Keep Your Hands Safe When Biking
As spring brings warmer weather and adds daylight hours, biking fever spreads!
Although biking is fun and can be good for your health, cyclists should keep a few things about their bodies in mind before hitting those trails to prevent injury. In fact, one survey found that approximately 31 percent of cyclists reported overuse hand problems. So, it is important to take precautions to protect your arms and hands from injury on bike riding adventures.
Even if your bike has been correctly sized and the seat aligned, you may still experience a comfort issue that could affect your arms. Symptoms that may signal poor positioning includes numbness and tingling in the ring and small fingers; numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers; clumsiness with tasks involving hand coordination; and pain in the arms, wrist, hands and back.
Some common positioning mistakes that can lead to numbness, tingling and wrist and thumb/hand pain include hands being positioned wider than shoulder-width apart and the wrists being angled too far back, forward, or inward. These can be addressed by changing the handlebars from straight to angled or using aero bars. Wearing padded gloves can also absorb the shock and vibration of the ride as well as allow for a looser grip.
Pain in the back and hands can stem from riding with rounded back and shoulders or with elbows locked in extension and can involve the handlebars being too low or too high in relation to the seat or tight hamstrings.
The ideal riding position involves a neutral back, slight elbow bend, hands shoulder width apart and wrists in mid-position. Using ergonomic grips, added bar ends, adjustable height or adjustable angle handlebars can all assist to achieve the correct positioning.
If the above necessary positioning modifications are made, and the affected body part is rested early enough, the symptoms should resolve within a couple of days. However, if symptoms involve coordination problems with the fingers or have been longstanding, it may take weeks to months to recover and may possibly require seeing a physician.
While the injuries that occur with bike falls and collisions are as varied as the impacts, one common bone broken is the scaphoid (wrist bone near the thumb). Extending the arm to break a fall focuses forces on these bones leading to injury during impact.
A scaphoid fracture can be easily missed as the telltale sign of this fracture, pain in the thumb side of the wrist, might not be felt as severely initially as other injuries. It is important to be vigilant of an injury in this area, however, as a design flaw in the blood supply to the scaphoid can lead to serious issues including avascular necrosis (failure of bone to heal) and long-term functional impairment if not treated early. This is why it is important to not ignore wrist pain after a bike fall.
While prevention of falls and broken bones may not be entirely possible, if the biker holds on to the handlebars while falling, the entire body can absorb the blow of the impact rather than focusing the impact on these two bones in the outstretched arm. Wearing a helmet can also make the need to protect the head less of an issue during a fall.
Enjoying the Ride
By being aware of some of the most common arm and hand-related bike injuries, you can take the necessary steps to prevent these injuries from occurring during your rides. Should an injury occur, schedule an appointment so that we may help you heal in time for the next ride.