Uncomfortably Numb

There’s a thing that people on the rally talk about. We call it “The Bike Rally Blues”. It hits you right after the rally – as you find yourself suddenly disconnected from your massive travelling family, as the momentum of the rally falls off, and this huge thing you’ve undertaken is over, and you go back to what now seems like an incredibly isolated, mundane existence.  Usually you go back to your job, which is now more or less ON FIRE, because you walked away from it for 10 days while you did this epic thing, and you have a pile of the most disgusting laundry you’ve ever seen, and camping equipment all over your house, and you’d air out and pack up your tent except you’re pretty sure it’s full of spiders. (The spider thing is a big deal for me. I hate them. I woke up one morning on the rally and there was a spider in the tent with me, hanging in its creepy little web right over the door. I was so frightened I tried to text my team to give me some kind of rescue, but I had no mobile service, and in the end I squashed it between the two cups of a dirty sports bra and then threw the bra away. I’m not sure I can handle another spider turning up just yet.)

There’s also the fatigue – everybody sleeps like the dead for a few days afterwords, and it’s impossible to focus, and I think that for me, the exhaustion is the biggest part. I got home on Sunday night, slept for more than 10 hours, have done the same thing every night since, and am still falling asleep over my knitting all the time. It’s taken a fantastic amount of coffee to keep me at my desk the last few days.  There’s also whatever healing you have to do. There’s your sore bottom (fine now, thanks for asking) and sore knees and scrapes and bruises and I got off really lightly this year (thank you training rides) except for one really, really big deal. This year I got a pretty wicked case of ulnar neuropathy, which is nicknamed “Handlebar Palsy” or “Cyclist’s Palsy.”

As tickled as I am on one level to have cyclist’s anything (does this make me a cyclist?) it’s been more than a bit of a pain.  It comes from pressure having been placed on the ulnar nerve while you’re riding, and from road vibration coming up through the bike.  I usually wear gloves to help prevent it, but there were a few days where I didn’t this time (I forgot them in my bins and couldn’t get them out) and the consequences have been numbness and tingling in the last three fingers on each hand, and a fair bit of hand weakness. It’s improving, as I stay off of my bike and the good news about it is that it’s self-limiting – it gets better all by itself.  In just five days it’s improved a lot, but it is still making things like typing difficult, and (you better brace yourself for this one) KNITTING is sort of hard.

Now, you can tell, by the way that I am not in prison or a court-mandated anger management program, that this doesn’t mean that I can’t knit at all.  I can, and am, thank goodness, but it’s slowed me down a terrific amount.

onesock 2015-08-06

I have been knitting this one sock for the whole duration of the rally, and since I got back, and usually twelve days of knitting would look more like two pairs than this sorry state of affairs, but I’m trying to relax into it. (I’m also looking at my bike fit, and I’ll always wear gloves from now on, and I’ll be staying right off that bike until this is all better.)  Since knitting and typing are both slow right now, and since that’s pretty much all I do with my day – I’m sure things are going to be boring here for another day or two. (Or not, if I eventually wig the hell out)  I’m hoping you’ll be patient.

I’m off to try the spinning wheel. Maybe that’s the answer.

75 thoughts on “Uncomfortably Numb

  1. Boring is frustrating, maybe try movies or reading? A hot tub? How about snuggling a baby? I have one, and am normally in Ottawa but will be at the Toronto Zoo on Sunday and if you want not-boring you are more than welcome to join us, get baby snuggles, and see animals.

    So glad that things went (mostly) well, and that you’re home safely!

  2. Sadly, in my experience, if I have an injury that prevents me from knitting it also prevents me from spinning (and vice versa). It is frakking horrible and results in an over indulgence of red wine and headaches. Good luck with the recovery.

  3. I’m with you on the whole spider thing! I am betting that even with your neuropathy, you knit faster than me. Relax into it, as you said. Soon you’ll be a supernatural knitter, again.

  4. Go find a small baby. Snoodle him until you forget everything except how delicious new babies smell.

    Repeat until hands are better.

    (Small babies helped me when I cut the top of my right finger off two years ago. I speak with great experience.)

  5. You accomplished a huge wonderful thing! Take it easy, even with the knitting. The world will wait for socks. Even if you find it difficult! 🙂 Glad the numbness will recede and knitting will get back to normal. You do realize that some of us out here, well me, anyway, couldn’t knit four socks in that time even without ulnar neuropathy. LOL Glad you’re back! Take care.

