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Wrist Pain Cycling – 101 Guide For Treatments & Exercises

If you’re an avid cyclist or an upcoming cyclist, it’s important you know that wrist pain cycling is among the most common cycling complaints. This condition if not promptly fixed, can affect your performance and in severe cases, force you to the sidelines for many months.

Also commonly referred to as handlebar palsy, wrist pain when cycling happens when there is a compression of the ulnar nerves, which runs through your little finger all the way to the ring finger.

For people who suffer from handlebar palsy, the pain can be almost unbearable. And besides the severe pain, people with this condition have to deal with numbness and tingling that may result in weak hands, making it difficult for cyclists to brake or change gear.

Why your wrist hurts from cycling

When cycling, posture is just as important as technique. So the position you take when mounting your bike is pretty important. Call it your attitude, and you’ll not be wrong. Here is the thing, your posture adds flavour to everything you do when cycling.

Trust us when we say there is a sharp difference and experience when you pedal fifty miles with poor posture than peddling the same distance with your wrist nicely aligned, your elbows correctly bent, and your shoulders relaxed.

Even veteran cyclists agree that poor posture can do a lot of damage to your hands and arms, causing your wrist to take a beating that could force you to take a break from the things you love the most.

Bad posture when cycling can result in the compression of the ulnar nerves. This if not fixed, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome or what professionals refer to as handlebar palsy or cyclist palsy. Thankfully, the resulting nerve damage can be totally avoided if you work on getting your posture right.

What to do when your wrist hurt from cycling

Wrist pain from cycling is something you cannot completely avoid, especially if you’re starting out. Even seasoned veterans have at one point during their career experienced sore wrist from cycling.

Now the million-dollar question is, what should you do when your wrist starts hurting? Well, for mild wrist pain, taking a few days off cycling usually does the trick. This allows your wrist to relax and recuperate.

For severe wrist pain that wouldn’t go away even after a few days of rest, you’ll need to visit your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Doing so gives you a better chance of recovery. Keep in mind that ignoring signs of wrist pain can cause your condition to worsen and may even result in surgery. But we doubt you’ll like that very much. That’s why you must take every symptom of wrist pain very seriously.

Top treatment for cycling wrist pain

Wrist pain from cycling isn’t a death sentence, and you know what, your condition can be correctly managed and treated, giving you the chance to continue engaging in the activities you love the most, so there is no reason to freak out.

That said, you can keep your wrist in excellent condition if you can minimise putting direct pressure on the ulnar nerve. Trust us when we say this is the best way to prevent, manage and treat compression and inflammation of the nerves.

Read on to find other fantastic treatment options for managing wrist pain from bike riding.

Medication: For mild wrist pain from cycling, pain relief medications have proven to provide temporary relief from the pain you’re experiencing. Also, if you’re suffering from cycling palsy or handlebar palsy, oral or topical NSAIDs will help manage and treat the inflammation around your wrist.

Corticosteroid injections: This treatment option is only recommended when your condition begins to worsen. For people whose wrist condition results in painful swelling and discomfort, taking corticosteroid injections will help manage and reduce swelling. This will also ease the pressure on your nerves, allowing you to enjoy some relief.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: If you’re suffering from wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome at the same time, wearing a wrist splint will help relieve the symptoms you’re feeling. Besides reducing the pain, you’re feeling, wearing a wrist splint will also speed up healing.

Warm-up and regular exercises: We understand the urge to want to mount your bike and go cycling every now and again. But guess what, going cycling without proper warm-up and exercise is a recipe for disaster. And in cycling where injuries happen more often than other sports, you have to take adequate care, so your wrist doesn’t take a beating.

Thankfully, there are lots of unique warm-up exercises you can do to strengthen and keep your wrist healthy. But we will get to all of that later.

Take some time to rest: For mild wrist pain, taking some time to rest usually does the trick. So once you start feeling some weird pain after cycling, take a few days off to relax, and you’ll be fine. It would help if you also resisted the urge to keep going when your wrist starts hurting.

Surgery: In severe cases where all other treatment options fail, surgery is usually the last resort. For handlebar palsy or cyclist palsy, doctors may try corticosteroid injection or even decompression surgery which involves relieving the nerve to eliminate pressure.

The only downside to surgery is that it may take a while for you to recover fully. In some cases, you may have to spend months on the sidelines. Not just that, you may even have to wear a splint to immobilise the affected region. This will help speed up recovery.

Wearing wrist support: Just like other sports, wearing wrist support when cycling is super important. Wearing wrist support for cycling will help your wrist manage all that beating it is subjected to daily. For cyclists who can’t go a day without mounting their bikes, getting good wrist support for cycling will be a smart decision.

