Sore wrists and hands can be a common problem that e-bike riders face.
But what exactly causes it, and how does one avoid this from becoming a persisting problem?
There are a variety of factors that contribute as well as effective prevention tactics. This article will outline the main causes behind hand and wrist pain stemming from riding an e-bike, and how this issue can be mitigated.
Why one may have sore wrists and hands while riding an e-bike?
Sore hands and wrists can be caused by numerous things, but to properly understand it, first one needs to understand the anatomy of the area affected.
The ulnar nerve, which runs from the wrist to the shoulder, is a nerve whose main function is the movement in the hand (source). This is the nerve that is typically affected by wrist and hand pain associated with cycling.
One of the common issues that affect e-bikers is called ulnar neuropathy (source). It is typically caused by overuse and direct pressure that is put on the hands and wrists when cycling (from holding the handlebars).
Another contributing factor is having one’s hands staying in the same place while riding, in addition to road vibrations, cyclists endure while riding, which transmits to the hands and wrists. Ulnar neuropathy, also known as ulnar nerve palsy or handlebar palsy, usually results in tingling or numbness in the hands.
Easy Tip: Ultimately, it all comes down to the way you position your weight while you ride, which is also inherently linked to the way your e-Bike is adjusted in correlation to your body.
For example, if your saddle is positioned too high, the result of which is that your weight will be thrown forward, thus putting extra pressure on your wrists.
In fact, many e-bike riders have noted that when they were leaning forward too much on their e-bikes, a direct result was hand and wrist soreness. Another example is if your handlebars are too low, which again means you will be resting too much of your body on your hands and wrist joints to hold yourself up.
And if your e-Bike is too big for your stature and the top tube of your e-Bike’s frame too long, this will result in your body stretching out too much, which will also result in hand and wrist strain.
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that if you are an avid e-bike rider, constant numbness, tingling, or pain is not just a normal side effect of riding your e-bike. While it’s, of course, normal to experience these symptoms occasionally, a persisting problem indicates either incorrect e-Bike positioning (whether that’s the way you ride or your saddle and handlebar positioning) or potential other underlying issues.
If you are experiencing consistent pain and soreness, it is then important to focus on preventing further aggravation, which will be outlined in the next section.
Aside from ulnar neuropathy, other conditions that may be affecting your wrists and hands include ulnar tunnel syndrome (source), carpal tunnel (source), or tendonitis (source) in the wrists, fingers, and thumbs. Whether or not these are pre-existing conditions or are caused by e-Biking, there are many ways to ensure that the pain and soreness don’t continue.
For example, while regular stretching and strengthening exercises can help resolve most of these issues, it’s also important to practice optimal posture while riding your e-Bike to ensure that your wrists and hands are not taking on the brunt of your weight.
Adjust your own posture while riding an e-bike
One of the main ways to help take some of the pressure off your hands and wrists is by investing in e-biking gear that was specifically designed to do so.
First, biking gloves (for men, for women) that have gel padding will help to protect your ulnar muscle, since they help soften the impact of road vibration via handlebars by absorbing shocks. Padded gloves also aid in maintaining a good grip, allowing you to soften your hold and avoiding over-tightening your muscles while you ride.
Padded handlebar tape is a good option to explore. E-Bike riders can also add foam or gel padding on the top of their handlebars, in order to reinforce and cushion the area where their wrists and hands rest.
As mentioned before, one of the main culprits of soreness is by leaning forward and resting your weight on your wrists and hands. Unless you can ride your e-Bike by only lightly resting your hands on the handlebars, you will need to check your e-Bike’s positioning.
Fitting your e-Bike to properly ensure that your weight is distributed evenly when you ride – and ensuring you are not leaning forward much but are in fact relatively straight-backed – so as not to rely too heavily on any one area of your body, is essential to avoiding sore wrists and hands.
Another good way to tell if your e-Bike is properly fitted is to be conscious of how you are holding your handlebars. Make sure to keep your elbows, hands, and shoulders relaxed while you ride, and try to avoid holding your bars too tightly or over-grip (a common occurrence particularly amongst e-Bikers who use eMTBs, or e-Mountain Bikes).
Otherwise, tension will build up very easily in these muscles, and since your wrists are the joints that are taking on most of the pressure, the tension will be highest there.
If you are currently dealing with sore wrists and hands, you can also do some stretches that Healthline suggests (source). Even if you are an e-Bike rider who is not dealing with hand and wrist pain, stretching will help to better prevent muscle tightness and should be practiced regardless.
Some examples of exercises include the praying position, extended arm stretch, and clenched fists exercises. These stretches are easy to do and will help to both strengthen and improve flexibility in your hands and wrists.
Make sure you fit your e-bike accordingly
Next, you should be looking at the positioning of your e-Bike’s saddle and handlebars, primarily.
Adjustments that should be made to your e-Bike include raising or lowering your saddle to approximately the same height as your handlebar grips. Your handlebars should also not be too low, so as to avoid the aforementioned leaning forward.
These adjustments will allow your body to be more balanced and upright. Some riders have even noted that angled handlebars have aided in improving wrist and hand pain, as well as using grips that have palm rests.
You should also be checking your gear controls to ensure that they are not slipping. Slipping may be causing your wrists to be placed at an unnatural angle, so a good rule of thumb is that your controls should be lined up with your forearms. This positioning will ensure that when you are braking, you are simply curling your fingers up to do so, as opposed to inclining your wrist upwards (which can cause extra strain).
Additionally, your e-Bike handlebar grips should be helping your hands and wrists to be in a comfortable position. Proper grips will help to support you while riding, as well as optimize the range of motion in your hands and wrists as opposed to restricting them. If your current grips are not optimal for this, consider investing in new ones.
Once your e-Bike’s adjustments have been made, you should also ensure that you are switching your hands’ positions frequently while you’re riding. This can be accomplished by moving between the tops, drops, and hoods of your handlebars. Moving your hands to adjust your grip as often as possible will increase blood flow, and the chances of numbness and soreness in your wrists and hands will be decreased.
Read also: Most common pains when riding an electric bicycle, and how to prevent and cure them.
Think of it this way: it’s commonly known that sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause numbness or tingling (sometimes known as “pins and needles” or a limb “falling asleep” – source). So, this same concept applies to your hands and wrists as well. One common suggestion is for e-Bike riders to invest in anatomic handlebars, which offer a large variety of hand positions.
If your wrist and hand soreness is still persisting after following the aforementioned processes, it’s possible that you might be facing another issue. As mentioned earlier, carpal tunnel is a very common issue that causes inflammation and restriction of surrounding movement in the wrists and hands.
This is typically found in those who do office work (ie. who are at a desk, use computers, or write constantly). One way to help alleviate this issue is to ensure your workspace is optimized ergonomically, which includes your keyboard, chair, and desk area.
A few words in conclusion
As you can see, the main ways you can avoid sore wrists and hands is by ensuring your e-Bike is fitted right, that you are avoiding putting unnecessary pressure on these joints, and you are keeping your hands and wrists active while you ride.
If your soreness persists, be sure to consult a healthcare practitioner, as it may be related to another underlying issue. However, for the most part, soreness can be managed and prevented by practicing the above methods. Happy e-Biking!
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