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I've started to get pins and needles in my little finger and the finger next to it some times after riding for over an hour. The roads are quite rough and vibrate my handle bars quite a lot. I also wake up some mornings with tingley fingers. I think that might be related to cycling, but it could also be that my fingers spend a lot of time typing.

Is this something that I should be worried about and is there anything I can do to prevent it happening?

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Which fingers are tingly when you wake up? If it is your pinky and the ring finger, it could be ulnar nerve compression which can be caused by sleeping with your arm in certain positions. If it is on the other side of the hand (thumb, index, middle fingers) it could be carpal tunnel syndrome caused by typing. Probably a good idea to see a physician whatever the case. –  Angelo Nov 2 '11 at 15:14
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If it's the little finger and the palm on the side of the little finger it's likely to be ulnar nerve compression. Here's a link to an exercise called "ulnar nerve gliding" that I have found to be quite effective in addition to padded cycling gloves and gel padding beneath the bar tape. handhealthresources.com/Solutions%20Pages/Exercises.htm –  user313 Nov 2 '11 at 19:22
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And, like Freiheit says, see a doctor. This type of thing can get worse without proper treatment. –  user313 Nov 2 '11 at 19:29
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Here's a link that describes "handlebar palsy" (ulnar nerve compression). I've had this issue and my doc referred me to a physical therapist and I also wound up making some minor seat/handlebar adjustments. If not resolved, it can lead to permanent damage. hughston.com/hha/a_15_3_2.htm –  user313 Nov 3 '11 at 16:52
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Another note on ulnar nerve compression... In my case, cycling was a partial cause. In working with a physical therapist, I also needed to make some ergonomic adjustments with my computer set-up since I had a bad habit of leaning on my elbow (the ulnar nerve runs through the elbow). It took me about a month and a half to resolve this after changing both my bike and computer set-up, along with specific stretches/exercises. –  user313 Nov 3 '11 at 20:05
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Talk to a doctor

The symptoms of waking up with tingly fingers make this sound consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome to my non-doctor opinion.

Basically, as I understand it, a little bit of that now and then isn't a problem, but too much over time causes damage which can be permanent and cause some major hand problems.

There's a bundle of nerves and tendons that run through a narrow channel in your wrist. Pressure on that area, or using the tendons with the wrist in a non-neutral position can, over time cause problems. That can mean biking and typing are causing you trouble. Pressure on these nerves will tend to cause numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, middle and part of your ring finger. Vibration of the hands (such as from rough ground) could be the main problem instead of pressure.

There's also the ulnar nerve on the "pinky" side of your hand that can have the same kind of problems. Pressure on this nerve (or stretching/hyperextension) will tend to cause numbness and tingling in the pinky finger and part of your ring finger.

Diagnosing exactly which problem you have is best done by a doctor, not the internet.

Assuming you talk to your doctor and they suggest avoiding the hand pressure your bike is causing, some things to help avoid these problems on your bike include:

  1. Get a professional bike fitting
  2. Don't hold the bars tightly, hold them loosely
  3. Gloves with padding matching the pads of your palm (no pad on central channel, that will make things worse). Sadly many gloves aren't really designed to help, so you have to know what to look for.
  4. Some bar grips are designed to help
  5. Changing how you ride to put less pressure on your hand (use core muscles to hold body up)
  6. Raise handlebars and/or move them closer to you so that you have less pressure on your hands
  7. Handlebar ends to give more hand positions
  8. Different style handlebars (new bike with drop bars?) for more hand positions, preferably with main position not putting pressure in center of palm
  9. Vary your hand positions more often. If you have bars that allow multiple hand positions, use them.
  10. Take breaks during your ride. Even just taking your hands off the bars for a minute at a stop light could help.
  11. There may be stretches you can do during such breaks to help
  12. Pedal harder/faster. If you pedal hard enough, you'll find yourself pulling your body down with the handlebars instead of pressing down on your hands.
  13. Run your tires at a lower pressure. Replace with fatter tires if necessary. This should help reduce road vibration.

Some references:

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I would rand the fitting higher. Changing the handlebar height might not be as effective as changing the bar height plus the seat position. A seat tilted forward or seat too far forward might be putting the riders center of gravity too far forward and not allowing the legs to take up enough weight. –  memnoch_proxy Nov 2 '11 at 4:40
    
If you're not too heavy you could reduce tire pressure too. –  Karl Nov 2 '11 at 5:29
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Pins and needles are felt when blood flow is restored to an area. If this is only from riding, you may be putting too much weight on your hands.

