The beauty of cycling, is that it is a very low impact form of exercise that results in fewer injuries than higher impact activities such as running. However, the number of repetitions that cyclists perform (roughly 6000 revolutions per hour) is much greater than any other sport. Chronic injuries can occur from riding too long, too fast or too often. I always advise my patients to have a professional evaluate how their bike fits their body. An improper fit of the handlebars, saddle, frame or pedals can cause a predisposition to musculoskeletal problems aka pain and injuries.
Common Injuries Encountered By Cyclists
Neck & Mid Back Injuries
- Causes – This problem is typically due to over exertion of the muscles that extend the neck and raise the shoulders. The cause of this is usually the rams-horn style of handlebars that cause the rider to hold the head and neck in a hyperextended position for prolonged periods of time. Some individuals have problems with this due to the loss of the normal forward curve (lordosis) in their neck. This type of structural problem is best addressed with chiropractic care.
- Symptoms – Spasm, tenderness and soreness of the muscles of the neck and upper back. Pain is usually felt with extension and rotation of the neck.
- Treatment – Initially stretching and strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper back is advisable. If the problem persists, it maybe due to structural problems in your neck. If the neck and upper back pain persists for more than a week you need to be evaluated.
Lower Back & Injuries
- Causes – Lower back strain and pain can occur when an unconditioned rider rides too long with the back flexed forward. Other causes are obesity, weak trunk muscles or biomechanical dysfunction in the form of lumbar and sacroiliac subluxations .
- Symptoms – Decreased mobility of the trunk and spasms of the lower back. Pain is usually felt with flexion and rotation of the trunk muscles. In many instances, lower back pain will be felt more on one side due to asymmetrical loading of the sacroiliac joints. If not corrected the individual may begin experiencing Sciatica.
- Treatment – Strengthening and stretching of the torso, lower back and hip musculature will help remedy many of the lower back symptoms many riders experience due to muscular weakness. If the injury has caused pain due to misalignments in the lower back or sacroiliac area strength training will only irritate the condition. If this is the case, chiropractic evaluation is indicated.
- Causes – Trochanteric bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa on the side of the hip, typically caused by the gluteus medius or iliotibial band rubbing over the bursa and causing irritation. The injury is most common in cyclists with a saddle adjusted too high, unequal leg lengths (possible sacroiliac subluxation) or weak hip muscles.
- Symtoms – There is a gradual onset of pain. Typically, the pain is on the side of the hip and will gradually migrate down the side of the leg. If not properly treated, sleeping on the affected side and climbing stairs will begin to cause pain.
- Treatment – Resting and icing the area is always beneficial. Trochanteric busitis is usuallly a symptom of riding with a saddle that is too high. Consider lowering the saddle to limit hip extension with each stroke. Once the pain begins to subside begin stretching the gluteus medius and the IT band.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post it is very important to have a professional help you to set up your bike. Ergonomics are not just for the office. A properly set up bike will not only increase your bike riding enjoyment but it will also minimize your chances of overuse injuries.
I hope this post about cycling injury prevention has been helpful. If you live in the Cincinnati area and are still experiencing pain while riding, even though your bike has been professionally fitted to your body give me a call and schedule an exam.