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Thread: Thumb pain

  1. #1
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    Apr 2007
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    Thumb pain

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    I've been riding my new bike a couple of weeks and have been having pain at the joint where the thumb meets the hands. The pain is especially bad in the morning on waking up. This is a big problem since I'm a professional pianist. I'm so excited about cycling but absolutely cannot afford to hurt my hands.

    So, I'm riding an IBEX flat bar road bike with rapidfire shifters. I have played around with the angle of the brakes and shifters a lot, but somehow I don't think that's the problem. I think it comes from just holding the bars. I have bar ends too, which definitely feel comfy.

    Any experience or advice with thumb aches like this?

  2. #2
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    My first thought is that the bars are too low or two far away.

    My second thought is that the position of your hands/wrists may be putting too much weightbearing stress on your thumbs instead of on your palms.

    Or maybe you need something like an albatross bar or moustache bar (or drop bar) for your hands, or a "flat" bar with more rise (which isn't called a flat bar then... I think that's a touring bar, but don't quote me on that.)

    Can you go to your bike shop and have them check out your postioning on the bike? They might be able to make some suggestions about bars to switch to, or adjusting the bars you already have.

    I had problems in both thumbs at that joint from my job. I wore splints for a while as they healed and worked on changing the way I used my hands at work.
    Last edited by KnottedYet; 04-19-2007 at 05:44 AM.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  3. #3
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    Jul 2006
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    Flagstaff AZ
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    I have thumb pain just like you have. It was manageable when I'm riding my road bike because not too much pounding. It used to get real bad when I rode my mountain bike alot. Opening cans with a can opener was horrible. I went in the hand ortho doc and he took xrays and says I have thumb joint (dont know the technical term) instability. The bones overlap and rub. This was really bad for a couple of years. I avoid some things. I bought an electric can opener etc. For some reason, last year this started to get better, i.e. it does not hurt as much. I'm not sure why? I rode my road bike a lot. I don't like the shifters where you have to push the lever on mountain bikes, that will hurt my hand.

    Oh, the doc's recommendation was to have surgery to take a ligament/tendon?? out of another place in my body and place it there at the thumb joint. Takes forever for it to heal and I just opted out of that since there was no way I wanted to be not able to use my hand for like at least a 6 month recuperation period!

    I hope this is not what you have, but it could be. You can try different shifting on your bikes, i.e. grip shift, be careful about how you position your hands when you ride, etc.

  4. #4
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    This company makes some nifty finger and thumb joint splints that work very well. SW - I'd look into these (through a hand therapist/occupational therapist) before getting the surgery.

    http://www.silverringsplint.com/thumb_problems_pg2.html

    I didn't get these splints, but the hand therapist who made my plastic splints wore a couple on her hands.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  5. #5
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    Ack! Spokewrench, you scared me! I also have a tough time with can openers. I bet I do have some kind of weakness in that joint. I always just put the thought out of my head, because it would wreak havoc on my life to have hand surgery. I do have the thumb lever shifters, and now I'm worried that I should have gone for a regular road bike setup. Hmmm...

  6. #6
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    KnottedYet: Thanks for your suggestions. A visit to LBS may be in order. I also like the look of those splints! I just emailed them to see if they could suggest a hand therapist in my area. I'm thinking this is something I should definitely get checked out. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I've always had a bit of a problem gripping things: umbrellas, can openers, etc. It's never affected my playing, though, so I never worried about it much.

  7. #7
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    That joint bends inward, like for grip. It won't bend much sideways, like when you play or type, so it shouldn't mess with playing piano.

    A hand therapist can also teach you hand posture (there really is such a thing!) and exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the joint.

    Hand therapy is pretty cool stuff!
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  8. #8
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    Apr 2006
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    Deale, MD
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    bursitus?

