Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

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jameso
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Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Sun Sep 06, 2015 8:50 am

Anyone experienced this and have any insights into best recovery or damage limitation?

I've had this twce now, from different bars, riding type and durations on the bike, both times it occured were during/after rides where I'd done plenty of similar rides on the same set-up before w/o issues. I think for me it just comes down to hours on the bike and one day somehow causing a bit of deadening that doesn't recover when followed by another long day or two. After that the damage is done.

Currently I have 2 index fingers with ~50% feeling over a week after a ride that was nothing dramatic, just 12-15 hours of actual saddle time for a few days in mild weather. A couple of years ago one index finger didn't fully recover from some crash damage and infection shortly followed by 2 weeks+ on the bike, that I can understand. But to bring back all that damage in one finger and see the same in the other after a 4 day road ride is a little worrying, considering how easily nerves can see permanent damage.

Some things I think may be a factor -
Over-padded gloves - the gel pads are cushy but also uneven and create pressure spots of sorts. Like saddles/butts I'm starting to think pad the component sufficiently, not the body or both.
Vibration from a hub dynamo - it's subtle but at 15mph cruising speed on a smooth road it's clearly there and I'm charging something or using lights for 50-70% of my miles. It's an SP hub so it's not much, just like a very low-treaded tyre.

Index fingers also seem to be a less common point to see nerve damage, usually the smaller 2 fingers that are mentioned relating to gloves with Ulnar nerve protection on the outer edge of the palm. The Median nerve is the one linking the index and thumb areas.

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Scattamah
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Scattamah » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:15 am

I have gotten this 2 years running on TD in 4th and 5th fingers - this year it's been much worse. After 5 days, I'd lost sensation in my left hand from the wrist all the way to the tip of the 5th finger and the whole of the 4th finger, the 3rd finger starting to tingle. Almost 12 weeks after the damage was done, I still have dead spots on the tips of fingers 4 and 5, but they are slowly coming back. Seems recovery time is down to how healthy you are/how fast your cells regenerate.

I attribute my damage to a couple of things - my left grip was maybe 1-2 degrees different in rotation to the right and the little nub of the Bonty Evolve grip was pressing in the wrong spot and also to my preference to run with a single grip point (very little moving around to many different positions for me). Could be padded gloves too - I switched into a near pair of Giro mitts last year out of an old pair of Spesh mitts and started to get issues.

Moving into a set of GP2 grips hasn't really helped much except give me a few different positions to move to, but I'm starting to wonder if ergo grips lulls me into a false sense of "it's ok to lean on your palms more" instead of consciously trying to balance between the 3 points of contact.

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Gilbo71
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Gilbo71 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:28 am

I get the occasional bit, usually on longer rides. I found having the bars higher than usual took some of weight out of my hands which helped, also using Ergon type grips as they spread the weight better. But everyone is different, whereas that works for me other people I know have tried similar and hated it.

jameso
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:44 am

Agreed, it's highly variable for everyone. How you sit on the bike and bar/grip type, weight distribution etc. What I'm concerned by is the potential for it to become an escalating issue where it becomes easier to cause the damage again in future, I've already decided to pull the plug on a ride if this starts to happen again, or at least have a full day off the bike to see how fast it recovers with the pressure off. "there goes my RTW record and Trans-Am win plans" :lol:

benp1
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by benp1 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:55 am

What about speaking to some bike fit experts?

Pros who are training for many hours at a time on a daily basis must have encountered this, and the bike fit people must have made tweaks to minimise it

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:02 am

Over-padded gloves - the gel pads are cushy but also uneven and create pressure spots of sorts. Like saddles/butts I'm starting to think pad the component sufficiently, not the body or both.
You might be onto something, I've not ridden with gloves for most of the summer. I would sometimes get a degree of numbness / pain after a ride but since foregoing gloves I've had nothing.
Out of interest, have you tried seeing how well balanced your wheels are? It's something I've never done on a bicycle although I've often wondered why we don't bother. I know speeds are generaly much lower than they would be with a car or motorbike but vibration's vibration no matter what speed. Length of solder wrapped round the spokes would seem to be the easiest way to remedy any issues.
What value a life half lived if the half you lived was the wrong half?

