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RSI/Wrist & Hand Pain

Old 09-28-06, 08:58 PM
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wild animals
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RSI/Wrist & Hand Pain

Hello again,

I was wondering if any of you guys and gals have or have had carpal tunnel syndrome or RSI problems that have reared their ugly heads because of your cycling.

I have a bike with a pretty flat bar, so I pretty much have only one hand position to use. For a week or two I only rode my commute route one time, otherwise I was off the bike, and my wrists and hands felt a lot better. Today I rode most of the route again, and I'm in pain again, just as bad as before. My pinkies are numb and my wrists hurt (although they feel better than they did 20 minutes ago when I was on the bike!). Oh, and my thumb joint hurts, too, because the grip shifter pushes my thumb back at an angle.

Did you have similar problems and fix or improve them? What did you do?

I've tried holding the handlebars a little more gingerly, and tried to keep my wrists straight (can't operate the shifter/brakes v well that way), and supporting myself with my muscles instead of my bones, but to no avail. The handlebars are higher up than the saddle. I have gel gloves, too. I can't afford to have my bike fitted to me.

I don't want to be limited to 30-min rides (especially since my commute is 1 hr!) so any help would be greatly appreciated.

I have to say this: I'm going to try to commute tomorrow for the first time! Now that I've said it I have to do it or face great personal humiliation! haha. No backing out!

Thanks in advance
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Old 09-28-06, 09:56 PM
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My hands were getting tired from froad vibration. I changed my alloy handlebar to carbon and it solved the problem. Gloves may help, too. I'd start with gloves.
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Old 09-29-06, 06:55 AM
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I found changing from flat handle bars to drop handle bars made my wrists feel a lot better as it kept straighter.
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Old 09-29-06, 08:38 AM
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Iíll get symptoms of RSI from time to time but itís due to work not cycling. I find wearing a brace while I ride helpful as well as Aero Bars as they allow my wrists to completely relax. Iíll also note that the standard drug store brace is sometimes not stout enough for use on a bike so I found rollerblading wrist guards also worked well. For me generally a month in a brace helps every thing clear up.
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Old 09-29-06, 09:09 AM
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You may want to try some gel-padded gloves for a start. Possibly look into new grips with better cushioning, too. If it's really the limited hand positions that are getting to you, check out getting either some bolt-on bar ends, or a higher rise stem and a set of drop bars so you can switch up your positioning.
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Old 09-29-06, 09:13 AM
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I use aerobars for this very problem. Having tried a multitude of bars and countless hand positions the only thing that offers me relief from the pain is to get into the aerobars and totally take the weight off my wrists.

I find that about 5 minutes in the aerobars every 30 - 45 minutes riding as a minimum, and the pain stays away.
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Old 09-29-06, 09:34 AM
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Two things, first set your bike up so that you have more bend at the elbows. That should take some of the presure the CT nerve. Second, look for gloves that reduce hand numbness by relieving pressure on the ulnar nerves. That is there are 2 pads on either side of the nerve.


https://www.specializedbike.com/bc/SB...029&spid=18244
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Old 09-29-06, 09:35 AM
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Was getting ulnar neuropathy (numbness in my pinky and 4th fingers) and arm pain with my hybrid flat bars. Changed to a road bike with drops. Pain all gone.
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Old 09-29-06, 10:32 AM
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Might be able to help here: if you do want to stay with flat bars, suggestions re. carbon, gloves, grips will all help, as will bar-ends (alt. hand position), but one thing: you mention your thumb-joints, and 'thumbs being pushed back by gripshifters'. Are you really using grip/i.e. twist shift, or do you mean that your thumbs seem strained by using trigger shifters? I ask because I had exactly your symptons, and the overall cause in fact was not carpal tunnel (that's what my sports med. people thought at first) but was rather - believe it or not - the repetitive motion of thumb shifting with RapidFire shifters, which was severely aggravating mildly arthritic thumb joints. I switched to grip/twist shift, and the entire problem disappeared almost immediately, and hasn't come back.
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Old 09-29-06, 10:44 AM
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I had a problem with tedonitis not to long ago. Switched my drop bars to a wing bar with a carbon fiber stem, (handlebars in carbon were way to expensive) Ended up working for me
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Old 09-29-06, 11:26 AM
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Sorry, but this is going to be long winded...

