Cycling on your mountain bike represents a great way to get in shape and have some fun, but it quickly becomes less fun if you have wrist pain related to your riding activities. Several problems, including improper posture and a poorly fitting mountain bike, can cause wrist pain. Therefore, it's possible that some simple adjustments could make riding pain-free for you. If not, you may need to see your physician for treatment, since some medical conditions can cause wrist pain during cycling.
If you have poor upper body posture, you can experience wrist pain from your mountain bike handlebars. Make sure you're not trying to support your body with your wrists and hands on the handlebars. If you find you're putting significant pressure on your wrists, roll your shoulders back and bend your elbows slightly, which will provide you with a better ability to absorb shocks. In addition, try tilting your bike's saddle back a small amount, since if you've positioned the saddle too far forward, you'll tend to slide forward and place too much weight on your wrists.
If your wrist pain continues even though you've made adjustments to your posture, you may have a mountain bike that doesn't fit you properly. To find out, measure the distance between the forward tip of your saddle and the center of the handlebars. That distance should equal the distance between the end of your middle finger and the outside corner of your elbow. If it's too long, you're probably overreaching and may be putting excess pressure on your wrists, while if it's too short you may be placing your wrists in an awkward position. See a professional bike adjuster if necessary to get it right.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, a form of repetitive stress injury, occurs in about two to three percent of Americans, and extensive riding on a mountain bike actually can make symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome worse, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you do suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome related to or exacerbated by your mountain bike riding, you'll likely feel a combination of pain, numbness and burning in your wrists. You may find some relief by using wrist splints when you're cycling, but you should discuss treatment options with your physician, since it's essential to keep the condition from progressing.
Cyclist's palsy, another name for a condition called ulnar neuropathy, involves inflammation of the ulnar nerve, which runs into your hand from your arm. Symptoms include tingling in your little finger, along with numbness and pain in your wrist that sometimes extends into your hand. Since the ulnar nerve runs through your wrist, the shocks you absorb with your wrists from your handlebars can irritate this nerve, causing the problem. If your symptoms match those of cyclist's palsy, talk to your doctor about testing that can diagnose the condition. Once you're diagnosed, halting your cycling program for up to one month should give the inflammation a chance to subside.
- Harris Cyclery; Bicycling and Pain; Sheldon Brown; Oct. 31, 2010
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine; Cycling Injuries; Brian Sennett, M.D.; Feb. 18, 2011
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; May 12, 2009
- Sports Injury Bulletin; Cycling Injuries - Handlebar Palsy; Jim Bledsoe
- University of Michigan Health System: Ulnar Neuropathy