Can riding a motorcycle cause carpal tunnel? Many people complain about numbness and tingling in their hands and wrists when riding a bike. But what they don’t realize is, they might have carpal tunnel syndrome. If the symptoms persist outside of riding, too, you may need to get professional help.
Not treating carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can lead to permanent nerve damage. But oftentimes, the symptoms diminish after about 4 months.
But what is carpal tunnel syndrome? And how can you remedy it at home? Here, we answer all your questions related to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Is A Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your wrist. It acts as an entry point for several important nerves and blood vessels in your hand, including the median nerve.
CTS occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed due to any number of reasons. This compression results in numbness, tingling, and even weakness in your hands. Sometimes, the symptoms can be felt in the whole arm.
Can riding a motorcycle cause carpal tunnel? Yes. CTS is caused by repetitive hand motions, pressure, and stress. Motorcyclists are most at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially those who ride often. However, it’s not just the repetitive task of clutching onto the handlebars that can cause it. Even the vibrations from your engine and the shock during your ride can induce it.
What Are the Symptoms of a Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a strong feeling of tingling and numbness in hand. It is most common for the symptoms to show up in all of your fingers except your pinky finger.
The sensation can be best described as a slight electric shock that pulsates between your fingers. Depending on the severity of your condition, this sensation can amplify and cause a lot of pain.
Another common symptom of CTS is weakness. Since the median nerve is being compressed, the muscles and the tendons are also being affected. This could result in weakness in your hands, leading you to drop objects or not lift a lot of weight.
What Triggers Carpal Tunnel?
The underlying cause is compression of the median nerve. This compression can come about for several reasons. People who perform repetitive work with their hands, such as motorcyclists and typists, are most vulnerable to this.
Can riding a motorcycle cause carpal tunnel? Yes. On a motorcycle, you have to clutch the handlebars for extended periods. And the shock and vibrations from the engine and bumps in the road can all worsen the situation.
Other health conditions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist fracture, or rheumatoid arthritis. Oftentimes, several factors come together to cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Can Be Done on The Motorcycle to Avoid Carpal Tunnel?
People with CTS can usually get some relief by limiting their time on the bike. Yes, a lot of people get the kicks from recreational riding. But if you want to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, you must limit your riding time.
When you do ride, consider not moving your hands too much. This doesn’t mean compromising on acceleration or braking. But where applicable, do not twist the twist grip without any immediate need.
Another common way people avoid CTS is by taking frequent breaks between their rides. It helps to soothe the nerves. And it can be quite relaxing too. After all, your hands aren’t the only body parts affected by frequent riding.
What Can Be Done Off the Motorcycle to Avoid Carpal Tunnel?
Outside of riding the bike, there’s a lot you can do to alleviate the symptoms. First, limit your time working for your hands, especially on the computer. There are also a few exercises that will help stretch your muscles and relieve the nerves.
Avoid sleeping with your wrists bent. It may seem hard at first. But with practice, it’ll become a habit in no time. You can buy those special wrist supports for use during sleep.
If possible, set up your bike correctly such that your wrists aren’t always bent. Some bikes may not allow for this. You can try adjusting your position to prevent this from happening.
Lastly, if the pain becomes persistent or too severe, get professional help.
Exercises To Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
Believe it or not, exercises do help with nerve compression. While the effects will be slow and you may overlook an immediate impact, exercising your wrist will help alleviate the symptoms. One of the best exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome is a tendon gliding exercise:
- Start by slowly bending your fingers such that each fingertip is touching the palm side of its respective knuckle. It’s normal to feel some tension or stretch in your wrist when you do this, but it shouldn’t hurt. Maintain the position for up to 3 seconds, release, and open your palm completely.
- Next, gradually curl your fingers into a fist and squeeze the fist ever so gently. Do not press too hard. Keep this position for up to 3 seconds, and then let go.
- After that, bend your fingers such that they are perpendicular to the palm and form an L-shape. Your thumb should rest next to your fingers. Remember to keep your fingers perfectly straight, bending them at the knuckle only. Hold for 2-3 seconds and release.
- Now, bend your fingers down such that each fingertip is touching the bottom or middle of your palm. The fingers will be bent at the knuckle and the first joint. Your thumb should rest at the side, pointing upward. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then release.
Repeat this simple tendon gliding exercise 5-10 times. But you may do it 2-3 times each day.
What Foods Are Bad for Carpal Tunnel?
While exercise is more effective in reducing pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, a good diet goes a long way:
- Avoid salty food. Salt will increase fluid retention, which may lead to swelling and pain.
- Likewise, sugar also increases swelling. Avoid sugary foods.
- Gluten may help worsen any inflammation, and so will any weight-gaining food.
- Likewise, avoid processed foods as much as you can, as they too will promote inflammation.
How Long Does Carpal Tunnel Usually Last?
CTS can usually last anywhere between 3-4 months to a whole year. You can reduce this time drastically by exercising and practicing a good diet. But even then, it should take 3-4 months. If the situation worsens even with exercise or you notice excessive swelling, consider getting a doctor’s appointment.
How Do I Know If It’s Carpal Tunnel or Arthritis?
Mostly, it’s hard to tell whether you have carpal tunnel or arthritis. After all, the symptoms of both are quite similar. But, unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, arthritis can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The key difference between the two is that arthritis causes excessive swelling and redness around the affected area. And unlike carpal tunnel, which does not affect the pinky finger, arthritis doesn’t discriminate.
