What is it and what causes it?
During an intense moto, are your forearms experiencing a burning sensation? Are your muscles constantly cramping and getting hard? Do your hands go numb and fingers cramp up? Do you find yourself letting up on the throttle when you feel these pains? Arm pump has plagued dirt bike riders for many years. It's something that affects nearly every rider, whether a competitive racer or a just-for-fun rider. If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, or arm pump often slows you down, read on to learn exactly what arm pump is and what causes it.
What You Should Know
The best way for you, as a rider, to treat your arm pump is to understand what is exactly happening and what specifically causes it. Arm pump occurs when contractions prevent blood flow into the muscle, which results in the build up of potassium and phosphate. When this happens, the potassium and phosphate cannot be flushed away from the muscle by the blood and therefore, arm pump occurs.
When fatigued, studies have shown that the action potential is not actually affected or weakened, but the difference between the muscles causes a rapid fall in the ability to develop strength. This is where the so-called burning sensation comes from, the overworking of the muscles and toxin accumulation. While gripping the handlebars and consistently pulling the clutch, the main flexing muscles in the wrist and fingers have to work overtime. When these muscles are working so fast, they tend to tire quickly and arm pump soon sets in. Unfortunately, when arm pump has plagued your forearms, there isn't much you can immediately do, besides wait it out.
While numbness or tingling may occur, these common symptoms only last for a short while and will soon subside after your arms are given a chance to rest. However, some riders experience extreme pain, numbness, or tingling. In a case like this, if your pain would happen to continue for a long period of time after you have stopped riding, or if the pain increases, medical doctors recommend that you get medical attention immediately.
How Do I Get Arm Pump?
Muscles require an immense amount of blood that is rich in oxygen. Therefore, during intense exercise, muscles usually increase in volume. The enlarged muscles then result in increasing pressure inside the inelastic fascia. (Fascia is the tissue around the outside of a muscle.) Fluid then builds up to an incompressible state and makes the forearm feel hard as bone. This is also why you get arm pump more on a race day, because the forearm muscles only get the needed blood flow when they are relaxed.
A Few Simple Solutions
While there are many solutions to fixing or "curing" arm pump, a simple and effortless way is to merely use your arms less. Since you should be gripping the bike with your knees (if you're using the proper style) your arms will not have to work overtime. While using your knees instead of your arms to control the bike, the muscles in your legs, which are stronger and more frequently used, are now doing most of the work. This will therefore, leave your arms to be used for more direction than control. In the long run, your arms will definitely be less fatigued. When practicing the next time, try this out and really concentrate on using your legs as much as possible. Then see how you feel. If you practice like this, you are more likely to begin riding like this as well. It will also lessen the stress that is placed on your forearms.
According to Dr. Jondy Cohen, here are a few more solutions that you may find helpful in reducing your chances of getting arm pump. However, remember that no two riders are alike and that while some things may work for others, it may not work for you.
-Ride as frequently as you can; this will allow for your arms to become more adjusted to your style of riding
-Relax, relax, and relax! Make sure to loosen your hold on the grips while riding; don't clench it as hard as you can all the time
-Move your fingers frequently; this will allow your muscles to stay relaxed
-Alternate between squeezing and relaxing your hands
-Stretch your forearms and wrists before a race
-When working out, use light weights with high repetitions while doing wrist curls; don't use heavy weights when doing any arm workouts
In addition, exercises that include flexibility, strength, and endurance training may also help in reducing arm pump. And for the fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms, stretching, dynamic exercises, strength exercises, and endurance training may also prove to be effective. Below are a few more key ideas to keep in mind when training your arms.
-Train for strength and endurance, not size; increasing muscle strength and increasing muscle mass are not the same thing
-By increasing your strength in the wrists, your hands and forearms will also become more stable
-If you don't focus on strengthening your muscles in your arms, you will more than likely suffer from arm pump more often than not; and remember, you have to train in order to make your arms work the way they should and the way you want them to
Arm Pump Surgery?
Arm pump has become an important and highly talked about topic in the motocross world. In fact, several top, national riders have undergone surgery to fix their arm pump problems. With that being said, the interest has definitely risen in this frustrating and dangerous condition and the options there are to fix it. So keep your eyes open in the following weeks for a follow-up article about arm pump surgery and whether or not it is right for you.
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