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Thread: Numb fingers

  1. #1
    n00b
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    Numb fingers

    I just started riding a few weeks ago. In that time, I've started to notice that periodically my left hand loses some feeling and/or feels tingly in my left ring and pinky finger. Sometimes I also get some shooting pain up the arm. This is not while I'm on the bike, this is after. I am right handed, so I would think if it's a RSI problem related to typing/computers (I'm in IT), that it would be more in my dominant hand as is the case with a friend of mine.

    I read a little about incorrect hand positioning on the bike causing some symptoms of this nature, does anyone else have a similar problem?

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    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    Cycling gloves are recommended. Also move your hands to different positions frequently. Beginning cyclists also often hold the handle bar with too tight a grip. Loosen the grip but keep a thumb hooked under the bar to prevent having your hand thrown off the bar on hitting a bump.
    Just Peddlin' Around

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    Quote Originally Posted by webist
    Cycling gloves are recommended. Also move your hands to different positions frequently. Beginning cyclists also often hold the handle bar with too tight a grip. Loosen the grip but keep a thumb hooked under the bar to prevent having your hand thrown off the bar on hitting a bump.
    I have gloves, but I'll pay attention to the grip next time I ride.

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceberg
    I just started riding a few weeks ago. In that time, I've started to notice that periodically my left hand loses some feeling and/or feels tingly in my left ring and pinky finger. Sometimes I also get some shooting pain up the arm. This is not while I'm on the bike, this is after. I am right handed, so I would think if it's a RSI problem related to typing/computers (I'm in IT), that it would be more in my dominant hand as is the case with a friend of mine.

    I read a little about incorrect hand positioning on the bike causing some symptoms of this nature, does anyone else have a similar problem?
    You are cutting off circulation to the ulnar nerve in your palm. This is sometimes called cyclist palsy and can be common. When I do touring, I usually end up with several fingers on my hands that become numb. Sometimes the numbness (pin and needles sensation) lasts for several weeks. As noted in another post, change your hand position and get gloves. This past summer I got a set of Aztec pads which felt real funny but it was the first time I've ever done 3 weeks worth of touring and didn't come back with numb fingers.
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  5. #5
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    I've had problems with numb fingers before. After my first off-road century, my left hand was numb for about three months. It slowly went back to normal, finger by finger.

    I tried gloves but I don't use them anymore (except for warmth in cold weather). Many swear by them, so they might help you.

    The number one thing that helped me was raising the handlebar height to reduce my "reach." I hadn't really noticed before, but I'd been riding with my arms completely extended. Not good. Depending on your bike, this may require a new stem. Visit your local bike shop for help with adjusting your bike to fit you properly. It will make a huge difference in performance and comfort. While you're at it, also adjust the angle of your brake and shifter levers (if applicable) for maximum ergonomic goodness. Again, ask the smart folks at the LBS.

    Losing the "death grip" also helped me, as did learning to support my weight more with my legs and stomach than with my hands. Both techniques take practice. I had to ride one-handed for a few weeks after an accident; that's when I really got the hang of supporting myself with legs and abs.

    If you're riding more than a few miles, you might try my system of "rolling breaks." After about mile 15 or 20, each mile or so after that I take one hand off the bar for about ten seconds to let it rest, and then I do the other hand. Then I stand up on the pedals and coast for ten seconds to give my butt a break, too. I have no idea if this is frowned upon in serious cycling circles, but I don't care much, either.

    Since I started doing those things, I haven't had any more problems. Good luck!
    Last edited by budster; 11-07-05 at 05:38 PM. Reason: imprecision
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    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Relax your grip on the bars, change hand positions from time-to-time, and make sure that your riding position is not putting too much of your weight on your arms. Gloves may help, but I have found that the padding in too many of them make things worse. I prefer un-padded gloves, but that's just me, your mileage may vary.
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    Senior Member Nubie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    You are cutting off circulation to the ulnar nerve in your palm.

    Ahem. Sorry to be obnoxious, but it has to do with compression of the ulnar nerve, not the circulation. When your wrist is flexed upwards for a long period of time, the ulnar nerve (which travels from your armpit, around your elbow, through a fascial sheath in your wrist) get compressed. Then you get tingling in your pinky and the lateral half of your 4th digit, because this is the sensory area that the ulner nerve innervates. If you are very aware, you will notice that the medial half of your 4th finger is not numb, just the lateral (outside) half.

    When you bang your elbow on something and get tingling/numbness in your arm/hand, that's the ulnar nerve you're banging (your "funny bone"). This is different from carpal tunnel syndrome, in which your median nerve (which also runs through the wrist) is affected.

    Glad all those years of med school were good for something! My anatomy professors would be proud...
    Last edited by Nubie; 11-07-05 at 10:44 PM.

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    Senior Member CAAD5AL's Avatar
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    Probably going to get slammed for this, but when you're first on a bike, or back on after an extended period off, your hands, neck/shoulders and butt all tend to hurt or go numb for the first few weeks anyway. Log a few hundred miles before you go crazy trying to find the source. (obviously, keep things moving around and be smart about it - not recommending you ignore severe pain or numbness, just the nuisance variety).

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    Quote Originally Posted by CAAD5AL
    Probably going to get slammed for this, but when you're first on a bike, or back on after an extended period off, your hands, neck/shoulders and butt all tend to hurt or go numb for the first few weeks anyway. Log a few hundred miles before you go crazy trying to find the source. (obviously, keep things moving around and be smart about it - not recommending you ignore severe pain or numbness, just the nuisance variety).
    i agree, even though people say their bike is comfortable its all relative. its never going to be as comfortable as your couch. after a year of a lot of riding my pinkey fingers still tingle though not as bad as when i was first breaking myself in.

