One common injury that can affect cyclists both at the recreational and competitive levels is low back and neck pain. This can be debilitating and stop individuals from enjoying their leisure activities. There are many causes of low back pain in the cyclists however the some of the most common issues are riding too much too soon, improper bike setup or poor core strength and coordination.
Too much, too soon
Cycling like any other activity needs to happen progressively. There needs to be a build up to your target distance as the cycling season begins. Taking the entire winter off and then jumping into a 50km ride on your first attempt can be difficult on your body and possibly lead to injuries. The best way to lessen the chances of these injuries is to start with a more manageable distance and add additional distance after each successful ride.
Certain riding postures can make you more susceptible for back pain. This can include the posture you choose to ride in, the position of seat or the type of bike you are riding.
Flat bars are better than drop bars
Hand position while riding can have a significant impact on the low back. The lower the handle bars, the more elongated your riding posture will become and this will force you to bend more through the low back. Flat bars will force a more upright posture however you can also decrease the pressure on the back by riding on the hoods or top position when using drop bars.
Seats that can be angled slightly downward can decrease low back pain
Seat selection can be modified to help those cyclists with low back pain. Certain bicycle seats can be angled upwards or downwards. By angling the front of the seat slightly towards the ground can decrease pain. This angle change can range from 5o to 20o, and you should start with a smaller change that remains comfortable to ride on.
Hybrid Bikes can help low back pain
Hybrid bikes gives the riders a more upright posture that can alleviate the pressure on the back. These bikes are geared towards individuals that prefer a leisurely ride or for riding throughout the city.
Exercise and Strengthening
A routine of core strengthening and mobility can help reduce the chance of low back pain. These exercise focus on core stability and endurance while increasing movement through the back to allow for the postures needed when riding.
a) Dead bug
This exercise focuses on the ability to keep the core tight while allowing the arms and legs to create resistance. It focuses on the front of the stomach but will have effects on the side and the back. Laying on your back with the core tightening; your arms and legs will be directly in front of you. The exercise consists of lowering one leg and one arm out.
Starting on hand and knees, you begin by tightening your core muscles. From this position, one arm will reach out in front of you and the opposite leg will reach backwards. As moving through this exercise, you want to keep your back even with the ground and do not want to twist or turn.
Extension Foam Rolling
This exercise requires a foam roller or similar equipment. You lay on your back with the roller placed under your rib cage. Cross your arms like you are hugging yourself. Then using your body weight allow your back you bend over the roller. The movement is minimal so do not try to push it too far. Hold this position for a few seconds then move the roller to another spot in the rib cage.
Starting on hands and knees, one hand will be placed behind your head. You will twist through the back until the elbow is pointing to the ceiling and then return to the resting position. The second variation of this exercise is to reach the arm underneath your body to create the rotation through the spine.
Overall cycling can be a fantastic way to enjoy the summer and get exercising. Taking the time to prepare for the rides can greatly reduce the chance of injury and allow you to continue to enjoy the warm weather.