Question:Our 14-year old son is an avid mountain biker. Lately he's been shaking his hand to try and get rid of some numbness and tingling he's having. Is that really going to help?
Answer:Tenderness, numbness, tingling, and decreased grip or pinch strength are common symptoms of nerve compression in the wrist and hand. More and more reports of nerve compression syndromes in the hand are being reported by bikers (racers and mountain bikers).
The area affected most often is the ulnar nerve. This is the nerve along the outside edge of the wrist and hand. Pressure on the palm of the hand from long periods on the bike (racers) and/or rough terrain (mountain bikers) can cause this problem. This is because the area covering the ulnar nerve and the ligaments that enclose the nerve are thin. The nerve is also fairly close to the surface. That's why many bikers wear special protective gloves. There's usually a gel pad or foam built into the gloves along the wrist border.
The handlebars of the bike can also be padded or the angle changed to keep pressure off the palm pads. It might be a good idea to invest in some protective gear for your son. If the symptoms don't go away with some modifications, he may have to take a break until the nerve heals.
If he already has the right gear and rest has not helped, then it may be time to see a doctor. Seek out an orthopedic doctor who has specialized as a hand surgeon if one is available in your area.LT Stacey Black, MD, MC, USN, et al. A Unique Case of Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome in a Bicyclist Requiring Operative Release. In The American Journal of Orthopedics. July 2007. Vol. 36. No. 7. Pp. 377-379.
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