Finger - either numb or pins/needles

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
John Hunter
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Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby John Hunter » 23 Mar 2010, 2:18pm

Hi all,

Now that the cold weather is behind us (hopefully) and frostbite isn't the issue, I'm starting to get this problem with my fingers again. I only cycle 11 miles or so per trip, but I often get really severe numbness and or pins/needles in both my hands.

Any ideas of what the problem might be and any solutions?

ps I carry a full back pack not necesarily designed for cycling on each trip. Could that be the problem?

John
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jezer
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby jezer » 23 Mar 2010, 3:22pm

I find that vibration from too loose a grip on the bars can cause this after a few miles. The solution for me is to hold the bars a bit tighter and hey presto the numbness vanishes :o
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herzog
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby herzog » 23 Mar 2010, 3:42pm

Owing to poor positioning, you could be putting too much pressure on your wrists... I had a similar problem ages ago. I dropped my saddle slightly and had no more hand pain.

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531colin
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby 531colin » 23 Mar 2010, 4:46pm

Try Googling "carpal tunnel syndrome". See if your symptoms are as described for that. Causes can include direct pressure on the heel of the hand where the nerve is. Are you on straight handlebars? Wide straight bars cause you to ride with your wrists turned in relative to your arms, which can be uncomfortable for some people. You can try cutting down the bars with a hacksaw, or bars which sweep back towards you, or grips with a sort of platform which comes towards you at the end of the bar, all designed to get wrists at a more relaxed angle.

Gearoidmuar
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby Gearoidmuar » 23 Mar 2010, 5:52pm

Probably carpal tunnel syndrome which is caused, usually, by pressure on the very base of the palm.

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richardyorkshire
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby richardyorkshire » 23 Mar 2010, 6:47pm

There are two main nerves that control feeling in the hands.

The carpal nerve runs from your neck, through your shoulder, down the centre of your arm, through the elbow joint and through a tunnel of cartilage (known as the carpal tunnel) in the centre of your wrist, to your hand. The carpal nerve controls feeling and movement in your thumb and first two fingers. It also controls one side of your third finger.

The ulnar nerve leaves the neck and travels down the rear side of your arm and through the little notch in the bone of your elbow at the back - the funny bone - it then travels down the forearm and enters the hand over the heel of the palm, in line with your little finger. It supplies feeling and control to the little finger and the remaining side of your third finger. It is more exposed to knocks than the carpal nerve because it is less important. If you whack your funny bone, it is the ulnar nerve that you've hit.

If you get tingling in your thumb and first fingers, it is the carpal nerve that is affected. If the tingling is mainly in your little finger, it is the ulnar nerve. The nerves can be affected at any point along their length, but will always manifest with tingling in the hands. Most commonly it at the narrow points in your joints that problems can occur, particularly if they are held in an awkward position for a long time.

If you bend your hand back at the wrist and hold it in that position for a long time, the tissue around the carpal nerve can become inflamed and compress the nerve, leading to tingling and numbness. Try to keep your wrist in a straight line to avoid the problem. Using drop bars, with your hands on the heads, usually keeps your wrist straight.

If you press down a lot on the heel of your hand, you can compress the ulnar nerve. Specialized do some gloves with padding that avoids pressure on the ulnar nerve, if you are getting this problem.

If your elbow is overstretched, rather than in a relaxed position, the tissue in the joint can become inflamed and compress the nerves. So make sure your bike is the right size, and the saddle is positioned correctly fore and aft.

Keep your wrists straight, avoid pressure on the heel of the hand and keep the elbows in a relaxed position. Shift position from time to time and take breaks.

Note that Ibuprofen will relieve any inflamation around the nerves and so stop the tingling. But you can't take it regularly, so you need to identify what it is about your position on the bike that is causing the problem in the first place.
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Freddie
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby Freddie » 23 Mar 2010, 7:02pm

John Hunter wrote:Any ideas of what the problem might be and any solutions?

Unless you have problems with your hands off the bike, then the problem is fit. Probably too much weight on the hands, most likely you use straight bars which are pretty god awful from an ergonomic standpoint. I'd suggest, in this order:

1. Change handlebar to north road, butterfly or drop bars (last option might prove expensive).
2. Raise handlebar height.
3. See if that solves the problem.

John Hunter
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby John Hunter » 24 Mar 2010, 11:36am

Thanks for the advice guys ..... it all sounds completely relevant, especially the stuff about nerves. I ride a cheapo MTB with quite thin handles and slightly awkward brakes. It is also a XL frame which I bought against advice as a L frame would probably have done. So the handlebars and my position are probably not ideal. The back pack doesn't seem to help either as it feels like it pinches into my shoulders - maybe where the nerves pass through. My neck/back/shoulders are knotted beyond belief at the moment!

So all in all, when it comes to buying a new bike/equipment for my commute, I probably need a L frame baike with drop down handlebars and a more ergonomically designed back pack ..... ?

