in sports med too) who worked on my neck, shoulders, and arms. And gradually I regained the use of my hands.
Hezz has some good points, but I'll also add ...
-- When Machak was first delivered, he had oversized handlebars. One long ride, and a few short rides, with those, and I was back in the shop requesting regular handlebars. The oversized bars put pressure in the wrong places on my hands.
-- I've been debating about using gel inserts under my handlebar tape, but because of my difficulties with oversized bars, I'm hesitant. But that might be an option for you.
-- I've found that raising my handlebars has helped a lot.
-- Definitely experiment with gloves - some are better than others.
-- When you ride, as much as possible avoid rough roads .... I know that can be extremely challenging sometimes!
-- Change your hand positions frequently.
-- Stretch while you ride. One of the stretches that really helps me, is to simply put my hands behind me, so that my arm is in an L shape behind my back. For some reason that move wakes up sleeping hands and generally makes them feel better. Stretch your neck and shoulders while you ride too.
I agree that the ulnar nerve is the likely culprit. But most of the ulnar nerve runs along the medial side of the wrist (the side closest to the pinky,) and along the medial portion of the palm, not up the middle of the palm (that's the median nerve.) The ulnar nerve does cross over to the lateral side, but at that point it's not really vulnerable to compression.
The most likely time to be compressing the ulnar nerve is when you're riding with your hands on the hoods, since the medial & proximal portion of your hand is usually resting on the top of the handlebars. Your gloves probably aren't implicated, unless they're very tight at the wrist (and even then, it's hard to imagine, since the nerve is protected by tendons & the wrist bones at that level.)
This may be a tricky problem to avoid competely on long rides, but try to avoid resting on the medial side of the palm or the medial aspect of the wrist...
If the weakness persists, you'll definitely want to see someone (preferably a neurologist,) to try to specifically localize the problem, which will help in coming up with a strategy for preventing it from getting worse.
05-15-07, 08:06 PM
Raise your bars to one inch higher than the saddle, get better gloves......if that doesn't help, buy a performance recumbent and ride faster.
05-15-07, 11:21 PM
Thanks for the info everybody. My hands are getting better and are almost normal now. I bought some new gloves today and I am trying them out to see if it helps.
07-30-09, 03:18 AM
Thanks for all the information, I have been experiencing the same thing since my ride last Sunday. I went for a long ride, 115 miles around the island of Oahu, and have had weakness in my hands all week. I am going to try, after I let my hands recover, raising my bar some and getting some actual riding gloves.
07-30-09, 05:26 AM
I had this same problem after the Shenandoah 1200 and it gradually went away after a week or so. I still have some numbness in my toes -- that too is gradually going away.
07-30-09, 02:35 PM
I struggled with intermittent riding related hand pain, weakness, and numbness literally for decades... I had to be very careful about what gloves I wore, what bar tape I used, etc.
Then I read THIS POST (http://www.bikeforums.net/showpost.php?p=8950502&postcount=30).
The information in that post enabled me to decipher the clues to what was causing my hand pain, and I'm eternally grateful to DannoXYZ for the information. Since I started paying attention to my hand's pressure points and riding on the "tough zones", no numbness... no pain... and I no longer find that gloves are a necessity. And I love running my bars with beautiful cloth tape and shellac instead of ugly cushiony tape that gets dirty and yucky looking.
I think that most folks will benefit more from improving their technique than improving their gloves. I know that it changed my cycling.
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