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Numb fingers

I suspect this is a common problem, but I can't find anything on the forums that covers it. After an hour or so of riding, my fingers begin to go numb, sometimes on one hand, sometimes the other, sometimes both at the same time. It generally begins with the little finger, spreading gradually to the rest, including the thumb. I don't think it is due to pressure on the hands, as experimentation has shown that the numb feeing only goes if I rotate the whole arm at the shoulder; flexing the fingers and wrist makes little difference. I get this on all types of bikes, with and without gloves, and even sometimes off the bike if I sit still for too long, so I don't think it's something that can be improved by adjusting anything on the bike. I've always thought it's a discomfort I'll just have to put up with, but does anyone know of there's a medical solution?

Posts

  • I don't think it's something that can be improved by adjusting anything on the bike.

    What have you tried?
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,825
    Too much pressure on the hands, meaning your position on the bike isn't optimal? Does the saddle need to go back and/or the bars be raised?
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  • I've tried changing the saddle height, moving it forward and back, and the tilt, and whereas this does effect comfort in other areas (eg knees) it makes no difference to my fingers getting numb (either better or worse). Bars are already as high as they will go.
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,825
    Try and find some mitts that have more padding. I occasionally get numb fingers, its caused by poor blood circulation so either you need to lessen the pressure, spread the pressure over a greater area or change the place where the pressure is being applied.

    How tight do you hold the handle bars?
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  • davep1davep1 Posts: 806
    I think this is the ulnar nerve, isn't it? The ideas already mentioned can help, as can moving your hands around on the bike as often as you can.

    I went for the top of the range Specialized mitts which have extra padding and also got different bar tape with more padding. Specialized is called "phat" I think but mine is a different brand.

    My little finger on my left hand is a bit tingly now, come to think of it, and I haven't been on the bike since Sunday :shock:
  • eddiefiolaeddiefiola Posts: 344
    drlodge wrote:
    Try and find some mitts that have more padding.

    I actually had the opposite, numbness stopped after going from padded gloves to non padded, some of these gel types have way too much and that can make things worse for some.
  • I've tried gel padded mitts, thinner mitts, thick gloves (in winter) neoprene gloves, no gloves and the results are pretty much the same. Bar tape is Specialized's bar phat, which has gel pads underneath in the crucial areas. It's pretty comfortable, but the fingers still go numb. I could be wrong, but I don't think it's to do with pressure on the hands, or the ulnar nerve, the feeling isn't so much tingly as a complete lack of sensation, as when an arm "goes to sleep" if you lie awkwardly on it. Consequently I'm wondering if it might be a blood supply problem.
  • nweststeynnweststeyn Posts: 1,574
    I get this when I wear mitts that are a touch too small, they put pressure on the V area (don't know what to call this bit of your hand?) between my pinky and ring fingers and I then start to go a bit numb. Possible problem?
  • ai_1ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    The usual culprit is keeping the hands in the same place for long period and/or having a lot of pressure on the wrong part of the heel of the hand. However if you're pretty sure it's not caused by that and gloves and hand position make little difference it's possible it could be a neck problem.
    A typical symptom of a pinched nerve exiting the spine is numbness in the hand, usually starting with the little finger. I injured my neck several years ago and for a few years after I was prone to numbness in my left little finger from time to time. I was told it was a common issue for injuries at that specific location (C4 I think). It's improved since and rarely effects me now. Maybe your position on the bike is putting pressure on a nerve at your neck and causing numbness? The fact you get it in both hands might make this less likely but worth checking out.
  • Yes, I've been thinking along those lines, nerve or blood vessel constriction in the neck or collar bone area. No injuries I can recall that might have caused it though. Reluctant to get it checked out medically as I think it might be hard to get a doctor to take it seriously enough to arrange the necessary tests.
  • yertezyertez Posts: 70
    Just did a couple of back to back 95 milers and after 2nd day and a really hard matress, have numbness in middle, ring and little fingers. Now fading on the left hand after a day of rest, still not great on right hand.
    I have pretty short arms, so reckon too much pressure on the hands with correct saddle position. Altura Pro-gel gloves.
    The neck thing make sense, so would the solution be to raise the handlebars to avoid long hours spent with the neck cranked up ?
    Or go all mountain bikey and put an adjustable height seat post so I can back on the downhill / coasting parts...?
  • ElfedElfed Posts: 459
    I've just solved my longstanding problem with numb fingers on my left hand, which I always blamed the inactivity due to the left shifter not used as often as the right.

