Cyclists and Back Pain What Can You Do to Prevent It
Reading time: 4 min

Cyclists and Back Pain: What Can You Do to Prevent It?

Reading time: 4 min
Back pain affects most cyclists. Make sure you’re not one of them.
Cyclists and Back Pain What Can You Do to Prevent It

Compared to other sports, cycling is considered to be one of the safer activities in terms of injuries.  Apart from the occasional falls and kissing the asphalt, which are fortunately not so common as to deter us from enjoying this wonderful sport.

The benefits of cycling are well-documented, with doctors often recommending it for rehabilitation after various injuries. It reduces strain on the joints and has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system.

However, cycling isn't completely free from injuries and pain. Overexertion can lead to negative consequences simply because you're pushing yourself too hard.

Back, not legs

Given that the legs do most of the work during cycling, one might naively expect that overdoing it leads to knee injuries.  Yet it turns out that the most common problems for cyclists, affecting both professionals and amateurs, are lower back and neck pain.

An improper position on the bike is often a contributing factor to these pains, which can be resolved with proper bike fitting. If you've already consulted a bike-fitting specialist and still experience discomfort, it's essential to explore other causes.

The first step in eliminating back and neck pain is ensuring your bike is properly adjusted.

Road cyclists aim for the most aerodynamic position possible, which is crucial at speeds of around 40 km/h and above. Additionally, our position on the bike must be optimized to maximize the force applied to the pedals when pedaling.

This combination leads to prolonged sitting in a crouched position, with the upper body tucked in as much as possible and the lower spine bent forward. This posture places significant pressure on the intervertebral discs, which can be up to five times greater than those experienced when simply standing.

Prisilni položaj na kolesu, ki vodi do bolečinCyclists are always striving to achieve the most aerodynamic position, but an incorrect bike setup can lead to back and neck pain. 

Be aware that after the age of 20, the spine starts to degenerate and the high forces in the lumbar region during cycling can also cause the intervertebral disc to slide against the spinal cord.

If the disc presses on nerve structures or even pinches a nerve, it results in severe lower back pain accompanied by a numb leg. For most people, this pain subsides on its own within 2 to 3 weeks.

However, you can significantly shorten the recovery time with specific exercises that help relax the back muscles and return the intervertebral discs to their proper place. For prolonged or chronic pain, a visit to the doctor is essential to assess the severity of the condition.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

It's important to highlight that back problems tend to start earlier and are more pronounced in less physically fit cyclists who do not ride regularly and are not accustomed to covering longer distances.

These issues are often linked to a weak core, which plays a crucial role in stabilizing the torso and spine. A strong core helps cyclists maintain a stable position on the bike and allows for greater power transfer to the pedals while riding.

When cycling on the road, the neck can often become strained because of the handlebars' low position. This forces you to constantly lift your head to expand your field of vision and see the road ahead, resulting in tension in the muscles of the neck and lower back.

Remember to take regular breaks to relax your neck while driving for long periods. Otherwise, you'll end up with unpleasant pain that could eventually turn into a chronic issue.

Take a moment every few minutes to relax your neck. Do this on safe and clear sections of the road.

You can do a lot to prevent lower back pain, as prevention is always better than cure.

During the winter months, dedicate some time to strengthening your core muscles. Strong back and abdominal muscles support the lower back and ensure the stability of the entire upper body. This also helps to reduce the strain on the lumbar spine when in an aerodynamic position on the bike.

Year-round, it's highly recommended to do core-strengthening exercises like the plank, which requires little time and space but yields incredible results. Regular planking will strengthen and activate both your abdomen and back, helping you on the bike and boosting your confidence on the beach in summer.

Plank za izboljšanje mišic jedraThe plank is an exercise that every cyclist should do regularly. It only takes a few minutes, but the results are incredibly effective.

If you're already experiencing pain, one of the main solutions is to adjust your bike position to allow for a more upright posture. It might mean giving up a bit of aerodynamics, but being able to cycle 100 km without pain is definitely more valuable than saving a few seconds on your time.

To conclude, the golden rule of cycling comfort is very simple. You should be relaxed on the bike, no muscle that is not involved in pedaling should be tense. Fear during cycling often leads to unnecessary muscle tension, so it's essential to have faith in yourself and your bike, approaching the ride with caution but without being fearful.

Author: Marjetka Conradi