There are those times in life when you are obligated to say, “What the Hell?”
The most recent issue of Bicycling arrived today, and there…, there-in black in white…, there-filling a half page…wasting forty square inches of magazine space, is one of the most preposterous articles I have read in a long time. (The previous sentence sounds better in your head if you whine it in an Arlo Guthrie-like Alice’s Restaurant Massacre ballad voice.)
Tackle Tingly Hands: Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip by Selene Yeager (p. 37) demonstrates that the author has no awareness for the limitations of her source (Andrew Pruitt, “a bike-fit and sports-medicine expert”); and, the phenomena that affects many cyclists known as paresthesia!
What the Hell is Cyclist’s Palsy? Do we take prosaic liberty to contrive a medically absurd name for this functional disorder? Palsy suggests paralysis! Look it up in a Stedman’s or Dorland’s Medical Dictionaries…yeah, the ones we use professionally…you know in medical school and practice!
I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, palsy or paralysis from gripping my handlebars. Why? Because my mind refuses to allow me to continue compressing the ulnar and median nerves in the heal of my hands (thenar and hypothenar compartments) and the palmar vascular arches. My mind mitigates the potential for irreversible damage by responding to the resulting sensation of paresthesia (“pins and needles”) brought on by compressive insult to the nerves and blood vessels! The sensation can become so intense that a continuance of the improper-positioning of the hands on the handlebars becomes unbearable…so you quit doing it. It comes down to the burlesque gag—
Patient: “Doctor it hurts when I (do this)…”
Doctor: “Then stop doing it!”
And…What the Hell does “overextending your wrists” have to do with gripping the handlebars? Stop, In the Name of Love for Diana Ross and the Supremes…you would have your wrists hyperextended in the Supreme’s iconic choreographic “halting-position,” such that gripping the handlebars would not only be uncomfortable from the onset, but unsafe?
What the… does the subtitle: “Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip” have to do with relieving the paresthesia? It’s the tight grip that got you into the predicament—relax that grip and take the pressure off of the nerves and vessels of the proximal hand.
“If you’re prone to pins and needles, some experts advise stretching and strengthening your lower arms to increase your tolerance for long hours on the bar.” WHAT…? It’s the hands! The pressure is on the hands! Increasing strength of the ‘forearms’ does not alleviate the problem of compressive insult to the nerves and vessels of the hand. I’ll agree that strengthening the forearm muscles will allow for greater endurance in maintaining a neutral or straight wrist…but it will not reduce the compression in the hands nor increase tolerance. Strengthening your back muscles would be more appropriate, allowing you to transfer some of the force (weight of the body) aft, that would otherwise be placed on the handlebars through the hands.
Several weeks ago, I submitted an article, How to Handle the Handlebars, on this very topic for the next FAB Newsletter. The explanations and diagrams are more explicative and less ranting. Watch for it…we’ll talk again…Oh, What the Hell…