    I've tried gel mitts, the Cinelli padded bar tape which neither helped, what did cure it was moving the shifters or rotating the bars so that your forearm and hand are inline when riding. My wrists were pointing up from the forearm line, so obviously some nerve was being compressed, changed my position and no numbness.

    Rotating the bars is the easiest, but sometimes that's not possible so moving the shifters is a lot more time consuming, having to re tape the cable outers to the bars and fit new bar tape.

    Hope this helps.
  • yertezyertez Posts: 70
    Thanks Elfed, sounds very similar to my symptoms, so will take a look at that.
    Geometry wise, raising the handle bars will also put the hands more in line too. So a combination of handlebar angle + height adjustments might do the trick.
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Don't rule out an issue with your ulnar nerve, for years (before cycling) I used to have horrendous discomfort, pins and needles all the time, and basically waking every night feeling paralysed with the numbness in my hands and arms. I eventually got it checked out, had some tests and it was deemed that my left arm would be worth surgery so I had it done, my right arm improved with changes to how I sit at work (office job) and now I don't get any trouble from my left arm. However........ since taking up cycling I am starting to get a mild numbness in my right arm, I would expect due to time spent in same position. So my point is, if you have problems off the bike as well as on, get checked out because I suffered for years.
  • rpaulrpaul Posts: 23
    Sounds like an ulnar nerve problem, although given that it spreads onto other fingers, median can be involved as well.
    Do you get pins and needles after you're off the bike? Do the fingers change colour? If yes to either of these, it's likely to be circulatory, not neural.
    Look up palm innervation for ulnar and median nerves and compare it with the localization of your numbness.
    The difficulty with nerves is that the problem can be located anywhere between the neck and the palm. There are fairly straightforward ways to find out where, but if you're in the UK, every step takes three months...

    I was 'blessed' with a similar sounding issue, but with median nerve after a bike/car accident (I got knocked off on a t-junction). It was November 2012, they can still only say it's median nerve, and not in the wrist. The jury is still out...
  • Thanks, that's interesting. It sometimes does take an hour or two for the feeling to return completely after I've finished riding, but no, there isn't any change in colour anywhere.

    I have been reluctant to see a doctor as I suspect it would take a long time to track down and then treat the source of the problem. A long round of appointment, waiting, referral, tests, waiting, more appointments, more waiting...
  • rpaulrpaul Posts: 23
    What helps me when the fingers numb up, is to swing the arm(s) in a pendular motion three or four times; it makes the numbness go away for a few minutes; that's why I suspect my problem is in the shoulders, somewhere in the brachial plexus, perhaps, although the last neurologist I saw said it was more likely to be in the neck, around C6.
    The downer is that that arm-swinging thing works only to a degree, and I have to do it more and more often as a ride progresses. Still, gets me through a day of touring OK, and it doesn't persist after the ride; not for long, anyway. A break for a few minutes, just walking around, also resets it almost completely.

    It's interesting that I don't experience anything like that with any other sports, i.e., kayaking or rowing, where it could be expected. The only other activity that gives it to me is pushing a pram...

    And unfortunately, you're right in terms of how long it takes. My first private GP was quite convinced it was the carpal tunnel syndrome, so tests had to be carried out. Since it is related to an accident, a lot of other people were involved in arranging it, and six months down the road the test came back with nothing: it's not the wrists. Back to square one, and each other step is worth six months, with little progress in diagnostics and no improvement to the actual condition.

    But if it bothers you, the earlier you start the process, the earlier you'll get your answer and probably a cure. I'd advise you to pop in to your local surgery and have a chat with them. At least it'll get the process going.
  • Your experience of how to relieve the pressure matches mine exactly. Just taking your hands off and flexing the fingers doesn't help. I have to rotate the arm, in the manner of a fast bowler, which brings the feeling back for a bit. Some days it's worse than others. Numbness generally sets in after about ten miles and can sometimes be so bad I can't feel the buttons on my Di2 shifters. On the other hand, I recently rode 215 miles over one day, and had barely any numbness at all.
  • Since you were asking for a medical solution, I would recommend PMFT, it generally supports blood circulation thus reducing pain and many other discomforts including the numbness you talked about.
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