  6. You’re prbably getting off lightly after what you put your body through. Patience, moderation, and a bit of self-indulgence will have you back at top speed in due time. Just relax and let it happen.

  7. As a fellow cyclist and knitter, it will heal (takes about a week for me). My only advice, much like carpel and ulner tunnel, the neuropathy can also cause weakness and hand spasms, if you happen to be engaging in a little post ride “wine therapy” watch those hands on the glass…. (ask me how I know….)

    • Step 1. Place wine glass on table.
      Step 2. Insert straw.
      Problem solved! (Never mind the problems that may be caused by ingesting wine with a straw… 😉

  8. When I can’t knit, I read about knitting — I read your books, I drag out magazines, I browse Ravelry endlessly (ok I do that anyway) I dig around in my stash, watch my knitting/spinning/weaving videos… Its not quite the same as those needles in my hands, but it definitely takes the edge off. Good luck, you’ll be back up to speed before you know it!

  9. Luckily time proves to be a great healer on a number of levels. Good luck with the patience and get well soon XOX

  10. I found that tipping my handle bars a little further forward/down, put less strain on my hands. Very little numbness and tingling anymore.

  11. Having degenerative arthritis in both thumbs, index fingers and wrists I can totally relate to your frustration with the ulnar neuropathy aka handlebar palsy. I had to re-think the ergonomics of my bike handlebars and bar wrapping material. Ditto biking gloves. There are more options available these days, but it’s not a one-size-fits -all solution. I was lucky enough to find a sports medicine doc who is also an avid biker and we came up with the right combination for me. Hope you can find a way to ease the problem before the next rally! For now, though, relax, take those deep breaths and soon you’ll be happily knitting again.

  12. My nephew, who is 6′ 7″, would text for a spider rescue! You are in good company. Snuggling with a cat is good for you, too.

  13. Wow, I bet you sleeping lots and lots. Totally understandable. I followed the link about the neuropathy symptoms. My hands get numb just after a few miles – thumbs and index fingers so I must have the carpel tunnel issue. I probably do lean way too much on them (weak core muscles). Hope you get all the kinks out of your hands soon.

  14. I got that the one long distance ride I did. It sucks. Right now my knitting is being constrained by a little “weird thing” (a cyst or small tumor) on my eye (tear duct, actually) that’s causing limited vision and headaches. But I’m not in jail either. Because I can knit socks with limited vision…. so everyone on my list is getting socks for Christmas.

    Actually, I’ve proven that I can knit socks mostly asleep– having knit an entire sock while in the hospital “coming out of” the anesthesia after my gall bladder surgery. My son has pictures because I’m sitting there with my eyes closed, knitting away on a sock. So a little tumor (or cyst) is nothing.

    Reading, however, is different. Thank the goddess for audiobooks.

  15. I recommend pilates (seriously). If you were putting too much of your weight on your hands (which probably contributed to this — your hands should just be there to keep you from falling off the bike, they shouldn’t hold your weight), it’s because your core isn’t strong enough to hold your upper body up and also help with the legs (especially going up hill). A year of pilates sessions and you will have the core of a supermodel (though in my case, it is still behind the leftovers stored in my midsection 🙂 I have neuropathy 24/7 from a cause unrelated to biking or knitting, so I know how much it sucks. Glad that this one will go away. AND DON’T FORGET THOSE BIKE GLOVES.

  16. I know sewing isn’t your favorite thing, but it might be easier on your hands than knitting or spinning — and you do happen to be down one sports bra at the moment…

  17. Ouch! As a fellow neuropathy sufferer, I sympathize. Hope it resolves soon. Sounds like gently physical therapy (knitting and no weight bearing) are just the ticket. It’s not surprising that you’re taking some time to recover – think how long you trained! We tend to forget that our bodies take time to change. Enjoy some downtime.

  18. At least you didn’t freak the hell out over the spider and get trapped in the wreckage of your tenet with it. (PS: squashed spiders will wash out of clothing if you use cold water and an enzyme-based laundry product that is good on protein stains.)

    As for the neuropathy, I feel for you. Follow your doctor’s directions, and consult a physical therapist for stretching exercises that may help alleviate the pain or prevent it on the next bike marathon.

  19. well, careful with the ulnar nerve. i damaged my on a nice fall down the stairs and it took time and care to the healing. Get lots of nice sleep while you can!

  20. I’ve had ulnar nerve entrapment and it’s frickin’ awful. I don’t even know how to explain to others how awful it is, especially as a knitter….

