Thumb/wrist issue



Musicant

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Aug 28, 2003
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I recently (2 months ago) started taking almost daily rides up into the hills. Roundtrip the ride is 11.5 miles and from my house to the highest point is 1200 feet of climb. 5 years ago I was doing this daily and I had to quit because I developed foot pain my my left forefoot. Eventually it was diagnosed as Morton's Neuroma, and after seeing about 6 podiatrists I finally got the correct diagnosis. The guy said I had two of these in the same foot (this is said to be rare) and I had the nerves severed. This was 3.5 years ago and the foot has been very slow to heal but I finally decided to try riding seriously again (I have been riding around town some since shortly after the surgery).

After a few weeks of almost daily rides recently, my left thumb where it joins the wrist has been hurting, a sort of sharp pain, and I shift my hand position on my maes handlebars (sort of a roadbike, a 12 speed). There are two hand positions I use, and I go from one to the other every time the pain bothers me.

The pain has finally gotten to the point where I don't think I should continue to ride, and I haven't ridden in 5 days. For the first 2-3 days after stopping, the pain actually got worse! I then realized that I have some pain in the other wrist and the idea dawned on me that I should maybe adjust my handlebar rake, and I did that. I think this will help a lot, but I don't want to test the adjustment until the pain subsides. My doctor suggested ibuprofen, but I've never had a positive experience with it, only negative (stomach issues). My 66th birthday is in 6 days. I don't heal as fast as I used to.

Well, any wisdom appreciated.
 

longfemur

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Jul 17, 2007
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I'm 10 years younger than you are, but I think that older riders like us tend to more easily develop problems like this, and then take longer to heal.

You know, it could be that you have a problem with your wrists that is unrelated to cycling, where cycling as you do merely provides it with an opportunity to manifest itself. They can test for that. I've had the one where they check nerve conductivity a couple of times.

That being said, there are a couple of things I would look at if it was me:

1) Whichever way you position your handlebars, it should be done in a way which allows you to use all of the hand positions without having a bend at the wrist. Just mount your bike along a wall so you can support yourself and check out your wrist angles. Experiment as necessary with handlebar position.

2) I used to love Maes type bars (mine were actually 3ttt Grand Prix), but as I got older, I could no longer stand to have the ramp part of the bars angled downwards much. I now use an anatomic bend "randonneur" type of bar which gives me an almost horizontal ramp to the brake/shifter hoods. They are also a more shallow drop than my old bars. If I had the cash, I might want to get some classic French randonneur style bars that have almost parallel horizontal ramps and horizontal drops.

3) My road bike has a slightly extended head tube which allows my bar to be about a cm and a half higher with my racing quill stem. This is significant, because it allows me to set my saddle a little further back, which in turn takes a lot of weight off my hands when I'm riding. It's not quite as "efficient", but I'm not racing anybody. To go along with this, I use a slightly wider, flatter "touring" saddle, and my hard, narrow racing saddle is gathering dust.

Whatever you do or whatever happens with your wrist problem, it's not a bad idea to modify riding position a little in order to put less pressure on them.
 

Musicant

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Aug 28, 2003
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Thanks for the excellent thoughtful response. Yes, I too think it's possible that the problem has not been "caused" by the cycling, but is merely bring revealed by it. I had a nerve conduction test done on that arm about 5 years ago about the time I had arthoscopic surgery on that shoulder (turned out I had a labrum tear, which they fixed on the spot). I had what seemed to me to be nerve related symptoms, and thus the referral to a neurologist by my orthopedic surgeon. The tests didn't reveal much IIRC, but I do recall the doctor telling me that the results indicated some carpal tunnel syndrome, and that it was something I should be aware of and that it could indicate eventual problems. I don't know if the symptoms I am having now are in any way related. My primary care physician thinks (not on the basis of examination but on the basis of an email I sent him, which was necessarily less than 1000 characters), that the problem is not nerve or circulation related but rather due to overuse and either cartilage or tendon in nature.

I have never been into the cardio machines at my gym, but I got on a couple yesterday and figure I should stick with them for cardio until my wrists seem pretty symptom free. At least on the first day, I couldn't muster anything like the enthusiasm I put into my hill rides! I worked up a sweat but I was hardly breathing compared to my hill climbs.

I'll have to look into modifications and/or a new bike if my wrist problems continue. I wonder about the mountain bikes. Don't they have a more upright position that takes a lot of weight off the hands?