Motorcycles can Cause Back Pain
Riding a motorcycle, though fun and exciting, can also be a cause of low back, neck and shoulder pain. As in any other activity, posture is important. The ergonomics of motorcycle riding can make all the difference in how long you can ride or how far you can go.
The parts of a bike most relevant to the rider’s posture are the handlebars and foot pegs and their relationship to each other. The most common styles of bikes for street riders are the cruiser and the standard.
The standard bike style puts the rider in a fully upright position with a straight spine and the feet, hips and shoulders aligned. Handlebars should be where you can reach them easily without leaning too far forward or having to reach up or bend down. If you have shoulder or upper back pain riding a standard bike, you may need to raise your handlebars. The foot pegs should not be set too far back, or your upper body will pitch forward, and your hips will have to work hard to keep your legs in place. Lower back and hip pain may indicate improper foot peg placement.
On a cruiser, the rider is slightly reclined with his or her feet positioned ahead of the knees. The handlebars are higher. The reclined position opens up the hips and helps to prevent lower back and hip pain caused by tight hip flexor muscles. If you are going at a low speed, this works. If you are going fast, you tend to lean forward by pulling on the handlebars. This can cause shoulder, neck and upper back strain.
Foot pegs should be close enough to the rider to properly support the leg. If they are too far away, the leg and hip muscles will need to work to keep the leg from falling. This unnecessary muscle use can cause strain in the hips, legs and lower back. The muscle tension used to ride a bike can mostly affect the neck and shoulders. This is noticeable by a tight grip on the handlebars and raised shoulders. This could easily lead to muscle spasm.
What to do
You can prevent back, neck and shoulder pain when riding by reminding yourself to loosen your grip and keep your shoulders relaxed. Have someone examine how you sit on your bike and adjust your handlebars and foot pegs to an ergonomic and comfortable position. Also, an exercise regimen including stretching and core work will allow you to ride further and longer.
- Mirbod SM, Inaba R, Iwata H. Subjective symptoms among motorcycling traffic policemen. Scand J Work Environ Health. 1997 Feb;23(1):60-3. PubMed PMID: 9098914