Spring is here, and for millions of Americans that signals the start of cycling season. While cycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise and a great excuse to get outside, its easy to forget about structural health when you finally hit the road (or the trail).
Unfortunately, its no secret that neck and back injuries are two of the most common injuries seen in the world of cycling, but we’re here to help! At Ascent Chiropractic we emphasize preventing injury before it happens. Incorporating the following guidelines into your biking can help ensure a healthy and pain-free cycling season.
Let’s look at body positioning and bike fit first. Although the back pain and cervical pain experienced by cyclists can have a variety of causes, the most common cause of any biking-related pain is improper cycle fit. A rider contacts the bicycle at three points: the hands, the seat, and the feet. The relative positions of these contacts will determine a rider’s comfort and efficiency.
There are multiple variables that determine the position of these contacts: crank length, angle of saddle, crank center to saddle distance, angle of seat tube/saddle offset, saddle to handlebar distance, relative height of saddle, and handlebar drop. Not taking these measurements seriously is a recipe for spine pain. So make sure to have your bike professionally adjusted (*wink) at a bike shop, and then use the following guidelines to tweak the settings for your specific needs:
- Shifting the saddle back can help minimize pain in the low back and knees. However, doing so tends to increase the tension in your neck and shoulders, so don’t overdo it.
- Reducing the height of the handlebars can reduce stress on the hamstrings and lower back musculature. However, doing so can increase neck and shoulder dysfunction, sometimes leading to increased numbness numbness in the hands. Again, don’t overdo it.
- Take special care to make sure saddle height is properly adjusted. Saddles that are set too high can introduce instability to the pelvis, causing the hips to rock from side to side and straining lower back stabilizing muscles.
- Cyclists with slight differences in leg length often experience knee and low back pain because the seat height is only adjusted for one side. Leg length inequalities an be detected and corrected by your chiropractor.
Of course, when it’s finally time to head out on the road it’s important to increase your distance slowly to appropriately condition your body. Even if you feel like you’re still in good shape after the winter, doing activities you haven’t done for a while can still lead to muscle soreness. This is especially true for long-distance cyclists.
Cycling posture puts constant pressure on the discs, joints, muscles and ligaments in your back. Implementing appropriate stretches both before and during your ride can help neutralize these stressors. It’s important to get muscles warmed up and stretched before the ride, especially the hamstrings and hip flexors.
While riding, “standing up” in combination with alternately leaning forward and arching back can help keep back muscles relaxed. Performing basic cervical range of motion exercises (extension, flexion, and rotation) can help to relax the neck, but make sure to keep your eyes on the road!
Finally, the constant jarring impact caused by uneven roads or trails can have a whiplash-type effect and take a major toll on your body. Cyclists can minimize these micro-injuries by using wide, slightly deflated tires, padded gloves, and a lightweight helmet.
Remember, muscle soreness resulting from overuse usually disappears within two days. If pain persists longer or gets worse, it’s important to visit your chiropractor to rule out injury. Riding doesn’t have to be painful! Following these suggestions can help prevent the cycling injuries we see so often at Ascent Chiropractic.
Ready to take your cycling to the next level? At Ascent Chiropractic, we utilize a low-force, non-invasive, conservative approach to sports chiropractic for our patients in Brookfield, Milwaukee, West Allis, Waukesha, Wauwatosa, New Berlin & surrounding areas. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.