Why do motocross and dirt bike riders get arm pump surgery? Do YOU need it? What do you need to know before getting it?
Here are all the answers you ever needed about arm pump surgery for dirt bike riders.
What is going on in your arms?
The condition is medically called Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS). But you better know it as arm pump.
Why does this arm pump thing happen and especially to dirt bike riders?
Riders physiques endure long hours of tension and damage while riding. This affects many areas of their bodies and arms are on of the most affected ones.
Because of the tension of the grip and the bike, arms remain contracted for a long time, increasing their demand of oxygen and nutrients, which also generates waste substances (acidity) that must be eliminated.
The amount of blood that flows into the muscles through the capillaries, determines if these nutrients and oxygen are well provided. And also, how fast these waste substances are removed from the forearm.
Under normal conditions, these blood capillaries supply and remove all nutrients and substances with full effectiveness.
But for the rider, there might not be yet enough capillaries to meet the muscle’s demands.
And then there is another piece of tissue called the Fascia, which covers the muscles forearms, that makes the issue a little more complicated.
When the muscle demands more blood to receive the nutrients and remove waste, all these area grows.
If the muscle volume increases but the fascia doesn’t elongate, we have a situation of oppression. Here the waste substances are not being able to come out properly.
All this causes a collapse in the area that arises as arm pump.
What does the arm pump surgery do to your arm?
So the medical solution was simple:
if we cut the fascia, the muscles in the forearm stop being oppressed, and the blood can flow properly.
That’s the arm pump surgery.
This is the quick and easy solution that many choose to adopt. It relies on cutting that tissue that prevents widening the space among blood vessels and muscles.
Dead dogs don’t bite, right?
But without a doubt, it is NOT the most advisable thing to do.
Because the fascia tissue has important functions in the arm.
And mostly, because there are many other things you can do before undergoing arm pump surgery.
5 things you can do to avoid arm pump surgery
Our goal is to help enduro, mtb, motocross and all dirt bike amateur riders prevent arm pump from appearing in the first place.
Or, if you already have it, getting over it without undergoing surgery.
Increase the number of blood capillaries in your muscles.
Not only on forearms, which is important but in the whole body.
For this, physical training without the bike is essential. With the Powering App, you can actually follow an enduro o motocross training plan, specifically designed for riders.
With the POWERING App for amateur riders you will practice in your workouts the exercises needed to overcome arm pump.
In addition to this, we recommend you cardiovascular sports that involve the muscles of your arms. Such as swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing, elliptical and related.
These sports will help create more capillaries in your body and your arm muscles, increasing blood flow and reducing pain in your forearms.
Reduce tension in your forearms when riding
Practice balance exercises without your dirt bike or bike, even from home.
The more developed your balance skills are, the more flow you will have on the bike. Your grip on the handlebar will need less tension. Which will result in less fatigue in your forearms.
This also applies to your technique on the bike, which means that training your riding skills will help.
In the Powering App we have a huge variety of progressions: from the most basic balances to some only the most skilled and trained riders are able to do
(Even our coaches suffered a lot recording them for the App).
Stretching, a great ally against arm pump surgery
Stretching the fascia to make it more elastic and allow more mobility to your muscles. This results in less compression, reducing the tension you put them under.
To do this, you must do specific mobility and flexibility exercises, such as these:
Hydration is essential
The science is simple: poorly hydrated muscles tend to be more rigid, aggravating the problem.
Of course, alcohol and the lack of adequate rest will greatly affect your arm pump, so you might also what to check for your after-riding habits if looking into ways to solve the pain in your arms.
In the Powering App, you have a hydration calculator so that you always know what your ideal hydration would be according to your personal conditions and the characteristics of your races or bike rides.
Work on your grips
Work on your grips, the strength in your fingers, and the antagonistic muscles.
There are many traditional gym routines that recommend strength exercises on your forearms, but you must know they are contraindicated and you should not do them.
Why? Because they only aggravate the problem.
What these exercises do (like dumbbell wrist exercises) is increase the volume of your muscles due to hypertrophy without creating new blood capillaries to the same extent.
More volume equals more pressure inside your fascia, which is equal to an even worse blood irrigation.
(We know, you might now be thinking…Shit!).
So the smart way to train your forearms so they get properly adapted to the bike is doing with complementary sports (as we said in point 1), but also to improve the weak links such as your wrists and fingers.
If you are interested here we have a more detailed article on exercises for relieving arm pump pain.
And don’t forget to not only work your grip as when riding, but also the muscles that make the opposite movement to the grip of the handlebars, in order to balance all the muscles in your forearms.
We love using Powerfingers (our favorites are here and here) at the end of our forearm workouts, like in the video.
But if you still are going under arm pump surgery… What do you need to know?
All this is to avoid the disaster of arm pump surgery. But if you are hopeless, you have the problem on top of you, and you are going to make the decision to have the surgery, you should know this.
After surgery, and once your orthopaedic surgeon gives you green light, you must start doing all this work that you did not do previously.
Surgery takes around 1 hour and usually does not involve spending the night at the hospital. In a couple days you can resumen a more regular life and you can be back training in 4-6 weeks.
But, when wanting to get back on track after surgery, you have to take into account that the fascia tissue is cut, so you have to be very careful.
You can not finish the recovery and start fooling around with the bike, no, before that you must strengthen fingers, wrists and muscles again.
You can check all about exercises for overcoming arm pump in this post.
After surgery, we also recommend you to swim often. Swimming is especially interesting because it creates new blood capillaries in addition to relaxing the muscles.
In fact, swimming is 100% recommended and almost mandatory if you have had arm pump surgery.
Our years of experience getting riders fit for the bike tell us this is probably everything that needs to be known about arm pump.
But if you still have any questions or comments on this matter, please write us!