    However, with a few days and some stretches, it usually rights itself out.

    Mommy’s Thumb was way worse….but I could knit with that 🙂

  21. Hi Stephanie.
    I absolutely understand the blues thing. I comes with any big group venture that involves team work and pulling together. Once you get back to work all will be well.

    I am disabled and manage the fatigue/pain/neuropathy thing daily. Only thing to do I’m afraid is with much boredom and frustration listen to your body. My socks always look like that after 2 weeks. I find audio books a godsend, but with a baby on tap!!

    Spiders. eek, they are lucky the whole camp didn’t know, that was a brave move.

    Now rest well, write to us, in small chunks. Hang in there, all will settle.
    Take Care.x

  22. Post camp is like this too. It passes and life gets better, or back to normal and there is next year’s camp/rally to look forward to. Don’t worry we’re still here holding you up.

  23. I think that’s the first thing you’ve ever said on your blog (and I’ve read every post!) that I’ve strongly disagreed with. Spiders are GOOD – they EAT MOSQUITOES!!! I don’t want them climbing on my face, but our house is team trap-and-release for spiders, because IMHO mosquitoes are by far the worser of two evils!

  24. I live halfway across the country from my family and after they visit or I visit them I get that same blue feeling. I hope you feel better soon.

  25. I agree with the baby snuggling cure, seems to work for just about anything. And while spiders eat a lot of nasty insects, do they really have to be so CREEPY about it?. That said, sometimes you have to switch the knitting up a bit to go with the flow. Have you tried bulky yarn and big needles yet, Steph?

  26. So glad you are letting your body guide your days of recovery ! Some of us are just amazed that you accomplished such a challenging goal ! I am having trouble not offering Motherly advice that you don’t need. Numbness will abate, knitting will return. The ride lasted a week but the preparation was many weeks. So the recovery is also a couple of weeks – all part of the experience. I watched your pledge number climb and climb and climb and climb. It is all worth it for the help that money will offer the AIDS community. Hurrah for you.

  27. ….OF COURSE! If you can’t knit yarn…make some!! Spinzilla is coming up too! Making yarn always makes a fiber artist’s…. anything better! Make more yarn!!


  28. For future rides, you can always double wrap your handlebars with the nice squishy tape along the top part, and definitely wear your gloves! Get new gloves before you need to. Gel pads are awesome for absorbing road vibration.
    I would also second the core work. It’s irritating, but oh-so-helpful. You like yoga, right? So maybe there are some poses that will help with your lower back strength?
    Good for you for giving your body time to rest. And you know, if you miss your biking buddies, I am sure they’d love to get together for a meal. They’re missing you too.

  29. Hope you feel better soon! I think the philosophical approach is good. Yesterday Khalil Gibran, today a take on Pink Floyd.

  30. I have to admit I was wondering how you were doing since I get numb to when I ride. I had to have a shortened top tube so I would not overextend my back and put too much pressure on my hands. I do love my bike with the short top tube.

    I hope your hands return to normal soon! Eat out too so you are not chopping veggies!

  31. You are absolutely a cyclist! I can clearly remember biking at 42 km/h on the Thousand Islands Parkway and watching you and Pato vanish into the distance ahead of me.

    Wishing you a swift recovery.

  32. The post-Rally letdown is a bit like the post-April-15th letdown we tax accountants feel. Except for the physical part. Tax accountants don’t get physical injuries, except for maybe carpal tunnel.

  33. Aaaugh, I had to comment. I just pinched my ulnar nerve, from, don’t cringe, leaning on my elbow crocheting. Told my husband I’m probably the first person the doc ever heard say that.

    Anyway, a bit of advice, you have to NEVER lean on your elbow – it’s harder than you think – you do it typing, driving, watching TV, and…anything yarny. Also, I found it a HUGE help to let gravity help and that means when you’re resting to have your arm pointed straight up in the air. muscles totally relaxed – lying down, of course. Seems to take all pressure off it and allows it to heal.

    Oh, and wine doesn’t hurt either.

    • This. It can also help to hug a pillow to keep your arms straight while you sleep, that’s a big one for me.

      I had surgery to move the ulnar nerve on my right arm 8 weeks ago (it’s healing really, really well) and you don’t want to let it get to the state I was in.

      That said, if you’re having symptoms during the rest of the year, go talk to your doctor. I don’t have nerve damage yet and my surgeon, when asked, said it was better to fix it before the nerve does show damage.

