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Spinning and carpal tunnel risk

WABC-TV—New York—February 26, 2013

Spinning classes on stationary bikes are fast becoming the hottest thing in working out. But with more athletics always comes more injury. The wrists and hands are especially vulnerable. A lot of these injuries are from problems with the carpal tunnel. It's a tunnel of bones with a tough ligament on top.

Unlike a highway tunnel, there are no openings on either end, so when swelling from repeated exercise builds up, there's nowhere for it to go and it squeezes these nerves and tendons. The result is pain.

Spinning class is the new rage for a workout that's good for your heart, your arteries, and your weight, but hand problems from spinning are on the rise.

"Carpal tunnel is very common, aggravation of underlying arthritis and tendinitis and sometimes cartilage tears," said Dr. Michelle Carlson, a hand and upper extremity surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Symptoms can be pain with movement, numbness and tingling in the fingers. It's the pressure on the hand and wrist from the handlebar that causes the trouble, no matter the age or fitness level of the rider.

Cycling is perhaps the best aerobic sport there is. Just make sure to do it correctly to avoid trouble.

Remember that carpal tunnel? It won't get irritated and swollen if you use the right hand position.

Don't cock up the wrist and sit that way through the whole class.

Keep the wrists straight and change positions on the handle bars.

There's more from champion cyclist Ann Marie Miller about that handlebar.

"If the handle bars are too far, it means uncomfortable stretching. If too close it cocks up the wrists unnaturally," Miller said.

Also, put more weight on your butt than your hands, no death grips even with that pulsing beat.

Also, use your core muscles to keep weight off your hands.

Janet Noh loves meditative repetition of spinning, but she still focuses on core muscles for more than just the hands.

"Always the core muscles, because that's where your leg strength comes from," Noh said.

Also, get some foam pipe insulation and cut a couple of pieces to wrap around the handlebar.

If you have spinner's hand, Dr. Carlson says if rest and over the counter anti-inflammatories are not working, see a specialist to get the right diagnosis and treatment.


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