How to Avoid Cycling Wrist and Hand Pain

Hand injuries are one of the most complex types of injuries. Damage to any of the hand’s structures can have serious effects in terms of its function and mobility.

The reason for this is because of the hand’s anatomy which consists of bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments and nerves are all inter-connected with one another. These structures contribute to almost all of the hand movements – both fine and gross motor movements.



A lot of people suffer from hand and wrist pain. If you happen to be one of them, then you can definitely benefit from reading this article.

Cycling Problems

Cycling is one of the most popular sports or activities that require hand function. Athletes who are engaged in this type of sport are predisposed to hand and wrist problems. Based on a study supported by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, as well as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, an estimated 57 million (27%) individuals ages 16 and above had used a bicycle in the summer of 2002 at least once.

Based on research concerning bicycle injuries, cyclists present what is pathologically-described as Handlebar Palsy. This is actually classified as an ulnar neuropathy wherein the deeply situated terminal motor branch of the ulnar nerve gets compressed as it courses through the Guyon canal.

Forming this canal are the hamate and pisiform bones as well as the ligament passing in between them. The canal has a narrow portion close to the hamate bone making this particularly susceptible to compression syndrome. The ulnar nerve’s deep branch divides close to the pisiform bone and goes through the hypothenar muscles of the hand and extends to the hook of the hamate. Secondary to hamate compression, there is affectation of the intrinsic hand muscles alone. The hypothenar muscles and sensory aspect of the hand supplied by the ulnar nerve are not affected.

The compression syndrome, Handlebar Palsy, is usually secondary to chronic pressure and repetitive pressure or trauma to the wrist. According to a report by Kronisch & Pfeiffer, 90% of athletes engaged in cycling had encountered symptoms that are due to overuse injury and 35% of these cases are observed on the wrist. The athletes that were observed described it as cramp-like accompanied by hand and finger weakness. This presentation indicates Handlebar Palsy.

Studies Conducted:

The initial case study involves a cyclist who was a participant of the Bicycle Ride Across the United States. His average speed was 347 miles/day for a period of 9 days. Following the third day of the event, he started to have right hand weakness. The symptoms of weakness accompanied by numbness went on after completion of the cycling event. Exams revealed intrinsic hand muscles atrophy which are all innervated by the ulnar nerve. There was no affectation of the hypothenar muscles. Sensation was not affected as well.

Based upon a same case, a physician aged 49 years encountered cramping and clumsiness of both hands following a 2-week long mountain biking trip. He had trouble holding syringes while at work and could not even play the piano at home. An MRI was done. Results showed no cervical spine injuries. Hand examination revealed intrinsic hand muscle atrophy and paresis of both hands. The hypothenar muscles were not affected.

Hand rest is important for both patients. Thus they were asked to refrain from doing any hand activities. Nerve injuries require rest and protection. Cycling gloves that are well-padded had also shown relief from the symptoms of Handlebar Palsy.

Handlebar Palsy is a disturbing hand condition that can be debilitating over time.


Research suggests wearing of protective cycling gloves and to change the position of your grip during cycling activities. The next time you go cycling, never leave without your gloves, and take some time to check your hands. If you experience even the slightest bit of tingling sensation, change the position of your grip.

Good luck!


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