A Cyclist’s Guide to Numb Hands

by Leah Forrestall, Author and Registered Physiotherapist

If you’re new to cycling or a seasoned rider you may have experienced the issue of numb and tingly hands. This can sure be an annoyance, whether it happens early on in your ride or hours in. There can be a number of causes for this so let’s dive into a few and what you can do about it!

  1. Your Neck. As a cyclist, the position on your bike requires you to be slightly head down and leaned forward over the bars. However, that can cause your neck to be slightly tilted back, while looking up to see the road/trail ahead. This causes a hinge through the middle of your neck. Nerves that supply sensation to your arms and hands branch from here and this may cause entrapment and/or irritation of them… thus leading to numbness in the hand.
  2. Your Shoulder/Elbow. Similar to the neck, your arm position over the bars may be impacting how your nerves can sit between your muscles, bones and connective tissue. Especially if you ride for hours, they may not like being in that specific position for long periods. Unhappy nerves lead to numbness and tingling.
  3. Your Wrist. Our wrist and hand position may also be causing compression or irritation of the nerves that supply into the hand and fingers. How you grip your handle bars or how far over the bars may also impact this. Think of when you fall asleep on your arm in bed and wake up not being able to feel your hand… similar idea.

How do I know where the problem is and what should I do?

It can sometimes be difficult to know exactly where a nerve problem originates. That’s why we recommend seeking help from a rehabilitation specialist to better understand your issues and get the help you need to feel your best!

However, a few things you can try are:

  1. Get a professional bike fit done. Especially as a new rider it is important to be comfortable in your saddle. Have someone who has training and knowledge in bike fitting assess and help you here.
  2. Self assess your posture. Do you feel overly hunched on your bike or in an awkward position? Do you already have postural issues from your desk job and are hunched over all day? Adjusting your posture on the bike may be all you need to decrease irritation of the nerves. Try working on some postural exercises in your free time (chest openers, pec stretching, foam rolling your upper back, banded rows, core work, etc.)
  3. Try nerve flossing! One thing that helps calm nerves down if they are irritated or compressed is to floss ‘em! This idea is that we are naturally moving the nerves through their pathway to settle them down. There are many ways to do this but here are two versions to try. (aim for 10 passes, 5-10 times per day. The numbness/tingling/nerve pain should improve).

Option 1: Keep your palm up to the ceiling. Start with your head in neutral and as you extend your arm out, bend your neck to the affected side. Come back to the starting position and repeat.

Option 2: Start by making the OK sign with your fingers. As you reach your arm out, maintain the OK sign as you side bend you head towards the affected side. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Keep in mind there are many other causes of numbness and tingling into the hand and if the above things do not resolve your issue be sure to seek out individualized advice. Everyone is different and what works for one may not work for all!

Leah ForrestallYou can book with author and Registered Physiotherapist, Leah Forrestall, through our website HERE or by calling the clinic at 416-551-8715. ​

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