Question:I've been training for a special 150-mile bike race to support a children's cancer camp. But I'm starting to have a problem with my left hand. My fingers are in some kind of spasm and curling like a claw. Have you ever heard of this problem in bikers?
Answer:You may be experiencing a problem with local nerve compression. There are three main nerves that pass through the wrist and can be affected. The radial nerve comes down from the elbow to the thumb side of the hand. Radial nerve problems are not as common as the next two we'll discuss.
The median nerve in the middle of the three nerves passes through the carpal tunnel. Pressure on this nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain, weakness of the hand, and numbness and tingling of the thumb and first two fingers are common.
The ulnar nerve passes through its own tunnel called Guyon's canal. This space is formed by two bones and two ligaments. Pressure along the outer border of the hand can cause ulnar tunnel syndrome. Symptoms are similar to CTS but affect the ring and little finger instead.
There are two functions of each nerve in the hand. One is to provide sensation of all kinds. This is the sensory branch of the nerve. The other is to move the muscles and tendons. This is the motor nerve branch. Clawing of the fingers suggests that the motor nerve has been affected. If you have numbness and tingling or other changes in sensation, then the sensory branch may be involved.
It may be best to see a hand surgeon or orthopedic surgeon for a formal evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference with this type of problem. It's important to get the pressure off the nerve and allow it to heal before permanent damage is done.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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