jameso
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:19 am

What about speaking to some bike fit experts?
I'm confident that the fit is good, generally I can do repeated long days w/o issue and I don't have a lot of weight on my hands due to what i think is a good riding position. But I'm not dismissing the idea (and I am quite dissmissive of many aspects of bike fitting, don't get me started on those using fitting formulas :grin: ) and a good fit-physio may be worth consulting. The issue has come up in the same fingers after 2 different rides on 2 quite different bikes though so my hands are the only common link.

Stuart, good point on the wheels, they are balanced but I noted a bit of an unweighted feel after replacing a tyre the other day and made a connection there. I do wonder if dynamo white-finger in a very mild sense may be the cause of the last ride's issues, a vibration going into finger tips of the palm resting on the hoods in the same spot? As for padding, yes I think it's great for short rides. Like lower bars on road bikes and padded shorts. All changes for longer rides though and they either just become nullified or may actually become a cause of issues.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by ctznsmith » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:40 am

I met a guy who owned a bikeshop in Dortmund who swore by riding a bike without grips/tape for a bit until he felt the bars were in the correct comfortable position before adding the 'padding' element.

I'm not entirely convinced but I sort of see his point. Also never asked him how far he rode, could get a bit slippy on a long ride in wet weather without grips/tape.

benp1
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by benp1 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:57 am

I like the idea of padding components and not hands too

My gloves are generally fairly unpadded, they're mainly for protection and because I have poor circulation in my hands. My rides aren't very long at all though so I really have nothing to add!

Jameso, the fact you get that on two completely different set ups does narrow down the options, maybe a more medically orientated person, like a cycle specific physio or something

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Mariner » Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:32 am

Have a look at Carpal Tunnel syndrome with the caveat that a. I am not medically trained and b. any symptoms you have will fit the medical condition googled.
I have recently developed problems with my neck and wrists where suddenly the bike have been riding for four years does not fit me - or me it - anymore.
My next bike will have a more upright (Dutch?) riding position. I might even give butterfly bars a go but that might be a step too far.
Currently to ease my wrists I cup my hands over the end of the bars as if they were T shaped and oddly in this time of wide bars the best position for climbing is either side of the stem.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Mariner » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:38 pm


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mountainbaker
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by mountainbaker » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:53 pm

My hands were really bad after Tour Divide, and I have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel previously, but need to wait for the OP.

After the 2nd week of TD, I couldn't grip zips etc at all and it became nearly impossible to shift up my gears without using my palm. After getting back, I did some research and chatted with a Doctor who finished TD an hour after me. Turns out Ulnar nerve damage, which causes the numbness in the outer two fingers, can also be observed in the elbow, not just the wrist, so it could be not just from contact points with the bike, but how your elbow is positioned, especially on rough surfaces. I put it down to having my elbows too locked for mile after mile of washboard.

Hands are still numb as i type this, but things are slowly improving.

What I've tried to be aware of is keeping my arms relaxed when riding rough stuff. Easier said than done on a loaded bike though.
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Zippy » Sun Sep 06, 2015 3:38 pm

I've not got great deal that add to what's been said if anything at all. I'll just throw in that I changed tyres on my full susser - just the tyres, nothing else, from a bonty something or other (fairly smooth rolling, biggish volume) to a set of schwalbe something or others with rougher tread more suited to damp trail centres and got for the first time ever trail buzz/white finger. After realising this, I played with the tyre pressures and managed to significantly alleviate this.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by dunk090 » Tue Sep 08, 2015 12:35 pm

Carpal tunnel sufferer here. Was getting pins & needles and completely numb hand after 30 mins on the bike - and I've been riding regularly for 30+ years. Probably not helped by 20years behind a keyboard as well...
Not sure what you're using bike/bar wise but things that work for me:

Had the nerve conduction test which led to Carpal tunnel release surgery - bit drastic but stopped the pins & needles. Still get some wrist pain though.