Carpal tunnel and arthritis in the shoulders, collar bones and spine were the reasons I migrated thru several different bar sets. All the usual adjustments and fine tuning didn't work. Seven different saddles along with all the myriad adjustments there, too.

On my old Trek 830mtb, I got rid of the stock straights and tried raised-straights, then raised-straights- swept in varying degrees. Saddle changes were due to shifting the weight as I changed bars.

Then, I remembered how comfortable the old 3-speeds were. They were about the best riding bikes ever built. So, I went to the bike shop and asked about getting a set of those. The kids behind the counter kept saying "Dude, yer lookin' fer cruisers" and pointed at those beach bikes lined up along the wall. I said "No, that's not it at all. I'm not looking to hang out my laundry. Now hand over that catalog and learn something!"

So, with a little searching, I ordered some North Road bars in steel instead of alu for shock absorption, 22" inches instead of the original 20" for better handling. These mods have actually saved this activity for me. I was ready to quit but I needed to lose weight and get in shape. After a few months riding the mtb (which I still do alot) I bought a nice used Trek 520 and promptly did the same thing to it. The drops were the first to go! The bar-ends fit perfectly. Avid SD-7's for levers.

I can't make up my mind as to which bike is my favorite ride. I use both for centuries and all other purposes. Carpal tunnel? It's there and it always will be, but I suffer far less this way than any other set-up I've tried.

Try this:
Stand up with your arms relaxed at your sides. Notice your natural wrist rotation. It will be angled across your body unless you are a G.I. Joe doll. If you lift your arms to a mock riding position, you will see that your wrist rotation doesn't change. To me, that's the key - find a set of bars that match that position. If you jog or walk you will notice that your hands don't parallel the road line - they actually cross in front of you at some point out there.

So, why crank yourself onto a bike that, even tho it 'fits' will not relieve the pressure of twisting your wrists into an otherwise un-natural position for what may be hours. You bet you're gonna hurt.

Drops:
I'm not going to slam drops. Lots of drops out there. People swear by 'em. Especially racers and those who really like to go fast. Can't beat 'em for that. But there are some of us that swear at 'em. Everyone will tell you of all the hand positions available. Ok, but that's because they need them. I will posit here that there is not one truly natural position available on any single set of drop bars. The vast selection of these are the very proof. The designers are constantly trying to find the Holy Grail - even after some 100 years of developement.

Straights - raised or whatever:
Quite possibly the worst design for long rides. These are the wrist-wrenchers that people with carpal issues should avoid. Great for dedicated off-road use and general-purpose/commuting. Comfort bikes also have them and they are fine for short, comfort bike use (MUP's and such). Emphasis on short.

Alright. I've said it. It's out there now. Let all hell break loose.

North Road bars are like McDonald's. Billions and billions served. They fit the largest precentage of people for all riding conditions - even in third world countries where often there is no pavement. There's a reason for that - human ergonomics.

NOTE: North Roads are not the same as Mustache or Albatross bars. There are huge differences.


830 Dressed for all-purpose riding:
https://i10.tinypic.com/2qbf336.jpg
...or naked:
https://i9.tinypic.com/2m2z9ch.jpg

520:
https://i10.tinypic.com/29p7rq9.jpg
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Old 09-29-06, 12:10 PM
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I have ulnar nerve entrapment in the left hand (got it before I started cycling).

I have pain in the right wrist from a scaphoid fracture (got it from a bike crash).

I just ignore the pain, but I shake my hands out frequently shile I'm riding. Front suspension forks help a lot on bumpy city streets and gravel roads. I don't have carbon fork on my road bike, but I suppose that would help some.
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Old 09-29-06, 08:45 PM
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I had intense wrist/fore arm pain in myt right arm that made me to ride a recumbent for a year. I found that raising the handle bars above the seat plus bar ends that pointed straight up helped a lot. Also I wore a wrist brace that had metal supports inside and padded gloves was also a great help. Never found a wrist brace for the left side. The metal brace chewed up my handle bar grips pretty bad, but that was better then the pain.

