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Old 06-19-10, 05:26 PM   #1
danadear
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Numb hands?

I just finished my first mini tour...about 200 miles round trip on my road bike. I learned a lot on this trip. One of the toughest lessons learned was the numb hands problem. We rode about 70 miles on day one and my right hand was completely numb and useless. I couldn't even hold a fork! I've read up on some things to try and help the problem but I'm just wondering what other's have done to combat this issue. Seems you can try to control most things like handling the heat with hydration and scheduling, handling your nutrition and such but once your hands stop working and you can't brake or change gears you're done.
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Old 06-19-10, 05:39 PM   #2
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I had this problem too. Do you frequently remove your hands from the bars and shake them around to get some blood going to them? I found doing that plus changing the position of my hands helped a lot. Try doing it before they start to get numb as a preventive measure.

I was also told that I was holding on to tightly and the way my wrists were bent, it was prohibiting the blood flow.

Another question, is your bike a proper fit? Sometimes the stretching causes you to put to much pressure on your hands, cutting circulation. Also check your gloves, are they a proper fit? Eating a lot of sodium can cause your fingers to swell and the gloves might be to tight to let the blood go back into your hands.

Just some random ideas. Good luck!
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Old 06-19-10, 05:41 PM   #3
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Flat bars? drop bars or something else? Need more info.
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Old 06-19-10, 05:48 PM   #4
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Unless you have another medical issue you haven't discussed, it sounds like a bike fit issue to me. Could be handlebar shape, stem length, stem angle, saddle tilt, top-tube length, etc. Small changes in any of them that put too much pressure on your hands could cause pain and/or numbness.

When I have hand-pain or numbness issues the first thing I check is saddle tilt -- if it's tilted too far forward it puts too much weight on my hands and they get sore, quickly. I usually find that if my saddle "looks good" it usually needs to be tilted up just a little bit.

My checklist would be:


Check the saddle -- raise the bars -- thick handlebar tape -- good padded gloves.

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Old 06-19-10, 06:02 PM   #5
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I used to get numb hands on my MTB. I found it was due to having the saddle adjusted so that it sloped forward too much. Bringing it closer to level ironed that out for me.

There are other things that can cause hand numbness, however.

Gripping the bar too tightly, bars too low, not changing hand positions enough, keeping your elbows locked, maybe even too much pressure in the front tire?
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Old 06-19-10, 06:10 PM   #6
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Hi Danadear,

On one three week tour four years ago both of my hands went numb after only a few days. Actually it was my pinkies and half of the ring fingers that are closest to the pinkie. That is a sure sign, I found out, that it is your ulnar nerve that is being compressed. I couldn't even run silverware to eat. It lasted the whole trip. It took about two months for it to go away. After that I bought better gloves that at least mention ulnar nerves in their advertising. I change hand positions often, and I added aero bars so I can get off of my hands now and then.

Tom
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Old 06-19-10, 06:52 PM   #7
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I used to have terrible problems with hand numbness and tried all sorts of remedies -- thicker handlebar padding, better gloves, moving my hands around a lot. What finally solved the problem, for me, was raising my handlebars. That cured the problem right away. As long as I raise my handlebars about level with the saddle height, I am fine. If I drop the bars more than about 1/2", I start having problems again.
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Old 06-19-10, 08:15 PM   #8
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I've had that problem for many years. I drive a commercial truck and it is annoying, for sure. I have seen doctors about it, and don't want to go through the many weeks needed to heal after surgery, if the surgery is actually successful. Shaking my hands with limp wrists temperarily helps. If that doesn't work, I usually drive with the steering wheel between the first and second fingers from my thumb which relieves the pressure on the ulner nerve. It works equally as well on my handle bars.
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Old 06-19-10, 10:01 PM   #9
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Two things to consider:

1. Make sure your bicycle fits your body, and is properly adjusted. You can try reading up and monkeying around with the configuration of your bike yourself; but don't hesitate to get expert help. Several years ago, I had a fit issue (although not numb hands), and it took the kinesiologist I went to one visit to detect problems and reconfigure my bike.

