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Treating Motorcycle Arm Pump

photo of biker with hands on a wall

I have been reading a lot about this condition for a while now and as a sports therapist is it interesting as to how many viewpoints are out there for this condition, however from riders and not medical therapists.

A friend of mine came and spoke to me asking if I had heard of arm pump before and when he told me about it, I said “yeah, no problems”, and came up with this exercise I have been using for other wrist complaints. He tried it and came back the next week and said he no longer had the wrist pain or “arm pump” so let’s tell you why and how to get rid of it.

Arm pump is medically know as Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS) where there is intermittent forearm pain (motorcycling) after or during exercise. It is also said that they pain occurs due to swelling of the muscles in the forearm which constricts blood flow to the muscles of wrist and hands.

Symptoms:

  • Forearm pain during and immediately after riding
  • Numbness in the wrist and fingers
  • Swelling of the wrists
  • Poor grip strength
  • Discoloration of the fingers during prolonged riding and after
  • Cramping not only of the fingers but also into the forearm when squeezing.
  • Conditions worse on race days

Now I have seen so much literature on treatment of this condition and most people advocate surgery but actually a simple exercise can in fact rectify and/or prevent it in most cases. We called this the forearm (flexor) pump or carpal tunnel exercise exercise and it works for patients will carpal tunnel and should work for you too.

Motorcycling Biomechanics

When riding a motorcycle the hands are placed in a pronated grasp position (palms down and grasp from above), this means that the bicipital force that would normally be applied to the work with the forearm is restricted. Instead the rider has to generate more control or force through the other flexors of the forearm namely the wrist.

References

Boyd KT, Barnes MR, Allen MJ. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome of the forearm: acase series of 12 patients treated with fasciotomy. JHS(E) 2011;36E(5):413-419.

RaphaelBS, Paletta GA, Shin SS. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome of the forearm in a major league baseball pitcher. Am J Sports Med2011;39:2242-2244.

BerlemannU, Al-Momani Z, Hertel R. Exercise induced compartment syndrome in the flexor pronator muscle group. Am J Sport Med 1998;26:3

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