I figured that years of riding with too much pressure on my hands from being out of shape, too tall for most bike frames and getting older (in my 40s) finally caught up with me. Once you find a configuration that helps, you will probably have to stay with it for a few years to you recover.

How much higher are your bars above your seat? I found about three inches higher was a key for me.
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Old 09-29-06, 09:30 PM
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wow thanks guys!
i think i'm going to check out the north road bars since they arent too expensive, although they are silver and the ones i have now are black! hehe. couldn't hurt too much to try. i might angle my bars up a little til then because theyre pointing down a bit, which i hadn't noticed before. (is that a bad idea?)

how do you make your elbows bend more? by raising the bars? at their highest point right now theyre maybe 1.5 or 2" higher than the saddle. the height is adjustable so i can probably raise them a bit more.

i really feel like i am leaning forward toward the front of the bike, like i want the handlebars closer to my stomach. is that a bad sign?

one of the lamest parts of this all is that i have lost grip strength in my right hand. i can't unlock the front door or turn the knob on the washing machine without using my left hand to help or flipping my hand around in a strange way. it blows. that totally went away when i quit riding for a week or so

i'll try using a brace and getting new bars, and eventually i'll see if i can get experts to fit the bike to me. i hope it gets fixed because this sucks!
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Old 09-29-06, 10:48 PM
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I have problems with my hands as well and I went through riser bars, trekking bars, and finally settled on albatross bars. Combined with an adjustable stem raised almost straight up I have no more pain in my hands. The ride is fairly upright, but I can still lean forward comfortably to avoid sitting straight up and there is little pressure on my hands. I plan on putting albatross or north road bars on any future bike I have. Here's a pic of my setup: https://s37.photobucket.com/albums/e9...gAnch=imgAnch1

Moving your bars towards you will help you get more bend in your elbows without having to lean forward so much. Get an adjustable stem to go along with your north road bars. You should be able to dial in a better fit that way.

Oh and that losing strength in your hand isn't lame...it's very annoying! I went through the same problems after I injured my hand at work a few years ago. I was having trouble locking the door, holding a cup of yogurt, writing, etc. Ugh. It was very annoying and extremely frustrating.

Last edited by here and there; 09-29-06 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 09-29-06, 10:55 PM
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If you take another look at the pics I posted, you can see an adjustable stem. I used the same cheapo model on both bikes. These would allow you to play around with the setup until you have the most optimal position. In the second pic you will notice that the stem is angled up a little, putting the bars about 2" above the saddle. The first pic shows the stem about level and the bars the same height as the saddle. That's where I have settled things. The grips are level with the ground pretty much. Eventually, I'll buy a nice Nitto stem to replace the heavier adjustable, now that I have the position dialed in.

On leaning forward:
I have to ask - what bike are you riding? Earlier, I mentioned 3-speeds because of their comfortable attributes in all applications except serious speed work or racing. This type of bike will sit you upright enough so that you will likely escape that feeling of leaning forward. Modern Comfort Bikes emulate this to a considerable degree, and, give you modern lightweight materials and arguably better brakes. Be prepared to experiment with a more weight bearing saddle(s).

You are descibing some pretty bad carpal tunnel, my friend. I ain't no doctor and I ain't no LBS Boy, neither, but I'd strongly suggest getting some weight off those hands and wrists. What I did helped me, but it's not the cure. I still feel it while riding, but it's much less than it was. I don't have the nagging feeling that I need to wring out my hands anymore. Even during the course of a 100 mile ride.