2. Make sure to vary your hand position often. Every five minutes would not be too often. I switch hand positions every minute or two. If you have flat bars, install bar ends, and use them. If you have drop bars, take full advantage of all the hand positions. And consider getting aero bars. I consider mine indispensable for long distance touring. If your hands need a rest and you still want to ride, aero bars make it possible.
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Old 06-19-10, 10:02 PM   #10
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For years I would always get a numb left hand, but not right. Until a time when I rode without any gloves, and surprisingly never had the problem ever again. I never understood though why it was only one hand that would go numb and not both.
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Old 06-19-10, 11:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomn View Post
Hi Danadear,

On one three week tour four years ago both of my hands went numb after only a few days. Actually it was my pinkies and half of the ring fingers that are closest to the pinkie. That is a sure sign, I found out, that it is your ulnar nerve that is being compressed. I couldn't even run silverware to eat. It lasted the whole trip. It took about two months for it to go away. After that I bought better gloves that at least mention ulnar nerves in their advertising. I change hand positions often, and I added aero bars so I can get off of my hands now and then.

Tom
I had the exact same problem on a California Coast tour a couple of years ago. I hate wearing gloves, seriously hate it, forget about biking, hiking, working, hate wearing gloves, but about 2 months with no feeling in parts of my hands made me a convert to wearing ulnar nerve protecting gloves.
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Old 06-20-10, 04:15 AM   #12
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I'm not sure if anybody has mentioned it, but a major cause of numb hands is a saddle that's angled too low, making you slide forward and put a lot of pressure on your hands and wrists. Apart from that just get thicker bar tape and make sure nothing is pressing against the nerves running through the middle of your wrist.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/pain.html#fingers
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/pain.html#wrists
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Old 06-20-10, 10:03 AM   #13
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Also, since nobody has said it yet... this problem is serious! DO NOT put up with numb hands for long... it will become a permanent problem if you don't deal with it.
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Old 06-20-10, 10:15 AM   #14
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Common cause of numb hands is having too much of your weight (body weight, not total bike weight) on your front tire. In other words, having your weight too far forward. Such issues are bike fit related - saddle type, saddle height, saddle angle, saddle forward/aft placement, etc. Could also be related to the bars in relation to saddle-bar drop.

As others have said, I'd start first with saddle angle. If the angle has you leaning forward, all that weight is ending up on your hands.

Others have also mentioned smart ideas - grip pressure, hand angle on bars - but, I'd start with bike fit issues.
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Old 06-20-10, 12:14 PM   #15
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I had this problem to one degree or another on every bike I had for about 5 years despite constant fiddling with stems and bars and saddles. It was a bike fit issue for me. I have long legs and a short torso, so I always ended up stretched out with too much weight on my hands. Now, I have two bikes that fit perfectly and I never have a problem. In my case I had to go to a custom frame to get the right size. Keep trying till you get it right. When you do, it's a thing of beauty.
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Old 06-20-10, 01:13 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BWF View Post
For years I would always get a numb left hand, but not right. Until a time when I rode without any gloves, and surprisingly never had the problem ever again.
Same here. Once I ditched the gloves my numbness problem disappeared. Every now and then during a long ride I'll still get a hint of numbness at which time I'll get on the aerobars for a few minutes and it's gone.
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Old 06-20-10, 02:21 PM   #17
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Thanks for all the great suggestions. I will be addressing bike fit asap. I still cannot fully grip with either hand after being off the bike for about 48 hours. I hope to get a different bike eventually.
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Old 06-20-10, 02:52 PM   #18
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things will come back to normal, it happened to me a few times when I first started riding a lot and can happen now with straight bars. Moving your hands around frequently is an important solution and the other is strengthening your back muscles so that your weight isn't dead on your hands. Imagine your back like a spring and your arms bent. In the same way your legs go through a range of motion that pumps blood around if your back is dynamically suspended over the bars your weight on the bars isn't dead but springy so the pressure isn't constant on your hands. Try sitting up and swinging your arms in circles, shaking them out frequently.
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Old 06-20-10, 03:17 PM   #19
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All good advices here, all concurring to reduce shocks to your hands. IMHO strength of the back muscle and never locking your elbows should do it in most cases. The indicator should be to barely feel any weight on your hands at all.
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Old 06-20-10, 05:55 PM   #20
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Thanks for all the great tips. I just rode the Bike Across Kansas that ended last Saturday,my hands are still numb. Pinky ad ring finger so I think we knw what that is from. I will see my bike shop for a refitting as I have been messing around with the bike a few degrees at a time.
Funny, I always get a little tingle in the fingers after 40 or so miles, but it goes away imeediately after I stop riding. This is the first time I averaged 70 miles a day for a week, and the numbness got just a little worse each day. Off to the fitter for me.
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