Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Groton, MA, USA
Re: Hand cramping assistance
I am a lifelong rider of bikes and motorcycles. I started experiencing episodic numbness in the right hand (first three fingers, some palm) about 10 years ago. This happened first on my mountain bike, and particularly when gripping the bars or pressing into the heel of my palm. I too found that I could usually eliminate the symptoms by shaking out my hand.
Numbness and tingling has to do with nerve compression, which can happen either in the carpal tunnel, or at any point including at the shoulder or in the neck. Engaging the handlebars causes the position of the hands to be: wrists elevated, slightly everted (cocked "outwards"). Twisting the throttle also puts the right hand into "extension" (this may be why we riders experience symtoms more on the right hand)- while also having to maintain enough tension in the muscles to counteract the throttle return and moving through a limited range. This puts the nerve bundle (median nerve) under pressure as it goes through the carpal tunnel. Muscle tension and rigidity creates muscle fatigue and hence cramping. Movement is the key to short term relief ("flapping your wrists and elbows" as Jim Ford would say!).
As a lifelong tennis player I have "overdeveloped" muscles on the inside of my forearm: the so called "common flexor tendon" and associated flexor muscles. When I became a bodyworker, I learned about another troublesome muscle called "pronator teres" which can compress the median nerve, thus mimicing "carpal tunnel syndrome." Turns out that pronator teres is attached to the common flexor tendon...which means that an overdeveloped common flexor tendon can also mimic carpal tunnel syndrome. (Wrenching can definitely cause this problem!)
So, in my case, manual therapy to relax tight muscles and stretch the connective tissue (eg the common flexor tendon) has helped my arm, and the knowledge has lowered my anxiety level about the numbness. I ride with grip puppies and a throttle rocker, yet I still get numbness...I find myself putting my hands on different parts of the handlebars (just to keep them moving, as mentioned above) while cruising. If you live in eastern USA, make sure you get enough magnesium, it balances calcium to keep muscles supple. There is less magnesium in the east generally due to geologic factors.
The grip puppies, cruise control and throttle rocker definitely help. I tried riding with a wrist brace (drugstore variety) with poor results. On my old Goldwing I used something called a "throttle lock" which is easy to install and use (flick of the thumb up or down). Kind of like old fashioned cruise control, I found myself using it all the time on the Goldwing. Have though about adding it to Dragonfly, but don't quite need it yet!
Also, if you are having symptoms of numbness/tingling in the pinkie and 4th finger, that is different. That nerve runs from the "funny bone" to the hand along the backside of your forearm. If you have numbness of the whole hand you may have a nerve compression even higher up (at the elbow, shoulder, or neck). These nerve compressions are common, and can be caused by chronic muscle tension, repetitive motion or injury. Manual therapy can loosen the restricted areas, allowing the structure to revert back to an optimal configuration thereby taking pressure off of the nerve.
Raynaud's Syndrome causes cold hands and feet, and is a circulatory problem. I do not know if it could cause whole hand numbness.
That still does not address the other issue, true "carpal tunnel syndrome". You need a doctor for that. Find a nuerologist who is reputable, and don't go "under the knife" unless you absolutely have to...there are chiropractors who will manipulate and "re-set" your wrist bones. Keep trying and you will find something that works for you.
2002 K1200LTE (July 4, 2008)-"Dragonfly"
1984 Goldwing Aspencade-"The Mighty Pickle" (think of Arlo Guthrie)
1982 Yamaha Maxim 750-"Little Pickle" (sometimes "Gherkin")
1980 Honda 750 Four-utilitarian, classic
1978 Honda 450 Four-took it apart, couldn't put it back together...
1976 Suzuki GT 250-2 stroke screamer