Ideally, all of your weight would be borne by your legs, but in the real world, people put some weight on their saddle and lean on their hands. Padded cycling gloves can help alleviate this problem.

In the long-term, you may want to get a proper fitting for your bike. Look at factors like saddle height, reach (the distance from saddle to handlebars), bar height, and saddle angle. Once you can distribute your weight in various places, you may find that hand pain/tingling is reduced.

If this related to typing, you'll want to make your computer setup more ergonomic.

You might want to see a physician about this; hand problems can become quite serious over time. I go to one that specializes in sports medicine, and he's given me good advice about bike setup, stretching, warming up, and so on.

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As a physician myself, also a commuter and a guy who walks with computers, I would advise the following:

  • Insall foam grips;
  • Rise your handlebars;
  • Use wider tires, use lower tire pressures;
  • Massage your hands often;
  • Install a suspension fork if needed;
  • Improve your workplace as much as you can;
  • Don't work more than 50 minutes without stopping;
  • Watch your hand position while sleeping (this caused me a lot of problems before I realized it);
  • Don't trust medications only to improve your condition - it is a mechanical one which need change of habits;
  • Talk to a doctor at least once, to check for other possible related issues;
  • Watch yourself, mind what you do with your hands during the day.

I don't think stop riding is a good solution, it does not even count as a solution.

Hope it helps.

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I heard that people's hands can hurt or become numb from the vibration.

I ride a suspensionless Alu frame on cracked city streets for 2 hours/day at 20 km/h average, on a 'hybrid' bike with flat handlebars.

The bars have thin rubber. I always wear cycling gloves.

The gloves are fingerless (made by Giro), have a breathable back, are washable, and are padded at the heel and ball of the palm where I grip the handle bars.

I'm no anatomist or doctor but IMO the padding (illustrated):

illustration

covers the superficial ulnar, and leaves a gap at the base, at the centre of the inside wrist, between the ball of the thumb and the edge of the hand, where it doesn't press on the median nerve, but rather raises it away from the bars instead of my gripping with it.

(My previous gloves had a woven mesh back, goatskin palms and foam rubber sewn into the palm.)

I recently bought new tires, Marathon Plus. They're heavy and improve the suspension a lot. They are much more comfortable at high speed (measuring by the shock I feel in my hands) than my previous thinner tires.

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Thanks. The gloves I own have padding in the middle, which sounds like it will actually make things worse. –  Richard Nov 3 '11 at 10:42
    
@ChrisW, those are really good gloves (there are several versions including full finger ones and upgrades like the monaco and zero). Giro really seems to have "figured out" gloves, but don't put them in the wash! –  Angelo Nov 11 '11 at 19:09
    
@Angelo - I hand-wash/rinse them sometimes, e.g. when I come in from the rain and they're soaked anyway. –  ChrisW Nov 12 '11 at 2:50
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It's unlikely to be carpal tunnel, though that's a possibility.

A major nerve in the hand, feeding the fingers, runs across the palm, right where one tends to lean on the bars. Constant pressure on this nerve irritates it and causes the numbness and tingling that cyclists often experience. I'm not sure how much irritation it takes to cause actual damage, but I suspect in most cases the situation becomes intolerable before serious damage is done.

In addition, pressure and the constant cramped grip that especially new cyclists tend to use cuts off blood flow in the hand. There are several (relatively) major blood vessels that run across the palm.

The solution, of course, is to relieve the pressure on the palm. Padded gloves help, but beyond a modest amount padding can be counter-productive since it spreads the pressure out over a wider area, causing a wider area to be deprived of blood and numbing out more area such that a minor change in hand position doesn't achieve a "fresh" grip.

I once had some special gloves that were really good -- they had "Sorbothane" padding (a sort of rubber), but, more than that, the padding was in the form of narrow ribs, so that they sort of "massaged" the palms as you rode. But they wore out and I've never found replacements. (I've often thought someone should make bar grips with similar ribs, but I've never seen anything.)

Otherwise, the best solution is to relieve the pressure on your palms by adjusting your riding position. Raise the handlebar and move it closer to you (more to the rear). And maybe move your seat forward a bit.

The other thing to do, of course, is to change hand positions frequently. Traditional drop bars give you several good positions for riding, and with straight bars you can get bar extensions to give you alternate positions.

Added: One problem I've noted with bikes these days is that they're built to "look mean" on the sales floor, with the handlebar unrealistically (for most people) low. And with the threadless headsets raising the bar beyond a half-inch or so is apt to require changing out parts, something people often don't know is even a possibility, even if they aren't reluctant to do it for various emotional and financial (and macho) reasons.

