Common Cycling Injuries
Neck And Back Pain In Cyclists
Causes of back pain in cyclists
There are a multitude of factors that can contribute to neck and upper back pain in cyclists. These are often treatable once the underlying problem has been rectified. It may also be due to several factors that contribute to the pain, which may be attributed to intrinsic or extrinsic factors.
○ Poor posture while cycling
○ Riding a bike that does not fit
○ Not getting a bike-fit before riding a new bike (bike is too big or too small, saddle is too high or too low). When in doubt, do seek advice from a bike-fitter or mechanic at a reputable local bike shop.
○ Extended cycling distances (riding 100km for the first time)
○ Poor physical conditioning
○ A fall from your bicycle
What can happen if injuries are left untreated?
Cycling is an exciting and enjoyable sport. Untreated or poorly managed injuries may compromise your safety and enjoyment while cycling. If neck and upper back pain are left untreated, it may lead to chronic muscle cramps, difficulty sleeping at night and even headaches.
Injuries of the wrist or shoulder may cause difficulty controlling your bicycle. Ankle or knee pain might make it difficult for you to climb hills or detach your cycling cleats from your pedals. These injuries may increase the risk of falling and aggravating your injuries.
It is best to seek professional help if you are experiencing an injury to allow you to return to cycling sooner rather than later.
It is important to identify the cause of your neck and upper back pain from cycling.
Extrinsic factors such poor bike fit and ill-fitting equipment must be identified and rectified. During a clinical bike fit, the master bike-fitter will ensure your bike set up is optimised to allow efficient pedal strokes and performance. They will also advise you about your posture during rides as well as pedal techniques to prevent muscle and joint pains.
Muscle pain or tightness will improve after a period of rehabilitative physiotherapy and stretching. Well-trained physiotherapy will identify the tight muscles causing the pain and allow focused muscle relaxation and improved functioning. Physiotherapists can identify specific muscle, joint or ligament problems which impair your cycling performance.
Muscle imbalances can also affect the way you cycle and may lead to injuries. After releasing tight muscles, they may advice you no certain exercises or stretches to do ono your own to improve your muscle and cycling performance.
Regular passive and active range of motion exercises of the neck, upper back and shoulders will help alleviate the pain and tightness. This is something that you should do routinely during the course of your day. Well-conditioned and balanced muscle tone can help prevent injuries and improve your cycling performance.
It is also important to use good and comfortable pillows when you sleep. Your pillow should conform and support the curvature of your neck and spine.
The speed of your recovery depends on the cause of the injury and whether it has been correctly rectified. Anti-inflammatory medication and stretching exercises should help to reduce your neck and upper back pain before you return to cycling. It is also advisable to return to cycling by riding short distances with good posture to prevent recurrent pain.
What to do now while waiting for diagnosis/treatment?
Stop cycling for a while and practice passive and active stretching exercises of your neck, upper back and shoulders. These regular exercises will reduce the tightness in your muscles and allow for a more comfortable cycling posture.