Sounds expensive ...... :(
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MikeMarsUK
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby MikeMarsUK » 24 Mar 2010, 12:19pm

The description of which nerve goes where is very good, thanks - my little figure on my left hand was numb for a couple of days after a long day on the bike, it sounds like the nerve was compressed on the heel of my hand against the edge of the handlebar grips.

Now I know what the problem was I can adjust things :-)

Freddie
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby Freddie » 24 Mar 2010, 12:45pm

John Hunter wrote:Thanks for the advice guys ..... it all sounds completely relevant, especially the stuff about nerves. I ride a cheapo MTB with quite thin handles and slightly awkward brakes. It is also a XL frame which I bought against advice as a L frame would probably have done. So the handlebars and my position are probably not ideal. The back pack doesn't seem to help either as it feels like it pinches into my shoulders - maybe where the nerves pass through. My neck/back/shoulders are knotted beyond belief at the moment!

So all in all, when it comes to buying a new bike/equipment for my commute, I probably need a L frame baike with drop down handlebars and a more ergonomically designed back pack ..... ?

Sounds expensive ...... :(

You should buy the largest frame that you can fit without excessive reach (i.e doesn't need less than say a 50/60mm forward extension stem for you to be comfortable), as this will make it easy to get handlebars higher and on most bikes they are too low.

You need to take the weight off your back and put it into a saddlebag or panniers!, this could well be part of your problem.

Do you really need a new bike or can this one be modified?, post a picture, tis worth a thousand of our earth words.

John Hunter
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby John Hunter » 24 Mar 2010, 1:36pm

Freddie wrote:
John Hunter wrote:Thanks for the advice guys ..... it all sounds completely relevant, especially the stuff about nerves. I ride a cheapo MTB with quite thin handles and slightly awkward brakes. It is also a XL frame which I bought against advice as a L frame would probably have done. So the handlebars and my position are probably not ideal. The back pack doesn't seem to help either as it feels like it pinches into my shoulders - maybe where the nerves pass through. My neck/back/shoulders are knotted beyond belief at the moment!

So all in all, when it comes to buying a new bike/equipment for my commute, I probably need a L frame baike with drop down handlebars and a more ergonomically designed back pack ..... ?

Sounds expensive ...... :(

You should buy the largest frame that you can fit without excessive reach (i.e doesn't need less than say a 50/60mm forward extension stem for you to be comfortable), as this will make it easy to get handlebars higher and on most bikes they are too low.

You need to take the weight off your back and put it into a saddlebag or panniers!, this could well be part of your problem.

Do you really need a new bike or can this one be modified?, post a picture, tis worth a thousand of our earth words.


I can never do an image post but here is the linky page ..... http://www.decathlon.co.uk/EN/rockrider-5-2-black-34963795/
Formula for how many bikes you should own = n+1 (where n is the number of bikes you already own)

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531colin
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby 531colin » 24 Mar 2010, 6:26pm

I think its the usual advice. Ditch the backpack. Get the bars higher/closer/swept back towards you. A shorter, high rise stem for a few pounds is the place to start.

pioneer
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby pioneer » 25 Mar 2010, 5:30pm

I agree with all 531Colin's advice. But with one more thing. Have a bit less pressure in the front tyre.

I sometimes get pins and needles, but only on certain road surfaces,rough ones! Dropping the tyre pressure helps.

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NUKe
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby NUKe » 25 Mar 2010, 5:46pm

Could be the back pack. can you try a ride without it or virtually empty. wear the same clothes twice at work it wont harm and no one will notice. If you find this is the problem add a rack pack get the weight off your back.


If its not that and as its an MTB
Is the saddle at the right hieght and not too far forward.
Are you gripping the bars too tightly.
Do you ride straight armed if so try and bend the elbows a little bit more

You could try different grips or bar ends. Bar ends will give you a couple of extra postions
NUKe
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angliatv
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Re: Finger - either numb or pins/needles

Postby angliatv » 26 Mar 2010, 2:35pm

I developed Cubital Tunnel Syndrome which manifests with pain the inner part of the elbow spreading down the inner forearm and producing lack of strength and numbness in the ring and little finger. Worrying, because it was too painful to ride more than a few miles. Went to the doctor and she recommended ibruprofen and if that failed to sort the problem, surgery was the only course of action. I queried if there was anything else she could recommend and she replied no. I changed my doctor and pursued other lines of enquiry.

I visited an osteopath in Bristol called Alexis Enol and he identified the problem as coming from the shoulder. He performed some very deep manipulation in the shoulder and sent me on my way. The pain subsided from 80 per cent to around 5 per cent within 5 to 6 days. I was relieved. The crazy thing is, if I had gone ahead with the surgery of redirecting the nerve, the problem would not have gone away as the pain was a symptom NOT the cause. The cause was elsewhere.

You can help things along by not leaning on a table top as you type, not overstretching to the bars (shorter stem?) and allow the elbow some rest time.

Ed