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Whether you spin your wheels indoor or outdoor, cycling is a great non-impact exercise. Yet, while this activity can make your knee and muscles happy, can make others not so happy. At times, cycling can be a literal pain in the neck and/or back.

“Neck and back pain are common in cyclists because of the body’s positioning during riding,” says Chad Asplund, M.D., Eisenhower Army Medical Center, along with Charless Webb, D.O., and Thad Barkdull, M.D., in the article, “Neck and Back Pain in Bicycling” published in Current Sports Medicine Reports.

Indeed, among recreational cyclists 44.2% of male and 54.9% of female seek treatment for neck pain, whereas around 30% for back pain, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“As far as causes of neck and back pain in cyclists, bike position is the biggest factor, so this would apply to both spin bikes and/or road bikes,” explains Asplund. “Because spin classes are shorter—45 to 60 minutes than typical road rides—many people are able to get away with some bad positioning.”

While bike position is important, you also need to screen muscle strength that stabilize the scapula—the shoulder blades—along with the lumbo-pelvis region. Here is how to find the cause and solution for your neck/back pain.

When the Neck Hurts

What causes? Riding in drop handlebars will increase the load on the arms and the shoulders, which tenses the neck and forces it to hyperextend. After prolonged time, your muscles will fatigue and pain may follow.

Fix it: Raise the handlebars, or use handlebars with a shallower drop—the handlebars should be even with the seat, or between even and 4 centimeters lower. Likewise, another method is to reduce the virtual tube length by using a shorter stem—if you move the saddle forward, make sure it does not stress your knees. And, make sure that handlebars are shoulder width apart to avoid excessive pressure on the trapezius muscle.

Equally important is to switch up your riding technique. This is to avoid a rigid arm position and unlock the elbows along with regularly changing hands position.

When the Back Hurts

What causes? If handlebars are too low the pressure in the lumbar spine will increase, and if the top tube length is too short it will affect the sacral spine. But not all the causes are bike-related, but rather lie in your own body.

When the muscles that attach to the hipbone, such as the hamstrings and quadriceps, become tight it will shift the pelvis forward or backward, and strain the back muscles. Also, weak abdominal muscles will not be able to properly stabilize the pelvis.

Fix it: The first step is to adjust the top tube length, which is like finding the right shoe size. This is the distance between the seat to the handlebars and should be placed according to the rider’s size.

“In any case, a forward lean to the handlebars should come from the pelvis rotating toward the handlebar rather than the back bending. Ideally, the back will be straight, and the pelvis tilted anteriorly without scarifying breathing efficiency,” adds Asplund and his colleagues.

Do These Exercises

As with any sport, cycling demands some muscles to work overtime. Particularly, the muscles of the neck and the back should be strong to endure prolonged body position to stabilize the pelvis and to maximize leg power. Yet at the same time they must maintain their flexibility.

With so many exercises for the back, which ones should you choose? Exercises that work the muscle to stabilize and actively move the scapula—trapezius, rhomboid, serratus anterior, levator scapulae, and pectoralis minor—should be part of your strengthening exercises ipad galleria.

Some of the best moves to target these muscles are the bent over row (barbell, dumbbell and/or machines), the resistance cable pulley back, and the horizontal back abduction.

Make sure to include stretching exercises for both the back and pectoralis muscles as well as the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles. Here is a routine to help keep your cycling pain free:

Cycling Pain Free Workout

–   Beginners: begin with one set of 10 reps

–   Intermediate-advance: two-three sets of 12-15 reps

–   Keep your back straight, core tight, and chest up

–   Perform the exercises back to back with minimal rest in between. Rest after finishing the circuit for 60-90 seconds

–   Perform this routine two times per week, on alternating days

 

Barbell Row: Bend your back while keeping the back straight. Bring the barbell in and focus on the muscles that support the scapula. Keep the shoulders down and the bar close to your body at all times.

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Plank-Push 
up-Row: Hold a plank position for 30 seconds. Then do a push-up followed by one arm row on each side. This is one rep. Do the same for the number of sets above, alternating arms. If you are a beginner, begin with planks and move progressively to perform the entire combo exercise. If you are advanced, incorporate dumbbells to do the row.

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Squat to Resistance Pulley Back: This exercise works the legs along with the rhomboids and trapezius muscles. Make sure you fully pull the muscles around the scapula together.

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Side Plank to Knee In: When bringing in the knee, keep your back in a straight line and do not rotate the pelvis.

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Horizontal Back Abduction: Face the tubing or pulley machine at shoulder height. With the arms extended and the wrists crossed, pull the arms out until you can feel the muscles that attach to the scapula coming together. Bring the arms back to the center at chest height to complete one rep.

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