Added: I once ran some back-of-the-envelope calculations to see how much pressure the body was placing on the hands, vs blood pressure, and what I worked out is that upper body mass and leg/back strength (which affects how much weight relief the legs offer) are critical factors. When someone is over roughly 200 pounds with poor strength (which I have due to polio) then it's impossible to spread the weight out enough with padding to keep from cutting off blood flow. If you're lighter or with better leg/back strength then you're probably wondering what all the fuss is about.

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This thread on BF has a number of ideas for and against moving seat position bikeforums.net/showthread.php/… –  memnoch_proxy Nov 2 '11 at 4:34
    
Two vague posts? –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 2 '11 at 11:21
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Though you are right that moving the seat forward is a maybe/maybe not situation. Too far forward throws the body off balance and puts MORE weight on the hands. But if the "reach" is too long, and the seat is fairly far back, moving it forward is worth trying. If the reach distance is not a problem then it may be that moving the seat back slightly would relieve pressure on the hands. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 2 '11 at 11:23
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@memnoch_proxy - Going to a Bikeforums page after being on a Stack Exchange site feels weird. I keep wanting to upvote (and downvote) posts. There's some good info on that thread along with some...ahem...misinformation. –  Neil Fein Nov 3 '11 at 3:08
    
Ah!! Was confused by the danged ad and thought that was the end of the page. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 3 '11 at 11:45
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FWIW - Here's my experience with a very similar issue.

Symptoms - Numbness and tingling (pins and needles) in my pinky, ring finger, and palm of my left arm. Also, tingling in the left elbow. A bit extreme since half of my left hand was semi-numb and tingling.

Diagnosis

  • This freaked me out a bit, so I did a doctor visit.
  • The doc did some tests and then referred me to a physical therapist after determining that the issue was ulnar nerve compression.
  • There were 3 problems discovered during my visits with the physical therapist.
    • Cycling
    • Computer ergonomics
    • Sleeping

Solutions

For cycling, I needed to make adjustments with the seat and handlebars. For the computer ergonomics, which turned out to be the main issue, I had to raise my seat height, lower the monitor, and a few other tweaks. For sleeping, I wound up with my arm wrapped in a towel so that I didn't sleep with my elbow bent. Additionally, I was prescribed several exercises/stretches in order to alleviate the pressure on the ulnar nerve.

Final thoughts

Like Freiheit said, see a doctor (which apparently you plan to do). The resolution of this type of issue depends on the cause (the cause is not necessarily cycling) and the individual. So, see your doc and get it figured out. My symptoms are far better after making changes.

  • I did not include my specific bicycle adjustments since these adjustments are entirely determined by the individual.

Lastly

Anyway, I woke up one morning after a very long ride during the summer with my left arm half numb and tingling. Thought I was having a stroke or heart attack. Nah. Ulnar nerve compression. However, your issue may be different. Good thing to see your doc about it.

Not lack of circulation but this: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00069

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How much weight do you put on your hands while riding? If you've got a bike that has you leaning forward and putting weight on the hands, you may want to consider a bike with a more upright seating position. That will cut down on the weight on the hands issue.

I think I know what you're talking about. I spend all day behind a computer too, and if I spend much time on my race bike, I get tingly hands. If I put most of my miles on my MTB, then I don't get the tingly hand episodes.

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I had a similar problem - numb/tingling hand after riding for 20min or so. What fixed it for me was to fit "moustache handlebars" to my bike. These are not to everyone's taste, but they worked for me. It's either the multiple hand positions they offer or the fact that, thanks to the curve of the bars, there's much less pressure on the heal of my hands.

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It's not exactly clear to me if you were wearing gloves or not. I would try a few rides without gloves and see if the problem persists.

I had the same issue as you when I would wear padded gloves my fingers would get numb and stay that way for up to 24 hours. I ended up not wearing gloves on most rides as a result but the numbness and tingling went away.

Recently, I started using gloves that have no padding whatsoever and have had no issues with the numbness and tingling. The gloves I use now are the Giro Zero's and the Specialized XC Lite.

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Yep, sometimes padded gloves make the situation worse by spreading out the pressure over a larger area and by making you less likely to keep making minor hand position adjustments. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 10 '11 at 2:20
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You could try some ergonomic grips.

See: bikeradar Ergon GX1 Grips review

Ergon GX1 Grips

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