Cycling offers an efficient form of low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can protect your joints against the wear and tear associated with other forms of exercise, such as jogging. However, any exercise comes with risks; muscle aches and pains, sprains and overuse injuries can happen with any sport. There are several reasons why your forearms might ache while cycling. If pain occurs frequently, stop cycling and see your doctor or physical therapist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Gripping the handlebars for hours at a time and shifting the weight of your upper body forward onto your arms can stress your muscles. If you are new to cycling, you are even more vulnerable to muscle aches. To prevent forearm muscle aches when starting cycling, take shorter rides until your muscles become accustomed, and stretch your forearm muscles before and after each workout.
Besides injuries to the face, handlebar palsy, or ulnar neuropathy, is one of the most common cycling-related injuries, according to Sports Injury Bulletin. The ulnar nerve, which runs down the forearm to the wrist, can become inflamed because of compression of the nerve at the wrist. Riding for long periods with your wrists in extension is one cause; another cause is stress on the nerve from the shock and vibration of uneven terrain that travel from the handlebars through your hands and wrists. Symptoms of ulnar neuropathy include tingling, numbness and pain in the outer forearm and it might extend to the hands and fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common overuse injury caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist. According to Dr. David C. Rehak, carpal tunnel syndrome is not as common for cyclists as ulnar neuropathy and usually occurs due to hand and arm positioning. If a cyclist grips the handle bars on top and transfers too much upper body weight onto his wrists, this creates compression. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include burning, tingling, numbness and itching in the palm of the hand, and could include sharp pains in the wrist and forearm.
Treatment plans for ulnar neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome will vary due to the severity of your condition. If the condition persists, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Hand pain and numbness can be signs of a more serious underlying condition, says Rehak. In both cases, taking pressure off your wrist will prevent further injury, which may mean suspending your cycling routine until your condition subsides. Stretching and anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve pain, and symptoms should resolve themselves with time. Once healed, take precautions on the bike to prevent compression of the nerves in your wrist.