    I'm a painter/artist and my right thumb/forearm was in such pain when this post originated - oh my god - I couldn't support any body weight on the bike because of the radiating pain, let alone grip a brush or even turn my wrist either direction. With the help of a really good massage therapist, we were able to control the radiating pain until all that was left was an inflamed thumb joint. She theorized that the bursa in that joint was staying inflamed(almost a month!) and thought I should try regular Ibuprofren (I "did" 800 mg). I hate medicating and would rather go to the root of each evil but after 3 days of 800 mg 2 times a day, I can use my arm, wrist, thumb - I can grip and pull !
    I'm still massaging and stretching the area. But sometimes pain just exacerbates the original problem, ya know?

  9. #9
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    I'm going to go back to my question in your previous post about when the pain occurs. Seems like when you are using the bar ends, no pain? And when you don't, there is pain? I'm wondering if your wrist and hand are not in a neutral position. I find the standard 3-5 degree bend bars excruciating. I'm also wondering if your customized bar set up is placing odd pressure on joints.

    http://forums.teamestrogen.com/showt...hlight=pianist
    Frends know gud humors when dey is hear it. ~ Da Crockydiles of ZZE.

  10. #10
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    So, MY thumbs, particularly the right hand one, which once upon a time got broken and torn ligaments, so isn't quite as mobile as the left one, get very sore when:

    I ride down "MY" hill, which needs me to ride the brakes too much -- the reach is a bit much, and I tend to put more weight/pressure on my hands when descending.

    Hurts like a bugger when I've been doing this, but it gets better if I avoid that particular ride for a while, until the next time I do it.

    When it bothers me, cuz I'm using that hill for practice, so I need to come down it after I go up it, of course, I wear my bike glove on that hand while sleeping -- it keeps my hand warm, and supports the sore thumb. I could probably get some sort of splint for those painful days, but the glove is working for me, and I've already got it -- don't need to spend money on something else...

    Soon, I'll find a few hours to go spend time with my LBS guys, and have something done with my brakes to make them fit my hands better! It'll also help to get better at riding down my hill -- so I'll practice, y'know?

    Karen in Boise

  11. #11
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    Hi. I was surprised to see this post because it looked like I wrote it. Also professional pianist. Also thumb pain. Please let me know what you have discovered! Seeing a hand specialist next week.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smithy View Post
    Hi. I was surprised to see this post because it looked like I wrote it. Also professional pianist. Also thumb pain. Please let me know what you have discovered! Seeing a hand specialist next week.
    Hi Smithy! It all had to do with my grip. I modified the handlebars and eventually changed to regular road bars. I also had to be very conscious of NOT gripping too tightly. Many years later and my hands are totally fine though I've logged thousands of miles on my bikes.

    I haven't been on this forum in years, but I was still subscribed to this post apparently!

  13. #13
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    May 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by rij73 View Post
    Hi Smithy! It all had to do with my grip. I modified the handlebars and eventually changed to regular road bars. I also had to be very conscious of NOT gripping too tightly. Many years later and my hands are totally fine though I've logged thousands of miles on my bikes.

    I haven't been on this forum in years, but I was still subscribed to this post apparently!
    Hi!
    I must be the 3rd or 4th pianist in this forum to experience the same thumb pain! Thank you very much all for your helpful insights and especially for KnottedYet for the update after several years - this gives me an idea to probably change my handlebars. I'm off to the bike shop again to see if the "roadster" handlebar will be good to use on my mtb! I've tried my daughter's roadster which we won from a raffle draw and the handlebar indeed is much more comfy than the straight mtb ones that i have... Thanks again

  14. #14
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    May 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by rij73 View Post
    Hi Smithy! It all had to do with my grip. I modified the handlebars and eventually changed to regular road bars. I also had to be very conscious of NOT gripping too tightly. Many years later and my hands are totally fine though I've logged thousands of miles on my bikes.

    I haven't been on this forum in years, but I was still subscribed to this post apparently!
    Oh I'm very sorry, I mean rij73 - thank you for your reply on the previous post and giving us an update after all these years!!!

  15. #15
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    I'll share pictures of the crazy flat bar setup that I used for about a year with no pain. It was really crazy. Ultimately, the best solution was to go to a road bike but without setting it too low. I couldn't put too much weight on my hands.
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