Sore hands, tingling, & tennis elbow during longer rides.
I experiencing a tingling sensation, soreness in the heel of the hands, and tennis elbow like pain in both arms during longer MTB rides and am desperately looking for some help. Here's my situation and what I've tried so far and noticed: I ride a steel 29er SS with a 100mm travel fork set to a softer psi than recommended and I run my front tires even softer to help out, a 720mm Niner carbon flat bar, 9 deg sweep and really like the dampening characteristics of it. My bike position has been verified with ReTul 3D motion capture system and I'm very close to ideal. (1) Tried a 9 deg, 680mm alloy bar with ESI chunky grips for several yrs and feel like I have to squeeze harder to hold on during climbs than with Ergon grips. Noticed more pain with alloy bar vs carbon of the same sweep. 2) Tried Ergon GA1-Evo and GS1 grips. I would say these help some, but still don't eliminate my problems. 3) Tried ESI chunkies on carbon bar, 9 deg, and still feel pains coming back. ESI grips do cushion nicely but they are just tubes of smooth silicone rubber and don't conform to the hand dimension like a GA1-Evo grip does. 4) Tried a different bar height to see if a more upright position would help. What I felt was ok but I didn't like riding on the flatter sections like that. Prefer a bit more XC position I guess.
Ok, I'm sure many of you riders have had something like this happen or know of someone who went through this. I've read a ton already about this but nothing is really working. The only thing I have not tried much of is a set of Alt-bars. Reading about different bars like Jones, Groovy LUV bars, Mary bars, etc have interested me but I wonder if something else might be compromised in handling? Since trying different grips and bars widths and materials really hasn't helped much, maybe the sweep and upsweep need to be addressed? Would an alt bar, of say 23'ish deg in a more, positioned more downward, hinder handling, climbing, etc. Thoughts? Since I'm a SS'er, climbing is really where I have to grip hard to get up hills and feel this is where my hand strength decreases as the ride progresses causing tennis elbow pains.
I'm going to try wrapping my carbon bars with road bike tape for grips to allow me to build it up where needed. I also wonder about foam grips like Ritchey or Syncros? Anyone try them? Durability is my concern with those.
Since I want to address the root cause of this problem, what off-bike exercises would be recommended to strengthen my grip strength for biking? I ride a lot as it is and injuries like this really frustrate me as I am in great shape right now and want to put in longer rides as summer approaches.
In advance, thanks for the help. I really appreciate all of your thoughts and opinions.
Talk to your doctor - not that there is anything wrong, but she/he may tell you there is nothing more you can do than what you have tried. I get numbness too... I shift around a lot... That's about all I can do.... I do use the Ergon grips as well. better than regular for this type of thing.
Sore hands, tingling, & tennis elbow during longer rides.
If you've been having hand pain and tingling for years, which is also extending back up your arms, it can become a chronic problem, carpal tunnel syndrome. Once you're at that stage minor tweaks to position may not do much. Your hand pain combined with elbow pain sounds like it could have progressed towards that.
"Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The carpal tunnel - a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand - houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm. Although painful sensations may indicate other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known of the entrapment neuropathies in which the body's peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized."
Something that I've found to have a surprisingly large effect on hand numbness and pain is grip diameter. They need to be matched to your hand size with a thinner grip for small hands and a thicker grip for large hands. A few years ago I started using Lizard Skins Peatty grips, which were well reviewed but slightly larger in diameter than my previous grips. Within the space of a few months I could hardly hold onto the bars, due to pain in both my hands. Returning to my previous thinner grips saw it go away again. The grips that I now have are the Specialized BG contour ergonomic grips, but in the women's version as they're thinner.
The other thing I've noticed is that short finger gloves can often be tight and dig into the webbed part of your hand between the thumb and index finger, causing numbness. A long finger glove that doesn't dig in to that area sees me able to ride for much longer without hand numbness.
When riding you have to try and move your hands around regularly. On fire road, easy sections and tarmac putting your thumbs on top of the grips gives some respite.
It's also worth trying to make a point of taking each hand off the grip, hanging it down by your side and giving it a good shake every five minutes or so from the beginning of the ride. By doing this from well before your hands start going numb it prolongs the onset of any hand issues whilst riding. It's easy to forget to do this.
Here are some grip strength exercise videos that you could try (google motocross arm pump). Doing forearm and grip strength work can help you to hold onto the bike. If you do have something like carpal tunnel syndrome then it's possible that forearm exercises could make it worse, not better.