Something else comes to mind; be sure you align your brake levers with your forearm/wrist so you can rest your fingers over the levers. You don't need much crook in the elbows. It's to keep you from stiff-arming the road shock up into your shoulders and neck. Just find a position that keeps your forearms in line with those wrists as much as possible.
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Old 09-29-06, 10:55 PM
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yes, thank you! i didn't understand the stem length/rise thing until a minute ago, because sometimes i'd read "get a shorter stem with a higher rise" and i'm like ... how does that work? haha. but i get it now. the problem might be that i have a threaded stem? or whatever it's called. it's adjustable with a hex key. i don't know how to change all that out (i looked before and all the adjustables were threadless :/ ). the stem on my bike seems pretty long to me so i hope i can find something that'll work!

thank you!
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Old 09-29-06, 11:01 PM
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jcm, thanks! i suspected "carpal tunnel syndrome" but i hate to use those exact words because i suspect that people think i am a hypochondriac but i think i am just SUSCEPTIBLE TO EVERYTHING and i'm pissed off about it. ailments ruin EVERYTHING I LOVE >:/ so anyway. haha. i am going to move the brake levers so i can keep my wrists straight and i may get a brace to wear while i sleep (and compute? and bike? don't know yet!) because i think that'd help. i may also reluctantly go to the doctor although i suspect they'll take my money and not do anything helpful for me then suggest that i come back again so they can take more of my money. haha. augh.

i'm riding a bianchi milano, which is an 8-speed (internal) but the handlebar is very different from the 3-speeds' bars. the height of the bike is good for me but it feels long. i don't know how to get an adjustable stem for this bike(?). i wish i had more money so i could get the bike fixed up for my size and still afford a bike lock and rain gear. now i will have to pick one or the other
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Old 09-29-06, 11:16 PM
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Well first of all... undo the clamps retaining the brake and shifter levers and rotate the levers so they are at a 45 degree angle to the horizontal. This will mean straight away that your wrists will be much straighter as your address the levers with your fingers. Bikes are traditionally assembled at the factory with the levers in a horiztonal position. Bike shops don't bother doing anything other than sell the bike as-is. It is only of the fundamental problems with hand comfort on flat-bar bikes.

I can almost guarantee that your handelbars aren't entirely flat. If you undo the stem clamp that retains the handelbars, rotate the bars one way to the other, do up the clamp, and ride the bike to see if that improves your elbow bend. The position of the sweep or bend in the bar will play a role in how well your elbows automatically bend. It is best to mark the original position of the bars on the stem clamp, so you can return it to this position if a new position doesn't work. Remember to alter the levers as in Paragraph 1 to account for this rotation.

If your handlebars are above seat height and you are still feeling like you are leaning way forward, it may that the bike is the wrong size for you. That is, the top tube is too long. It may be that the stem is too long as well. As a general guide, put your elbow on the nose of the saddle and extend your forearm horizontally forward; if your middle fingertip falls close to but not over the stem clamp, the bike is about right in toptube and stem length. If it is shorter, the bike may be too big. Obviously, if over, the bike may be too small. You can fix reach perhaps by fitting a different length stem.

You can only raise the stem a certain height before you will see the limit marks stamped into it. Don't raise it above those marks.
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Old 09-29-06, 11:32 PM
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i read that saddle nose/middle finger thing in another thread a bit ago and tried it, and my fingers reached to the center of the post coming up from the headset. i don't know the exact terminology. since it's all one piece, is it all called "the stem"? since my middle finger reached to the center of the post, does that mean the bike is just right or too long? i don't know if my saddle is adjusted correctly so that may throw the measurement off. (edit: oh i just found this which is great: https://www.rivendellbicycles.com/html/101_stems.html )

https://www.bianchiusa.com/06_milano.html i looked on bianchi's site and, the stem for the women's version of my bike is much shorter! i have the men's 18.5" and the top tube is longer than the top tube on the 20.5" women's bike. verrry interesting. i probably should have gotten a women's bike but i think they're uggo.

i had something else i was going to ask you but i forgot so i'll probably be hounding you again later!
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Old 09-30-06, 12:37 AM
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Sorry, but are you female?

If you are, that can explain a little bit... trying to adapt a bike that essentially is designed for men's physique to a woman. Broadly speaking, a man has shorter legs and longer torso (and hence longer reach) than a woman of the same height.

