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Enduro dirt biking, motocross, single track and trail riding can cause or worsen Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (also called CTS for short or median nerve compression) symptoms. Have you ever experienced numbness or tingling in your hands during or after riding dirt bikes? Read on as we explain this common ailment among trail riders and list top 5 steps to alleviate the pain in your hands.
Most common Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness or loss of strength in your hand, fingers and or forearm caused by median nerve compression. Dirt bike riding can cause or worsen these symptoms. Over time the condition may cause worsening grip strength and lessen finger feeling and loss of muscle mass.
CTS is a common and well recognized issue among active dirt bike trail riders. Luckily there are several things to prevent and manage symptoms.
The primary cause for CTS is the compression of the median nerve, that runs through the base of your palm. The swelling around the nerve makes things worse.
WebMD explains the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome details and causes very well, so we can next focus on things you can do while trail riding to avoid CTS.
Trail Riding Can Cause or Worsen Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Dirt bike riding in general is tough on hands and palms. Whether you ride motocross, single track or trail riding, maintaining grip puts pressure on the palm area. Riding relaxed and focusing on the correct wrist position, is one of the key elements on successfully avoiding CTS related issues and symptoms.
Next we will cover 5 steps on how to prevent CTS symptoms. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Setup Handlebar and Controls Correctly for Trail Riding
Handlebar configuration is key to relaxed trail riding. CTS symptoms often worsen if your hands are not in the correct angle or the handlebar is too low or high to your height. The handlebar sweep and reach can also make riding difficult and cause excessive pressure to the palm area.
Adjust Handlebar Height and Reach
If you’re taller or shorter than 5’8″ or 175cm you should check your handlebar setup for correct configuration and adjust at least the handlebar height blocks and reach.
We wrote a specific handlebar guide to setting up dirt bike handlebars for trail riding, which helps you configure your dirt bike to avoid riding posture issues.
Adjust Clutch and Brake Lever
The clutch and brake levers can be adjusted to your hand size and finger reach. They need to be correctly adjusted to fit your overall riding position. The lever angle and reach as well as the lever position are all important factors to how easily you can stay relaxed and operate the levers. If you need to move your hand to operate the clutch for example, you should check the lever setup.
This detailed guide for ultimate brake and clutch lever positioning guide will help fine-tune your handlebar configuration to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Replace Grips for Softer Material or Better Size
The softer grip material may ease Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for some riders. The size of the grip can also help fine tune, where most of the pressure lands on your palm.
Flush Clutch and Brake Fluid
The clutch and brake levers should work without resistance. Most riders suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, typically have worse symptoms on their left hand. If your clutch is hard to pull in, consider flushing the fluid to make the operation smoother or replace the wire actuated clutch cable.
Step 2: Adjust Your Dirt Bike Suspension
Harsh and incorrectly tuned suspension can quickly affect your riding performance and put too much strain on your hands. When you are fighting the dirt bike, it wears you out quicker and causes poor riding posture. This can quickly cause and worsen Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms. Fine tune your suspension clicker settings and make sure to keep up with regular maintenance to maintain good suspension performance.
We wrote a detailed article to get you started on how to set up dirt bike suspension for trail riding. This guide will help you to find a suspension configuration, that works better for trail riding and helps avoid issues such as arm pump and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Step 3: Check Riding Gear for Fitment and Grip
Your riding gear will help you grip to the sides of the dirt bike as well as the seat. This is an important factor for being able to ride smoothly and relaxed. When using knees to grip the sides of the dirt bike, or sitting down during acceleration, the gear and seat material defines how much friction is available to hold you in place. Badly fitter gear or worn out set cover can substantially lower the friction or make you slide inside your pants.
This movement is transferred to your hands. More hand grip is required and your posture becomes less relaxed. Together, these issues may lead to more pressure on the palm of your hards, putting more pressure on the median nerve causing more Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms.
Check out our tips for choosing the perfect dirt bike seat and essential dirt bike gear for trail riding. They will help you find seat setup and gear fitment to make sure you stay planted on the dirt bike putting less pressure on your hands.
Step 4: Warm Up and Cool Down Can Help
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome typically appear very quickly in trail riding. Sometimes this can be alleviated greatly by warming up properly before hitting the trails. It all comes down to being able to ride relaxed.
If you warm up well before the first ride, you allow increased blood flow into your forearms and hands. It also warms up your muscles and typically allow you to grip less on the handlebar.
Start with a slow paced warm up routine, that helps you get in the game or ride the first 15 minutes very slowly focusing on maintaining a good riding posture. This will greatly help prevent arm pump and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Step 5: Wear Wrist Braces at Night Time and Riding
Ride With Wrist Braces
There are several light weight wrist braces you can wear while riding dirt bikes. They successfully keep your wrists in a good angle and can help with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
After some tests, we have found these Troy Lee Design 5205 wrist supports to be most comfortable while riding. They can also be worn over night to help rest the median nerve while sleeping.
Wear Wrist Braces While Sleeping
Yes, as weird as this may sound, wearing wrist supports while sleeping is one of the most effective methods to help control and treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms.
When the symptoms are worse, you can usually notice partial numbness or tingling in your hands when you wake up in the morning. This is caused by sleeping with your hands in a position where it maintains pressure on the median nerve.
The wrist braces will keep your hands in a straight position, that will rest the median nerve when sleeping. For us, this has helped the most. You can find several wrist support from your local CVS or pharmacy. Wearing the Troy Lee Design wrist supports also work great for night time support.
Suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is annoying and can lead to more serious issues. It is best to talk to your doctor if you have severe symptoms. In our experience, these 5 steps can help you prevent CTS symptoms and keep you enjoying the sport longer.
Ride trails without pain!
Last updated: July 7th, 2022