Bike Tour Tips & Tricks: Preventing Hand Numbness & Pain

Bike Tour Tips & Tricks: Preventing Hand Numbness & Pain

We’ve all been there before – you’re riding along, the weather is perfect, and your legs could go forever. Except for one thing: your hands! They’re numb, achy and painful. At best, you can finish your planned ride. At worst, you cut the ride short and take a few days off to let your hands recover. 

What can you do about numb hands? Read on to learn more about this condition and a few tips to prevent it. 

What causes numb hands?


The hand is a very complex and sensitive part of the body. There are a lot of nerves running through the wrist, without much muscle or fat for protection. When you’re riding a bike, your hands hold a lot of upper body weight on the handlebars. This creates constant, high pressure onto a small area, which irritates the nerves. That’s why you get numbness, tingling or pain in your fingers and hands. Symptoms may resolve shortly after relieving the pressure on the nerves, or they can persist and worsen, potentially leading to muscle weakness in the hand and arm. 

The nerves affected by cycling:

The median nerve and several tendons go through a “tunnel” across the underside of the wrist. Keeping your wrists bent up and pressed against the handle bars for extended periods puts excess pressure on this area, leading to numbness, tingling and weakness in the thumb, pointer finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger.

The ulnar nerve runs through the pinky side of the wrist and hand. Gripping the handlebars places direct pressure on this area, causing numbness and tingling in the pinky and ring finger, or in the entire hand. 


What can you do about numb hands?


Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep your hands and wrists healthy on the bike!

* Raise your handlebars: If your handlebars are too low, this might be causing pressure on your hands. Raising them up a little bit can help. But be aware that raising them too high can cause excess pressure on your rear end. To maintain the delicate balance of pressure points on your bike, try taking it to a bike shop for some professional advice.

* Get a pro bike fit: Poor bike fit is one of the main reasons people have problems with their hands while riding. A professional bike fitter can help by moving the seat, changing the seat angle, changing your handlebar height, or installing a different handlebar altogether. (Flat-bar riders often enjoy the Jones H-Bar, which provides a swept-back position that feels more natural on the wrists). They can also adjust your cleat placement, stem length and hood position for road bikes. 

* Change your grips: If you have a hybrid or a mountain bike, try thicker, softer grips to reduce vibration in your hands. For road bikes, you can try thicker tape on the handle bars. Ergonomic grips are another option. These are shaped to properly position your hands and help release pressure points.

* Check your pressure: Running rock-hard tires makes your bike feel like a jackhammer on rough terrain, so try letting some air out. This will smooth out the bumps in the road so you don’t have to death-grip your handlebars. 

* Move around: Change the position of your hands throughout a ride to avoid putting the same sustained pressure on your wrists the whole time. On a road bike, alternate between holding the drop bar, hood and flat portion of the bar.

* Relax your elbows: Keeping you elbows relaxed will help you absorb vibrations with your body. This will also engage your core and back muscles, taking additional pressure off your hands.


Be proactive! 


Prevent hand issues before they start by stretching and strengthening your hands, wrists and forearms. Don’t overlook the importance of your core – the ability to keep your core stable while riding can significantly reduce the amount of pressure on your hands.

Check out these strength exercises and stretches to keep you fit and healthy so you can ride longer!

But don’t just take it from us, here is a quick and easy tip from a local health care professional:

Doctor Justin Deskovich, from the Human Movement Institute, is referred to as “The Wizard” here at Wilderness Voyageurs. Several of our staff visit him regularly for any and all issues that get in the way of us having fun. You can visit his facebook page here. 

Experience a Wilderness Voyageurs Inn-to-Inn Bicycle Vacations for yourself!  Wilderness Voyageurs  also operates white water rafting trips on 15 rivers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

Give our helpful reservation staff a call to plan your next adventure vacation. (800) 272 – 4141