Common wrist injuries from cycling

Without mincing words, a lot of professional cyclists and amateurs, experience mild to severe pain and numbness in their wrist. This condition if not promptly attended to, can affect performance and riding pleasure. Stay with us as we take you through some of the common causes of wrist pain from cycling.

For cycling enthusiasts, two main wrist conditions can cause tingling, numbness, pain and discomfort in your wrist. They are handlebar palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome, and we will take a detailed look at them shortly.

Handlebar palsy

This wrist condition is a pretty common condition suffered by both professional cyclists and amateurs just starting cycling. Besides ulnar neuropathy, at least one in 20 cyclists suffer handlebar palsy.

While this condition is treatable and there is no cause to freak out, handlebar palsy is triggered by compression of the ulnar nerves. For people who suffer from handlebar palsy, you’ll experience mild to severe symptoms like numbness, pain, tingling or weakness in the hand.

Besides compression of the ulnar nerves, hyperextension of the nerve can also result in similar symptoms.

Should you experience any of the symptoms we earlier mentioned, it will make a lot of sense to act on them immediately. And that’s because handlebar palsy can be quite stubborn to treat. Not just that, you also need to seek professional medical advice.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

For cyclists who apply excessive pressure when riding their bikes and executing bar tops or flat bars, you’re at risk of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. And just like handlebar palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This condition is characterised by tingling sensation and numbness in the thumb. That’s not all; people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome also feel wrist pain and weakness in the hand.

Just like other wrist conditions, when you start feeling symptoms like tingling, numbness and wrist pain in your wrist, don’t ignore these symptoms as they might point to something more serious. You can schedule a visit to your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. In addition to that, you should also take preventive measures when you go out cycling.

How is wrist pain from cycling diagnosed?

Diagnosing wrist pain from cycling isn’t as difficult as it seems. A trip to your doctor is all you need to get the process started. So the minute you start feeling any weird pain in your wrist, visit your doctor for prompt diagnosis.

For a start, your doctor will take a look at the site of the injury to investigate where you are feeling the pain. He may even ask you to try to flex your wrist in different directions, to be sure about the wrist problem you’re dealing with.

This may also be followed by a series of questions to find out if your wrist pain is as a result of existing wrist conditions.

Should all of these not suffice, your doctor may recommend more elaborate tests like CT scans, X-rays and MRI scans that are more reliable when diagnosing wrist pain.

When should you see your doctor?

Mild wrist pain from cycling may not indicate anything serious. And most times, a few days of rest is all you need to feel better. But any wrist pain that worsens after a few days, even after taking some time off the track is a sign that something isn’t right and needs to be checked out as soon as possible.

So the minute you feel your condition isn’t getting any better, take a trip to your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Trust us when we say waiting a few extra days can cause your condition to spiral to the point where you may be needing surgery.

How to prevent wrist injuries

When it comes to cycling, preventing wrist pains can be super tricky as you may sometimes not have control of the activities that play out on the tracks. That said, we have found some exciting ways to prevent injuries when cycling. And the best part is that some of these tips will significantly improve your performance and techniques.

  • Wear protective gloves: We cannot reiterate this enough, but the truth is wearing protective gloves when cycling protects your wrist from all the pressure it is subjected to. With protective wrist gloves on, your wrist is more than ready to handle all the beatings it is subjected to daily. And according to professionals, wearing protective gears like wrist gloves can reduce the pressure exerted on the ulnar nerves by 12 to 18 percent.
  • Adjust your seat: If you’re serious about protecting your wrist from injuries when cycling, then you must take extra care to adjust your seat accordingly. For amateur cyclists and savvy professionals, you can lower and shift your bicycle seats backwards. This helps your posture by reducing the forward positioning of the body. At the end of the day, doing this will reduce the transfer of weight to your arms and hands when cycling.
  • Exercise and warm up regularly: Just like in other sporting activities, exercises and warm-ups are super important for overall fitness, especially for cyclists who are just starting out. Besides preventing bike riding wrist pain, regular training, and warm-up puts your body in great shape and allows you to perform at an optimum everything you hit the tracks.

So instead of hitting the track every other day, dedicate some days to full body workouts. You can take things slow and build momentum as your confidence level increases. The exciting part is that these warm-up exercises are easy to execute, so you don’t have to think about it too much.

Best stretches every cyclist should know

Although cycling is regarded as a low impact activity, guess what, it can be super repetitive and may often lead to a limited range of motion.

So for cyclists who want to fix tightness and pain in the wrist, it’s important to incorporate regular stretching exercises that focus on groups of muscles that contract during riding and breaking.

Check out these top cycling stretches that will significantly improve your performance, flexibility while preventing common cycling injuries.

