Cycling and Back pain
Depending on the source, it is estimated that at least 39 million Americans rode a bicycle at least 6 times a year. Demographic trends indicate a greater interest in cycling, particularly in the middle age years. The reason for this popularity is surprisingly simple. It is great exercise, and can be easier on the joints than other forms of exercise. But, there is always the potential for injury. And, we are not talking about the injuries caused by collision.
For the longer distance cyclist, the unfortunate truth is that many suffer from some form of neck or back pain. While the cyclist develops great aerobic capacity, and develops tremendous leg strength, often times, there is also asymmetry muscle development. That asymmetry can cause inadvertent over stressing of certain muscles. For hardcore cyclists, often times, they do not spend the time on abdominal muscle development, and thus the powerful leg extension muscles can cause excessive stress on the core structures such as the lower spine. Also, the position of the bike may demand a more forward leaning flexed spine. Unfortunately for many, it leads to poor posture on the bike saddle, with loss of the normal lordotic curvature of the spine. Secondary to the position, many will fatigue and develop lower back discomfort.
Regarding the neck, often times, by using the drop handlebars, it places extra stress on the arms and shoulders, and also demands a more hyperextended neck position for the ride. Over time, this can lead to upper back and neck discomfort.
If you experience these pains, please be sure to stretch, and consider a change of position. Also, work on developing all the muscles of your trunk, to avoid the asymmetry as discussed above. If riding becomes too uncomfortable, you may consider changing the geometry of your bike by changing the seat, or handle bars, and riding in a more upright position. While they are not the same as a road bike, a hybrid, or a moutain bike, will give you a more upright stance.
Cycling is a great activity enjoyed by many. But, if you are having pains, please consider your body mechanics, and make sure you stretch, and develop the other muscles of your trunk.
- Rostami M, Ansari M, Noormohammadpour P, Mansournia MA, Kordi R. Ultrasound assessment of trunk muscles and back flexibility, strength and endurance in off-road cyclists with and without low back pain. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015;28(4):635-44. PubMed PMID: 25391328