Back-swept bars, angled to point towards the rear hub - I use Jones loop bars as have more natural wrist position plus a variety of other positions.

ESI chunky grips - reduces the vibration but not overly squishy.

Not so good for me are the ergo grips. I have them on my commuter bike but not convinced, as they do seem to restrict your hands in one position.

And might be completely irrelevant to you, but am about to try a "penguin" mouse and natural keyboard at work to see if that helps. Using a normal mouse is a real killer for me now :cry:

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by YetiTony » Tue Sep 08, 2015 12:50 pm

I noticed these issues when I got my first fully rigid bike, on longer rides I would lose the sensation in my fingers for upto 24 hours.
I always felt it was vibration through the bike and not anything to do with postion of hands, grips or gloves as not matter what postion I moved to it remained.

Anyway I invested in a set of carbon rims to try and remove some of the road/trail vibration with great results. I could easily increase my distances without suffering from the numb hands. I easily doubled my previous distances with no issues.

Worth considering.

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mountainbaker
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by mountainbaker » Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:06 pm

That's funny as I would think carbon rims are significantly stiffer and less forgiving!
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Tue Sep 08, 2015 2:05 pm

dunk090 - Interesting link between keyboards/mouse and the numbness. I'm either typing with index fingers only (I know .. ) or using a mouse for detailed work most days and there's links there between the fingers affected and the hand that gets affected most. I use swept bars and good foam grips at the moment, or thicker bar tape, so I don't think the bike set ups are an obvious cause. On a longer day ride 8-12 hours won't give me any discomfort, it seems to be related to a build-up of pressure over a few days, and maybe something else unrelated to riding.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by ctznsmith » Tue Sep 08, 2015 3:37 pm

In trying to work out if it's caused by vibration. Today I realised I feel vibration in my hands and feet.

So logically if your feet aren't tingling then surely it's pressure not vibration?

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mountainbaker
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by mountainbaker » Tue Sep 08, 2015 3:52 pm

jameso wrote:dunk090 - Interesting link between keyboards/mouse and the numbness. I'm either typing with index fingers only (I know .. ) or using a mouse for detailed work most days and there's links there between the fingers affected and the hand that gets affected most. I use swept bars and good foam grips at the moment, or thicker bar tape, so I don't think the bike set ups are an obvious cause. On a longer day ride 8-12 hours won't give me any discomfort, it seems to be related to a build-up of pressure over a few days, and maybe something else unrelated to riding.
If it's something that builds over a few days, it's probably cumulative nerve damage, much like what happened to me on TD. On a normal day ride, I get a bit of numbness, but nothing like I got after about day 10 on the divide.

I'm a programmer, and type a vast amount, probably about 12 hrs a days at the moment, 7 days a week. So my wrists are extra f**ked.
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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by dunk090 » Tue Sep 08, 2015 3:57 pm

jameso wrote:dunk090 - Interesting link between keyboards/mouse and the numbness. I'm either typing with index fingers only (I know .. ) or using a mouse for detailed work most days and there's links there between the fingers affected and the hand that gets affected most. I use swept bars and good foam grips at the moment, or thicker bar tape, so I don't think the bike set ups are an obvious cause. On a longer day ride 8-12 hours won't give me any discomfort, it seems to be related to a build-up of pressure over a few days, and maybe something else unrelated to riding.
Yes, I'm right handed but can't use the mouse in that hand any more. And that was the worse hand for numbness/wrist pain and had the carpal tunnel op on it. Made my work get the occupational health person in to assess desk set-up, she recommended the penguin mouse as you hold it like a joystick and so it relieves pressure on the wrist. Waiting for it to be procured...

Strange to think 100 years ago my ancestors were likely to die working in a coal mine or getting maimed by machinery. And here I am with sore wrists!