The nose to stem measurement you have done does suggest, however, that the bike is in the fit ballpark. But don't use the seat to compensate... that is related to how your legs address the pedals. It may be that the saddle is too far forward... is the clamp around halfway along the rails underneath? Reach should be changed only by altering the stem.
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Old 09-30-06, 12:54 AM
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yeah, im a woman. i am about 68" tall and have about a 33" inseam (to the floor) and i think i've read that a lot of men are taller than i am with a shorter inseam. it's too bad women's bikes are stupid colors and/or have step-through frames. ick.

i just adjusted my saddle so it's a centimeter or so further back, because it wasn't really centered on the rails. but i didn't adjust it to change the reach; i adjusted it because i originally put it on with no idea where it was supposed to go gonna try it this way for awhile and see how my knees feel.

so for the final verdict, knowing what you know, do you think the best idea is to try a new stem and/or handlebars? (maybe get one, then the other if the first one doesn't fix it.) is the men's frame a huge problem in your opinion?

for anybody who knows about this stuff: do you know of an adjustable stem with a long quill, thats made for threaded forks?

thank you!

(oh ps: i've been up since 5:30 and i only had like 5-6 hours of sleep last night so if any of this is incoherent i can safely say that that is why! i gotta go to bed now.)

Last edited by wild animals; 09-30-06 at 01:17 AM.
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Old 09-30-06, 01:15 AM
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Just try the things I mentioned in my original post... levers and bars. Things like this are a process of elimination, and you should do each at a time, rather than making mass changes. You've started with the seat. Change the lever angle. See how that works. Then maybe rotate the handlebars in the stem clamp. If all fails, then maybe the stem can be changed out. You sound as thought you have a quill stem, and you would need to change for a similar stem, otherwise things get really technical. Then, it may be a frame change. But as alluded to in other posts, wrist and hand soreness is not unique even with frames of "correct" fit.
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Old 10-06-06, 12:31 AM
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okay i've adjusted the handlebars to the best of my ability (even moving the right brake lever over so that my right hand wouldn't rest on the grip shifter) and i now realize that the more days in a row that i ride my bike, the more excruciating the pain is (and the more grip strength i lose--and that problem had almost gone away when i took a few days off of the bike).

i watched my arms and hands while i was riding today, and they did want to turn a little, so just for the hell of it i want to try the north road bars. is it bad if i buy bars that cost 7 dollars?

https://www.amazon.com/Pyramid-Tourin...sporting-goods

should i buy them?

i can't find a darn thing about this model of bar, like what size it is or if it's made of cheese or designed to shatter into a thousand pieces or what. is it to be avoided? i think i just bought a new light system (waiting for confirmation email) so i can't afford to spend a lot of money on handlebars if there's a risk that they won't make my arms feel better. but i decided not to ride to work tomorrow because my arms hurt so bad, so i have to do something. i don't want to drive; i want to ride. i just dont think i should.

thanks !
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Old 10-06-06, 12:34 AM
  #25  
Rowan
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Originally Posted by wild animals
okay i've adjusted the handlebars to the best of my ability (even moving the right brake lever over so that my right hand wouldn't rest on the grip shifter) and i now realize that the more days in a row that i ride my bike, the more excruciating the pain is (and the more grip strength i lose--and that problem had almost gone away when i took a few days off of the bike).

i watched my arms and hands while i was riding today, and they did want to turn a little, so just for the hell of it i want to try the north road bars. is it bad if i buy bars that cost 7 dollars?

https://www.amazon.com/Pyramid-Tourin...sporting-goods

should i buy them?

i can't find a darn thing about this model of bar, like what size it is or if it's made of cheese or designed to shatter into a thousand pieces or what. is it to be avoided? i think i just bought a new light system (waiting for confirmation email) so i can't afford to spend a lot of money on handlebars if there's a risk that they won't make my arms feel better. but i decided not to ride to work tomorrow because my arms hurt so bad, so i have to do something. i don't want to drive; i want to ride. i just dont think i should.

thanks !
A photograph of you on the bike and riding it would be handy to identify what the problem really is. It sounds like the bike is the wrong size for you.
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