Downward facing dog

  • What it does: The core and lower back generate a lot of power when cycling. Unfortunately, this can cause the area to become fatigued and tight. Thankfully, the downward-facing dog helps to release tension from the entire spine, down to your hips. It also allows you to stretch the calf and hamstring muscles.
  • How to execute: Start from your hands and knees. From there, proceed to raise your hips and this you can do by merely straightening your legs. Now, place your hands firmly on the ground, just in front of your shoulders. While in this position, try to contract your quadriceps and push your hips backwards. For maximum results, try to push your heels towards the ground and ensure your spine is kept straight while executing.
  • Number of reps: Stay in that position for 30 seconds and repeat the routine three times.

The seated glute

What it does: Your glutes are your workhorses when cycling, and that’s because of the amount of power and pressure they generate. During tedious efforts like hill repeats, the glutes take a lot of beating.

Should these groups of muscles become fatigued or tight over time, it could result in lower back pain.

This fantastic stretch is designed to target the piriformis and glute muscles which are connected to the back of the pelvis.

How to execute: This exercise routine is super easy to implement, and you can do it all by yourself without help. Simply start by sitting on a chair. While in that position, try to cross one leg and ensure that your ankle rests nicely on your other leg.

Number of reps: Stay in that position for 30 seconds and repeat at least three times for each leg.

The resolved belly pose

  • How it helps: A lot of cyclists complain of pain and lower back stiffness. And that’s because they put a lot of hard work and effort into cycling. Amazingly, the resolved belly pose helps relieve those symptoms.
  • How to execute: To get effective results, you’ll have to begin with your back on the floor and your knees bent. While in that position, have your arms stretched out just by your side. Push your knees to your chest and lower them to the right. For people finding it difficult to lower their knees to the floor, have a pillow placed on the floor and allow your knee to rest on it.
  • Do the same for the opposite side. Once you feel that your lower back has begun to loosen, you can increase your stretch for optimum result.
  • Number of reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times on each side.

Top four wrist support for cycling

LP Elasticated wrist wrap

For optimum protection and improved performance, the LP Elasticated wrist wrap is just what every cyclist needs when they hit the track. Designed to provide heavy-duty support for the wrist, this impressive wrist wrap will ensure your wrists are nicely wrapped and protected from injuries.

With only one size available, this wrap will fit perfectly. Besides cycling, this fantastic wrist wrap can be used for almost all athletic activities.

Pros

  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Super comfortable
  • Provides heavy-duty support for the wrist

Cons

  • No warranty

Protocol thumb restriction splint

Although this wrist support is designed to treat tendonitis and osteoarthritis, it allows for a full range of motion. This lets you engage in your daily activities without any hassle.

While this support nicely wraps your thumb and CMC joint, it allows for full finger function, making it ideal for cyclists and other CrossFit athletes.

Made from unique protocol materials, this wrist support provides stability without the bulk.

Pros

  • Lightweight and super comfortable
  • Reinforced stitching, so it will not rip off easily
  • Keeps the wrist protected from injuries

Cons

  • Only available for one hand

LP extreme wrist and thumb support

If what you want is wrist support that provides reliable support for weak and injured wrists, you’ll absolutely love the new and improved LP extreme wrist and thumb support.

Fitted with adjustable hooks and loops closure, you can adjust the wrap just the way you like. Although this wrist support partially immobilises the thumb, it allows for free finger movement. The icing on the cake is that this wrap comes fitted with a metal stay that provides rigid and secure support.

Pros

  • Provides reliable support that keeps your wrist protected
  • Super comfortable fit
  • Allows for optimum finger movement

Cons

  • Some users have complained that it is a little too stiff.

LP neoprene stabilising wrist support

Are you looking for a wrist wrap that provides superior support and compression for your wrist? Look no more as the new LP neoprene stabilising wrist support is here to work its magic.

Designed to improve performance and protect your wrist at the same time, this wrist support is a must-have for every cyclist.

Pros

  • Perfect for prevention and treatment of wrist injury
  • One size fits all
  • Helps improve performance

Cons

  • Some customers have complained of the stitching.

Frequently asked questions

Does wrist support help?

Wrist supports are not only designed to improve performance, but they also help to prevent and treat wrist injuries.

Can wrist pain cycling be treated?

Wrist pain during cycling can be treated; especially if you get your wrist examined by a professional on time. In addition, you can take a few days off to rest and see if things improve.

How can I keep my wrist from hurting during cycling?

You can prevent wrist pain from cycling by regularly exercising and warming-up before you hit the tracks. You can also put in a little effort to get your posture right.

Conclusion

Wrist pain from cycling happens to both seasoned professionals and amateur cyclists just starting out. But guess what, this condition can be managed and treated with prompt diagnosis and treatment. So once you suspect that something is wrong with your wrist, visit your doctor for immediate medical attention.