How Can I Make ‘Trigger’ Thumb Less Painful When Riding?


I have pain in the base of my thumb and “trigger” thumb that has required steroid injections over the past two years. I have been told that cycling and holding the bars can aggravate this and that it’s a recognized cycling injury. I ride about 4,000 miles a year. I also cross country ski, and gripping the poles can be aggravating as well. I have carbon fiber handlebars and use Fizi’k gel under Fizi’k’s thickest bar tape. Is there anything else I could do to help prevent this from recurring? Thank you. -- Jim F.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies:

I have a similar injury to yours -- a "gamekeeper thumb" with badly stretched ligaments from college football many years ago, and aggravated by a fall while backcountry skiing in my area of western Colorado. So I can identify with your problem.

I have tried various remedies to alleviate the chronic pain while riding and also using poles for snowshoeing. None of them has worked perfectly, but they may give you some ideas.

  • Wearing well-padded gloves helps a little. I don't notice much difference with more flexible handlebars.
  • A PT made me a brace for the thumb that works okay on road levers but is very painful while riding mountain bike bars.
  • I have tried physiotape, using the same taping pattern that I used on the bad thumb in college; it was shown to me by the athletic trainer. This helps a little also but can become restrictive and cut off blood circulation.

In short, nothing seems to help in the long term. I notice the pain more when braking a lot on twisting mountain descents or hiking on snowshoes uphill for long periods when I'm using the poles for additional leverage.

I have been advised that I should have surgery done but that it might not work well since the initial injury occurred many years ago. So I use ice after rides that make it flare up and just live with it the rest of the time.

I hope this helps, at least somewhat, and I'm sorry that I don't have a quick fix for what sounds like the same gimpy thumb that I have.


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