Biking is a great way to get outside and get some exercise. As with all activities, there is a risk for injury. Injuries have different causes such as trauma or overuse. The hand is no exception to overuse with an activity such as biking. The hand contains two nerves, the median and ulnar nerve, that control the ability to bend your fingers and wrist. Bikers who frequently ride, or ride for long durations, may develop numbness or tingling in their ring and small fingers. This may be due to pressure on the ulnar nerve at the base of the palm. This area is called Guyon’s canal.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of the upper extremity that is known as the most common nerve compression to occur in the body. It affects approximately 3% of the population and can cause many debilitating symptoms that affect a person’s daily life. In fact, because of its commonality and significance of symptoms, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of work time lost in the U.S., making this an important diagnosis to understand and be aware of. In an effort to build better awareness of this diagnosis, here are some commonly addressed questions regarding carpal tunnel syndrome:
Do you have numbness, tingling, or pain in your arms? Does it disrupt your ability to work at your desk or keep you up at night? This could be caused by how you sit at your desk during the day. You may be putting excessive pressure on your nerves causing a nerve compression syndrome.
An injury to a flexor tendon is basically an injury to your muscle. The flexor muscles are the muscles that allow you to bend your fingers. These muscles are able to move your fingers through tendons, which are cord-like extensions that connect your muscle to your bone. The flexor muscles start at the elbow and forearm and turn into tendons just past the middle of the forearm. They then attach to the bones of the fingers.
These tendons can be injured, for example, by a deep cut. If you severely cut yourself, the cut could also damage surrounding structures such as nerves and vessels. Many times, an injury that looks simple on the outside, like a cut, can be very complicated on the inside. A severe cut that injures the tendons will mean that you won’t be able to bend your finger, as the flexor muscles allow this movement.
There are 5 different flexor muscles in the wrist and forearm, including:
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) – is a pain condition that can be present for a long period of time. Those with this condition have a dysfunction in their central or peripheral nervous systems, causing the system to send frequent or constant pain signals to the brain, which results in the nervous system becoming overactive.
Here are 8 signs that you may have CRPS:
- “Burning” pain
- Sensitive skin
- Changes in skin temperature (warmer or cooler compared to other parts of the body)
- Changes in skin color (often blotchy, purple, pale or red)
- Changes in skin texture (shiny and thin, and sometimes excessively sweaty)
- Changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- Swelling and stiffness in affected joints
- Decreased ability to move the affected body part
Hand surgeon Ryan Zimmerman, MD answers your questions about brachial plexus injuries.
What is the brachial plexus?
The brachial plexus is a complicated web of nerves located near the base of your neck and top of your shoulder. Typically, five nerves from the spinal cord at your neck weave together and eventually form the nerves for your shoulder, arm and hand.
How do brachial plexus injuries happen?
Brachial plexus injuries usually happen due to a stretching injury across the nerves. Most of the time, the nerves get stretched but stay connected. In severe cases, the nerves can tear. There are a few common ways for brachial plexus injuries to happen. In newborns, the injury can occur during birth, This is more likely if the baby gets stuck during delivery. During sports, tackles or collisions can cause a stretch injury. This is commonly referred to as a “stinger” or “burner.” In car or motorcycle accidents, the brachial plexus can be stretched by the force of the impact.
What are the symptoms of a brachial plexus injury?
Each injury is unique, and the symptoms are due to the exact nerves that get stretched and how badly they get stretched. Many patients with brachial plexus injuries describe “electrical” or shooting pains that can run all the way down to the hand. Numbness and weakness are also common. The numbness can range from a slight funny feeling to total numbness. Weakness can range from mild loss of strength to total inability to move the shoulder, elbow, or hand.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that involves the ulnar nerve, also known as the “funny bone” nerve, which runs on the inner side of the elbow. This condition can cause numbness or tingling in the ring finger and small finger (sometimes referred to as “pins and needles”), pain in the forearm, loss of sensation and/or weakness in the hand.
Here are three potential causes of this condition:
- Pressure: The ulnar nerve has little padding over it, so direct pressure (like leaning your arm on an arm rest) can cause the arm and hand — especially the ring and small fingers — to “fall asleep.”
- Stretching: Keeping the elbow bent for a long time can stretch the ulnar nerve. This can happen while you sleep or if you are holding a phone for a long period of time, for example.
- Anatomy: Sometimes, the ulnar nerve simply does not stay in its place. It will snap back and forth over a bony bump as you move your elbow, which can irritate the nerve.
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that start in the spinal cord in the neck and travel down the arm. These nerves control the muscles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, as well as provide feeling in the arm. If you have a brachial plexus injury, it means you have damaged a nerve.
Nerve injuries can be very serious, as they can stop signals to and from the brain. Nerves can be damaged by stretching, pressure or cutting. Stretching can occur when the head and neck are forced away from the shoulder, such as during a motorcycle or car accident. Pressure could occur if the brachial plexus is crushed, which can happen during a fracture or dislocation. You will know if you have a nerve injury, as opposed to just a broken bone or other injury, if you’ve lost feeling in your arm.