An experienced cyclist came to see me -- let's call him 'Mr. BMCR' --, experiencing some bizarre intermittent numbness and tingling in his left arm and hand.
He noticed it first came on when riding downhill. (Hmmm... Pesky Downhill Riding Syndrome, I presume.)
To figure out the best starting point, I considered what pathologies could be causing this dysfunction.
Numbness and tingling are typically related to nerve irritation or entrapment. When this occurs in the arm or hand, the most likely culprits are the ulna and median (and sometimes radial) nerve.
Entrapment can occur at several points along the course of the nerve. Structures surrounding the nerve can compress or impinge the nerves, resulting in decreased blood flow to the area and, thus, reduced ability for the nerve to conduct impulses.
It's not just cyclists who suffer this type of injury, either. Poor posture, repetitive tasks, force and vibratory influences (think: handlebars) can all have an impact and produce similar symptoms.
The first step is to remove the compressive force (including releasing tight muscles and mobilising stiff joints).
The good news is that in most cases this is the only step you need to facilitate a complete recovery, provided that you do it in a timely fashion.
If you leave it too long, or if your symptoms change, it could mean a lengthier recovery period (which in turn translates to more time off the bike).
Once we had identified the likely cause for the symptoms, we were able to thoughtfully attack the compressive forces and focus on relieving the symptoms.
Within a week or two after a targeted remedial massage session, Mr BMCR was fully recovered. Hooray!
Mr BMCR's positive outcome relied on the following points:
1. There was a significant soft tissue (i.e. muscle) component contributing to the compression that responded well to the treatment.
2. The problem was tackled head-on with early intervention.
3. Mr BMCR's commitment to home exercise recommendations, including key stretches to help correct poor posture.
The first point you have no control over, but the second and third are all up to you, and they are critical to rehabilitation and recovery.
Get any issues sorted pronto. As importantly, make sure you actually do the exercises your physio/remedial therapist/health professional gives you. (Nearly all of us have been guilty of neglecting our physio homework.) If you put in the effort, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes.
Go and be tingle-free!
Hi! I'm Holly Hicks, the founder of Fluid Movement and Wellbeing and the Restore+Rebalance Stretch Program. For the past 20 years, I've treated thousands of people in clinical practice as an elite sports and remedial massage therapist, and taught hundreds of in-person stretch classes and workshops as a stretch therapy coach.
Classes, courses and private individual or group programs available, in person and online. Join me on Facebook, sign up for my free newsletter (and even more videos!) and subscribe to Fluid Movement and Wellbeing's YouTube channel. You can also get in touch with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org