Another significant difference between the two is that the pain from the carpal tunnel extends to the forearm. This is because arthritis that affects the joints of the arm can also cause pain. But if it is just the wrist, you shouldn’t feel pain in the rest of your arm.
One of the best ways to distinguish between the two is to shake your hand. Pain or numbness from carpal tunnel usually gets temporarily relieved through this. But it doesn’t work for arthritis.
What Fingers Are Affected by Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel most commonly affects the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Your ring finger may also get affected. Your pinky finger will rarely get affected, but it isn’t entirely impossible.
Additionally, the pain can extend up your arm to your elbow since the median nerve runs through there as well.
How Can I Fix Carpal Tunnel at Home?
Often, the situation isn’t bad enough to necessitate a visit to the local physician. However, here are a few home remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel:
- Avoid excessive use of the wrists, especially in tasks where the wrist moves repetitively.
- Avoid sleeping with a bent wrist. Use a wrist support/splint to help you with that.
- Find a comfortable position on your bike that doesn’t bend your wrists and provides you with a good grip.
- Take frequent breaks between rides. It’ll help with the symptoms and will be relaxing too.
- Perform tendon gliding exercises, and other exercises recommended for carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Be patient. It can take up to 4 months for CTS to go away on its own.
- Watch your diet. Certain foods such as gains and gluten can increase inflammation. Also, avoid salty and sugary food as they may increase swelling.
What Happens If Carpal Tunnel Goes Untreated?
Carpal tunnel syndrome often goes away on its own after 3-4 months, especially if you’re exercising regularly. However, it can take a whole year for the symptoms to go away without exercise or treatment. And often, they only get worse with the years.
In severe but not rare cases, CTS may lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage. Additionally, it may lead to muscle wastage, which is where the muscles shrink.
Do not wait around for the symptoms to go away on their own. Try out home remedies. And consult a doctor when the symptoms become too extreme and start interfering with your sleep.
Why Do My Hands Go Numb When I Ride My Motorcycle?
Numbness and tingling in the hands when riding your bike could be a sign of nerve compression. This is because two significant nerves, the ulnar and median nerves, pass through the palms, which can cause pain when they get compressed.
CTS is the most common cause of numbness in the hands. It occurs when the median nerve gets squashed between the ligaments and bones of the wrist. It usually goes away on its own, but severe cases may warrant home remedies or a trip to the doctor.
So, can riding a motorcycle cause carpal tunnel and numbness? Yes, but it’s not the only cause of this. Other nerves, such as the ulnar nerve, can also get compressed, especially if you bend your elbows on the bike. However, you can easily distinguish this from carpal tunnel, as it primarily affects the ring and pinky fingers.
Is Heat Or Cold Better For Carpal Tunnel?
Heat is generally considered to be a lot better for carpal tunnel syndrome. It promotes healing and will get rid of the inflammation for good. It may seem contradictory since we’re used to applying ice to inflammation. But for carpal tunnel syndrome, a bit of heat goes a long way.
However, do not rely on heat alone to fix the condition. It helps to alleviate the pain, but the underlying problem persists.
Does Squeezing A Ball Help Carpal Tunnel?
Yes. You can buy a hand exercise ball or stress ball to help you with your carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not press on hard balls like tennis balls, as this will only cause more compression. Stress balls are great as they can be used during work, making them all the more convenient.
How Can You Test For The Carpal Tunnel At Home?
There are two tests you can perform at home by yourself. The first is Tinel’s test, where you lightly tap on the median nerve for a whole minute. If you start feeling a tingling sensation or pain, then you most likely have carpal tunnel syndrome.
The second one is Phalen’s maneuver. Find a position such that the wrist stays compressed by force. Keep the wrists like that for 1 minute.
Ideally, you’ll want to consult a doctor to rule out arthritis and permanent nerve damage. But these are two quick and easy tests to determine if you have CTS or not.
When Should I See A Doctor About The Carpal Tunnel?
If possible, see a doctor as soon as the symptoms appear. You want to make sure you have carpal tunnel syndrome, and the problem isn’t anything more severe. If you do have the syndrome, you can mostly treat it at home. However, consult a doctor if the pain gets out of hand and keeps you up at night. Also, get a doctor’s appointment if the issue persists for more than 6 weeks or only seems to get worse. Severe cases may require surgery.
Don’t wait around for the syndrome to go away on its own. If you do not treat it, it can cause permanent nerve damage and muscle pain. And in severe cases, you may experience muscle atrophy (muscle wastage).
What Supplements Help Carpal Tunnel?
Vitamins B12 and B6 are the best for alleviating the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Fish oil capsules and turmeric or curcumin are also common alternatives. Additionally, you can opt for alpha-lipoic acid and capsaicin.
Can riding a motorcycle cause carpal tunnel? Yes, and you might already have it. It’s normal to feel a bit of numbness in your hands when riding a motorcycle. But if the symptoms persist even when you get off the bike, you might have carpal tunnel syndrome.
It may causes numbness, tingling, weakness, and a whole lot of pain. And in severe cases, you may experience swelling, nerve and muscle damage, and muscle wastage. To avoid all that, you must consult a physician as soon as you can.