  34. Steph, I am sure you have a list of things that you would like to do but normally don’t have time for because of work and knitting. Now might be a good time to try a few of the low key ones…soak in the tub, read that book you have been meaning to, visit a library, visit a park, etc.

  35. I don’t suppose you could pad the handlebars so if you do forget the gloves, at least there would be a little protection? I have some neoprene wraps for my wrists I wear when I work to protect them; also might be worth looking into. You could also put some emergency gloves somewhere on your bike just in case… sort of my theory with car keys.

  36. Tis a shame about the cycle injury and the impact its had on your knitting. This sometimes happens to me because of my hypermobile joints.

    Sometimes I’ll find and knit a project that requires a bigger or smaller yarn but if that fails, I take it as a sign to luxuriate in my other favourite passtimes/ relaxation methods.

  37. I so hope it heals up quickly! I can feel your numbness and pain! I have carpal tunnel and don’t want to/can’t afford surgery at this time. Some days are ok, other days I can’t do a single row of knitting without losing feeling in my hands. Those days kinda suck! Love ya!

    • You might already have tried this, but: have you seen a good massage therapist? Some people find that it’s possible to heal and not need the surgery, esp if combined with specific at-home care…

      • As a sufferer of carpal tunnel and other nerve issues, massage is a huge help. Soaking my hands and wrists in Epsom salts is also great for pain management in between massages.

  38. I completely understand that kind of blues. I am currently in the throes of them myself, as I always am when I get home from spending time in Haiti. You spend so much time energy and effort to prepare, and then you are in the middle of it and it goes by so fast then all of a sudden you are on your way home with a bunch of pictures and an overflowing heart trying desperately to burn memories in your brain to hold onto until you are back there in the middle of it again. Doing something with your hands is a wonderful distraction, isn’t it? Speedy healing to you!

  39. Congrats on your monumental ride! I know the numbness of which you speak. What works for me is to wear wrist supports (sometimes called wrist braces) that can be found at drugstores. I wear them when I sleep, and sometimes while I knit if my hands begin to get numb while I’m knitting. Usually a good sleep with the braces on makes for a tingling-free day of knitting. Hope your hands are tingle-free quite soon.

  40. Oh, oh, I KNOW! (Sorry if this is a repeat–I didn’t read all of the previous replies). Sailing, and going to someone’s cabin while it’s still August!! I know at least the cabin usually involves knitting, but there are so many other things to do, esp if you can organize a friend or two plus their little humans to join you, that it won’t be as noticeable–plus, you know, cabin!! Lake!!! Hmmm…

  41. Congratulations on another successful ride; I am completely in awe of all of you who participate in it. Hope all your parts return to their normal, working order as fast as possible. Besides spinning, you could try weaving…pretty sure you could get your loom warped up and weave with only 2 fingers operating well on both hands…

  42. Sorry to hear about your handlebar palsy issues. I went through something similar caused by vibrations coming through my motorbike handlebars. The impact to knitting was definitely the worst part!

    I have found that doing stretches and strengthening exercises for carpal tunnel have helped in the long term, in addition to targeted massage therapy. Always great to have a “medical excuse” for a massage! 🙂

  43. Bikes! When you ride, don’t let your hand bend up (or down, or sideways, though those positions are less likely in a bike). Flat (straight) wrist, like a piano teacher would tell you. Especially if you are leaning weight on your hands (has to happen sometimes, late in a long ride!). I had those tingles years ago, awful! But never since I learned about keeping my wrists straight while riding. Well, almost never: only a little reminder tingle once in a while, telling me to change position on the handlebars a little. Congratulations on your ride! We did Obliteride in Sunday (fundraiser for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle) and I know what you mean about the aftermath. Worth it, though! (Contemplating a nap at 9:30 in the morning…)

  44. I go to book conventions and post con depression is a huge thing. You get to spend so much time in a closed environment with these people who if you’re really lucky become a second or third form of family whom you really only see and interact with at the cons or in your case the rally. Then you miss them terribly for ages. Some of my real life friends make fun of me because I call my con family my HP family. But truly, family and friends are where you find/make them.
    I hope your lingering discomfort disappears soon.

  45. Thank you for all your efforts in helping make this a better world. While I agree spiders do a lot of good in the world, I don’t want them sharing my personal space. Spiders hate peppermint essential oil. To keep them out of the tent, put several drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball and put it inside the entrance to your tent. You can put the cotton ball with oil in a small container (a film container?) and just take the lid off when you set up your tent. Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply to Louise Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.