Dealing with pain areas while cycling can be tough. This article is specific about dealing with pain in your wrist while cycling. Wrist pain while cycling is very common and most of the cyclists that I meet have gone through this at some point in time. Some like me also encounter handlebar palsy, which relates to your fingers going numb. The first time when my fingers got numb while cycling was actually funny. Never experienced it before. This was on my 300 KM brevet ride.

Let us get to the bottom of it.

This started happening to me when I got into brevet races. The 200 KM brevet was fine and was less tiring for my hands. However, in further races numbness crept in. Especially in my middle finger, ring finger, and pinky.

Now, this was new to me so I relaxed for a few minutes took a break, and then started again. Just because of this numbness that I was going through I took more breaks than usual in my brevet.

I knew about the saddle soreness and back pain while cycling, as I wrote about them and I knew how to counteract them. However, for this numbness, I had no clue how to make it go away.

So before we get to the ways to prevent this let us understand what exactly is this?

Handlebar palsy

Trilok provelo a professional cyclists from Jaipur India telling us about Handlebar palsy.
Handlebar palsy causes a lot of discomfort when on long rides. PC: Trilok Provelo

For people who might be wondering what is the meaning of palsy, here is the definition.

Definition of palsy as in Handlebar palsy.
Definition of “Palsy” as in Merriam Webster

This article has a lot of inputs from a lot of doctors as well from the cycling community, so here is what they have to say about handlebar palsy.

Fingers numb while cycling is a result of compression of Ulnar nerve, hence it is also called as Ulnar palsy.

This is caused due to compression or hyperextension of the Ulnar nerve which enervates  your fingers. This tends to cause a state of numbness in your fingers.

Wrist pain while cycling is caused due to compression of Ulnar nerve in your hand, this causes a temporary state of numbness in your fingers.
Ulnar nerve in your hand which causes this palsy

Hand pain while cycling is very common especially with cyclists riding long distances on the flat handlebar or on the drops.

If you have this quite often our team of doctors who are also cyclists would advise you to take immediate medical help.

This can cause problems in hand movement in the future if not taken care of and it does take a lot of time to get resolved.

However, we would be discussing few measures that you can take to counteract this while on your ride.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Let us look at the diagram that I shared earlier. If you notice there are two nerves that are mentioned. The one we talked about was the Ulnar nerve. The second one in discussion here is the Median nerve.

Median and Ulnar nerve in hand which causes fingers numb while cycling
Median nerve just on the left of Ulnar nerve

The syndrome mentioned above in the heading is caused by compression of Median nerve which in turn leads to hand pain while cycling.

This is characterized by numbness or tingling in the fingers and with me it especially happens in the ring and middle finger.

If you encounter this please seek medical help. This palsy will not only put you in an uncomfortable position but also will have an effect on your performance.

Wrist pain while cycling? Not to worry. Let us look at the preventive measures

1. A good bike fit

I would be honest with you all. This is the cause of everything that happens bad when you are on a bike when it comes to pain and aches.

I wrote an article about back pain when your are cycling long distances, check this article out. I have explained in detail about the bit fit which needs to be done.

One of the prime reasons for wrist pain while cycling is putting too much weight of your body on the handlebar.

Just imagine the amount of weight that your hand can actually hold vs the weight that you are putting on your wrist due to poor bike fit.

So no more low handlebar, bad stem height, high saddle post and no smaller or larger frames. Get a proper bike fit done and then ride.

2. Wrist pain while cycling due to poor quality of bar tape

This does have a great effect on getting the pressure off your hands. It might sound a minor trick and you might think that it might not have that great effect in increasing the pain in hands while cycling, but it’s the other way around.

I rode on my bike with a cheap bar tape that was company fitted. Then I got it changed to expensive but very comfortable bar tape.

Yes, it made a lot of difference, my rides were more comfortable and pain in hands while cycling was almost gone.

I have seen some professional cyclists putting gel and double bar taping on handlebars, it does again makes a difference as per them. This is what a professional rider Trilok had to say.

3. Padded gloves are a must

New riders might not invest in gloves, however, gloves does help in reducing pain in hands while cycling.

The functionality of gloves is to protect your hands in case you fall from your bike.

However, the padded gloves reduce the pressure which comes directly on your Ulnar nerve. This in turns reduces the pain in hands while cycling.

Especially if you find your fingers getting numb while cycling a good quality padded glove will help you. So I would advise you to invest in getting good quality gloves and none of that cheap quality stuff.

4 .Keep shifting your hand position

I always do this and it helps. Sometime I don’t even grab the handle bar when riding I just tuck my hands in my jersey and just pedal.

With practice I am sure a lot of cyclists might be riding without even need to grab the handle bar on an empty straight road.

When talking about road bikes, I usually change my hand positions to drops, or hood or top. Sometimes changing the hand position also depends on the kind of track/road you are riding.

So just keep changing your hand positions and you will be fine.

5. Relax your hands and body

I have seen some cyclists holding the handlebar and drop as if they are taking out their frustration. I know at inclines you might grip your handlebars a little too tight but a nice way of climbing incline would be resting your hands on the handle or bar top.

This reduces the extra pressure on your wrist.

Do not grip the handle hard rather keep the grip relax. Also, try to keep your upper body relax too.

Reducing wrist pain while cycling in a nutshell

Handlebar palsy or numbness can really be annoying when riding long distances. However, if you keep in mind the above mentioned 5 tricks you would enjoy your ride without hiccups.

If still your fingers are getting numb while cycling I would recommend to seek immediate medical help. If you have any questions related to this article please drop them in the comments below.

I will try to answer and attend your comment as soon as possible. Happy riding folks!

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