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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Motocross

by Terry Weyman D.C., C.C.S.P.


“When I ride my wrist hurts and sometimes my hands go numb. Do I have carpal tunnel syndrome?”

This is one of the leading questions I am asked in my practice. In the past 15-20 years, carpal tunnel syndrome has become one of the most significant medical problems affecting the US population. The US Department of Labor reports that carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion disorders account for over 60 percent of all workplace injuries. Computer operators have joined assembly line workers, meatpackers, building tradesmen, hairstylists, dental assistants, cashiers and others as victims of repetitive strain injuries causing these disorders to be dubbed “the number one occupational hazard of the twentieth century.” For MX Athletes, the problem is also growing, but what makes this condition hazardous is when you have a hard time holding on to the bars at top speed.

So now what? Unfortunately carpal tunnel syndrome is also one of the most over and misdiagnosed conditions along with sciatica. Carpal tunnel is defined as “a compression of the median nerve at the wrist." This compression is caused by one of two things:

  1. The first could be from swelling of the tissue (blood vessels, nerves, fat and tendons) surrounding the nerve in a tunnel-like passage (canal) in the wrist. This swelling can be as simple as fluid retention associated with menstration, arm pump or several other minor issues.
  2. The second possible cause is a collapse of one or more of the carpal bones compressing the median nerve. This collapse can be the result of an injury (landing on your outstretched hand and bending your wrist backwards or any forced hyperextension wrist injury) or from sustained pressure from activities like typing/keypunching (computer work), sustained riding, over doing your workout or activities involving pushing. The symptoms include pain, weakness and numbness in the thumb and first finger (pointer finger), and could involve the second finger (middle finger). These are the only locations of symptoms if the diagnosis is carpal tunnel syndrome. If the pain, numbness and/or weakness are in the entire hand, outside of the hand, in the forearm, or if you also experience pain in the cervical spine then another diagnosis must be made. A complete exam, along with specific x-rays, is helpful in making the proper diagnosis.

There are many ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome depending on the severity, among other considerations. In most cases, Specific Chiropractic Manipulation of the carpal bones performed in a specific manner can be very effective in relieving the pressure on the median nerve. Specific biomechanical adjustments coupled with soft tissue techniques, such as ART (Active Release Technique), have experienced a success rate of 80% and above (according to an independent study performed in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1999). Specific exercises to strength the weakened tissue should complete the treatment protocol.

Some Physicians may prescribe medication and/or inject cortico-steriods which may temporarily alleviate pain and swelling. However, it often does not treat the actual problem and the symptoms may return. Surgery may be recommended in extreme cases, but surgery may lead to scarring of the transverse ligament, as well as creating instability of the carpal (wrist) structure. The scarring can further irritate the median nerve causing the symptoms to return. Since surgery only has a success rate of up to 13%, all other means of treatment should be exhausted prior to consent.

As one of the most widespread occupational hazards, carpal tunnel syndrome is painful and debilitating. If you experience any of the symptoms above don’t wait for it to “go away”. Early treatment will lead to a quicker and easier recovery. Regardless of which treatment is used, full recovery will only come about by avoiding stressful situations and changing ergonomics (such as bar angle and height) and habits. Seek advise from your Sports Chiropractor, Medical Doctor, Trainer, Physical Therapist or your coach.

About the Author: Dr. Terry Weyman is a Sports Chiropractor who specializes in the active person. He is the clinic director of the Chiropractic Sports Institute in Westlake Village, CA. Check out his website.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Greg Marino May 03, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Carpel Tunnel "surgery", in the case of BOTH of my "surgeries" was such a FREAKING non-issue I felt like a FLAMING IDIOT for waiting so long to get it done. As both a competitor in motocross and hare scrambles for the past 40 years and an electronics tech for the airlines for over 30 years, the MISERY I put up with because of all the STUPID ARSE rumors and grotesque internet crappola kept me away from the ONLY way to permanently ELIMINATE the problem. It took an accident at work whereas I dropped a VERY expensive component...from a height that destroyed the part... that had me running to Dr. George White in Orlando, FL. With ZERO anesthesia required and only a COMPLETE NUMBING OF THE ARM, with half an hour, BOTH surgeries were complete and the recovery was virtually non-existent. Try all you want to temporarily alleviate the problem but in the end, there is simply and only one FIX to this annoying and high dollar component dropping problem!

  2. Gravatar
    Brad Rupska May 05, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I am almost 44 years old. I have been riding motorcycles since I was about 3 or 4 years old. I have been a Electrician for twenty years now. I have been riding track days on my Buells for 12 years now. I have problems with my right hand going numb while riding. I also have a problem when I am using my linemen pliers cutting wire with my right wrist popping and hurting. My right hand will go numb faster the harder I ride on the track. It's so bad I have to pull off into the hot pit and get the feeling back into my hand. If I don't I can't feel the front brake lever anymore!!! That is not a good feeling when the first corner off of a straight I a running at least 140 mph!!!! Where can I find the some good info on my problem?

  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 06, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Brad - Go see your family doctor (general physician) and then get an appointment with a hand surgeon. They should be able to get you started on fixing the problem.

  4. Gravatar
    Skythia August 07, 2013 at 4:04 am

    Carpal tunnel syndrome is a compression on the the median nerve due to prolong typing, computer gaming and writing. You can check more information on this site and read more articles on our experts advice.

  5. Gravatar
    Cameron Hausler September 30, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Hi guys im getting this surgery done next week just wondering how long you had to wait to get back onto the bike? thanks

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer September 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Cameron - That is a question only your doctor can answer. Follow his advice.

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