Cyclist’s palsy (also known as handlebar palsy or Guyon’s canal syndrome) can often occur in cyclists who ride for prolonged periods of time. The ulnar nerve becomes compressed in the Guyon’s canal due to prolonged pressure over the palm whilst holding the handlebars or from vibration
This can cause varying degrees of pain, weakness, numbness and reduced coordination in the fingers and thumb. Guyon’s canal or Guyon’s tunnel is located at the base of the palm on the little finger side of the hand. As the ulnar nerve crosses the wrist it passes through this tunnel with the ulnar artery and innervates the skin and small muscles of the hand.
There are a few preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury from cycling:
• Use a different type of handlebar. Try different grips and handlebars to see what will alleviate the pressure over the palm
• Wearing padded gloves or use padding on handlebars to provide cushioning and decreased compression
• Shock absorbers are important to reduce impact and vibration on mountain bikes
• Distribute the pressure over your hands more evenly
• Ensure your seat height is correct in order to avoid overloading and weight-bearing through the wrists and hand
If you do develop symptoms, rest is the best form of treatment. Most of the time, the nerve will recover on its own in time. If it does not resolve within 3 months please contact the clinic to be assessed by one of our hand therapists.
Exercises and Recovery
Recovery may take up to 3 months; it depends how badly the nerve was compressed. Your therapist can provide you with strengthening exercises for the ulnar nerve innervated muscles.
If you have any questions about injuries related to cycling, or conditions with the hands, wrists or arms, please don’t hesitate to give us a call! Our team of experienced hand therapists would be more than happy to help!