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Tue Sep 08, 2015 5:28 pm

So logically if your feet aren't tingling then surely it's pressure not vibration?
Could be.. I think it's different at the feet as the crank + pedals pivot and takes a lot of the shock out that can go straight through to the hands from the f wheel, but that aside, pressure and nerve compression may well be the cause, vibration just a distraction.

MB, same here, I think that was where the initial damage was done. Do I have to stop taking the p--- out of aero bar users now? :grin:

Back to the Doctor I think .. with one thing then another this summer we'll both be wondering how healthy riding bikes really is!

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by deejayen » Tue Sep 08, 2015 8:29 pm

I suffered from numb fingers after some audax rides. I first noticed it towards the end of my first 400k, and on my next 400k it got really bad, to the point where it felt like I was having electric shocks going down my arm. I play guitar, and need to use computer keyboards, so I tried really hard to find the cause, but to no avail. I swapped components and bikes, and had various treatments at the sports clinic, but to no avail. Gloves, carbon handlebars, bar foam/gel, pilates, a Moulton etc etc nothing seemed to work.

It took months for the nerves to finally repair themselves. After the first incident symptoms would appear on much shorter rides. Cold/wet weather affected circulation, and made things worse. I was later told that riding fixed wheel (as I did) is often bad for causing numb fingers. Other less obvious possible causes are that I may have been straining my neck to look down the road through my glasses.

I stopped riding upright bikes, and now only ride recumbents. However, a couple of years ago I became interested in mountain biking again, and although I haven't yet committed to buying one, I think a Jones with loop bars might be the most sensible choice for me. However, I haven't ridden one for long distances, so I'm not sure if numb fingers would reappear. I think you ride a Jones, James, so that won't be of much help, I'm afraid!

I'm still riding recumbents - they have a lot of disadvantages (including not being known for their off-road capabilities), but on the positive side they generally don't place any pressure or strain on one's upper body.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Justchris » Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:50 pm

Just a point. I run 800 mm bars on my mtb. I love them. They they provide loads of leverage. I like the slowness of turn(personal choice), stability of the wide ness and I feel it opens my chest to breath more easily. Here's the not so good bit. The wideness loads the outside of my palms with the brunt of the pressure. So my ulner nerve really gets it big time. I overcome this by riding with my hands on the inside of the brakes when possible.

James it probably is your median nerve. Think about Where on your hands take the load. Can you change it. Could you 'sit' more and take the weight off your hands. Could you use aero bars for training. Do you use the correct amount of tape on your bars? Too much and your hands wil squish in and you will grip harder. Too little.... is your core strong enough or do you slump on your hands when fatigue sets in. Is your back sore. Does your ass get sore and you shift weight off it. Is your seat to far forward so you sit less. Lots of other things could affect it.

Chris

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by jameso » Wed Sep 09, 2015 7:54 am

All good points there Chris. I ride a Jones bike much of the time and it's a very 'hands off' sort of fit, saddle behind the BB and very little weight on the hands, also a road bike with a similar sort of fit. I'm pretty well balanced on both bikes so there's no slumping tendancies. Perhaps it's just the pressure needed for grip and general riding for that amount of time. I do stand up to climb a lot and my main MTB is a SS so that adds pressure.

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Re: Uncomfortably numb. Riding and hand nerve damage.

Post by Justchris » Wed Sep 09, 2015 8:16 am

jameso wrote:All good points there Chris. I ride a Jones bike much of the time and it's a very 'hands off' sort of fit, saddle behind the BB and very little weight on the hands, also a road bike with a similar sort of fit. I'm pretty well balanced on both bikes so there's no slumping tendancies. Perhaps it's just the pressure needed for grip and general riding for that amount of time. I do stand up to climb a lot and my main MTB is a SS so that adds pressure.
so if your a sitter rather than a leaner it would seem to me to be a vibration problem rather than a compression problem. I would try thinner grips first. Spread your whole palm over the bar. Just to see. Don't forget your tyre pressure. A wee drop may be good.
with the amount you cycle a few days off and a course of ibuprofen may help alot.

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