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    Thanks to all for the replies. I will try the advice prescribed here and report back after a few weeks. I brought it up mainly because numbness in my fingers/hands has been an issue for me in the past in my dominant hand, and in my profession repetitive stress injuries are common. I also have a few other orthopaedic problems, so I was getting a little worried.

    Thanks again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubie View Post
    Ahem. Sorry to be obnoxious, but it has to do with compression of the ulnar nerve, not the circulation.
    Well doc, you were more obnoxious than informative. (typical of a new doctor, in my experience... When I was being treated for cancer, the residents always said "Hi, I'm DOCTOR so-and-so" and then gave me a long lecture. The professors at this teaching hospital would just introduce themselves as "Hi, my name is jane.")

    Anyway, I'm not a doctor, but I am an experamentalist. (physics, as it happens)

    I've found I get quick temporary relief of tingling by raising my arm over my head and wiggling the fingers. Sometimes I can even feel cool and presumably stale blood draining back into my chest when I do this. I've also found that undoing the velcro on my gloves helps. Most recently I found that loosening the sleeve elastic on my jersey, by stretching it over a bleach bottle for a few days helped a lot.

    Clearly circulation plays some roll. Tell me doc, what is the mechanism by which compressing the nerve causes numbness and tingling? Isn't it just cutting off circulation at a local level?

    I can make my whole arm go numb if I fall asleep in a funny position. Isn't that a circulation issue? How is that different from the hand numbness we're discussing?

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    Senior Member JMT114's Avatar
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    Why did you dig up a 2 1/2 year old thread to call someone obnoxious?
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    Ok, guys answer this question, I have numb on my both(left and right) small toes. what should i do?

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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Relax your grip on the bars, change hand positions from time-to-time, and make sure that your riding position is not putting too much of your weight on your arms. Gloves may help, but I have found that the padding in too many of them make things worse. I prefer un-padded gloves, but that's just me, your mileage may vary.

    I came to the same conclusion after double wrapping my bars & getting thick gel-padded gloves and still had hand numbness.

    Even with all that padding, my death grip on the bars combined with putting too much weight on my hands/arms during long rides was causing numbness.

    I eased up on my grip, got thinner gloves & worked on core strength. No more numbness.
    "...devil take the hindmost..."

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    Senior Member JMT114's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vad1819 View Post
    Ok, guys answer this question, I have numb on my both(left and right) small toes. what should i do?
    Shoes could be too tight. Perhaps you should try to reposition your cleats.
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    superArti artifice's Avatar
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    I posted a similar thred yesterday. My numbness is in my left index finger, though: http://bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=408220

    Last night I was carrying some laundry on hangers over my hand from my thumb to forefinger, and instantly got a zinger of numbness up through my index finger. The nerve I'm pinching is apparenty right there, and has nothing to do with my palm.... I imagine its the left versus the right because I'm not moving it as frequently to shift.

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    This is best you can do for hand/finger numbness - GET YOUR BIKE FITTED CORRECTLY(which is usually a major factor of this problem), get good shock absorbing bar tape, ease up on your grip, change positions regularly, and do not use big padded gloves. They have the same effect as a big padded seat - too much pressure over too much surface area.

    If you are getting radiculopathy into your upper extremities at any other time besides riding you have something else impinging on the nerve and you need to get that corrected before attemping to fix external things which are making it worse (your bike).

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    Senior Member JMT114's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DasProfezzional View Post
    My guess is that the search was used, this thread was started in 2005.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceberg View Post
    I just started riding a few weeks ago. In that time, I've started to notice that periodically my left hand loses some feeling and/or feels tingly in my left ring and pinky finger. Sometimes I also get some shooting pain up the arm. This is not while I'm on the bike, this is after. I am right handed, so I would think if it's a RSI problem related to typing/computers (I'm in IT), that it would be more in my dominant hand as is the case with a friend of mine.

    I read a little about incorrect hand positioning on the bike causing some symptoms of this nature, does anyone else have a similar problem?
    As a veteran of carpal tunnel, your symptoms match it perfectly (ring and pinky numbness). It's not just typing that can cause it - road vibration can exacerbate the problem also. I had some symptoms on my longest ride last spring (on my old steel Trek), and decided to try the Bontrager Buzz-Kill bar end plugs (available at a Trek dealer for $10-20). That did the trick for me.

    Of course, you should check your riding position, to make sure you don't have too much weight on your hands.

  21. #21
    Senior Member calves2997's Avatar
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    Its not the ulnar nerve, which runs in the lateral part of the hand, but actually the median nerve which is superficial at the wrist and hand. Its pressure at the flexor retinaculum that this nerve exits in the forearm that causes carpal tunnel syndrome, and more distal pressure in the hand that causes cyclist's palsy.

    is the nerve which causes
    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    You are cutting off circulation to the ulnar nerve in your palm. This is sometimes called cyclist palsy and can be common. When I do touring, I usually end up with several fingers on my hands that become numb. Sometimes the numbness (pin and needles sensation) lasts for several weeks. As noted in another post, change your hand position and get gloves. This past summer I got a set of Aztec pads which felt real funny but it was the first time I've ever done 3 weeks worth of touring and didn't come back with numb fingers.

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    It could also be a bike fit issue. I had the same problem when I first started riding. After raising my seat and moving it forward the numbness disappeared.

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