Whether you are an avid cyclist or enjoy a leisurely pedal on the weekend, back pain can be an unwanted companion. The core muscles and lower back are put under pressure while riding, which can cause spine rounding.
A physical therapist can help you address muscular imbalances that may be contributing to your pain. Also, avoiding taking self-prescribed anti-inflammatories can be helpful.
Get a Bike that is the Right Size for You
If you’re looking for a low-impact aerobic activity that provides an excellent workout for your back muscles, consider riding a bike. Cycling is less jarring to the spine than aerobic activities such as running.
However, if you experience lower back pain while cycling, it may be due to your bike not being set up according to your body’s measurements; you can significantly improve your riding comfort and avoid back pain by making minor adjustments, such as changing the stem length or raising/lowering the seat post height and learning how to avoid back pain while riding bike is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Another factor contributing to lower back pain while cycling is a lack of core stability and strength. It can lead to overworking the lower back and hip flexor muscles, leading to tightness, soreness, and pain. Incorporating core-strengthening exercises into your training routine can help prevent these issues.
A professional bike fit, which can be done at most larger bicycle shops, can significantly reduce your back pain while riding a bike. A PT will take measurements, examine your posture, and adjust your bike to improve your cycling efficiency and overall comfort.
Make Sure You Have the Right Bike Fit
Back pain is a common complaint among cyclists, whether the dull ache that sets in towards the end of a ride or the odd twinge getting out of your chair at a coffee shop. Getting a proper bike fit is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent this pain.
If your bike needs to be set up to your body measurements, it can cause problems like a saddle that’s too low, resulting in over-stretching your hip muscles. Other mistakes, such as saddle tilt, handlebar height, and reach, can cause discomfort and pain. Making minor adjustments to these settings can significantly improve your comfort and cycling performance.
Some people have tight hip muscles that affect their cycling performance, such as the hip flexors and gluteal muscles. These tight muscles can result in increased lateral pelvic movement, which then causes the back to work harder to compensate. Getting a proper bike fit can help with this, and a physiotherapist can advise you on improving your hip mobility.
Riding long distances on a bike can strain the back muscles, especially when climbing. Shifting gears can help prevent this, allowing you to take the pressure off your back and let your legs do the work.
Stretch Before and After Your Ride
Whether riding for fun, training for a triathlon, or participating in a cycling class, stretching before and after your ride is essential. It helps warm the muscles and prime them for movement, which can help prevent back pain. When performing stretches, do them dynamically, meaning that you move the body through motion rather than holding it in one position.
The hunched-over riding posture of cycling can take a toll on your lower and middle back and chest. To help stretch these muscles, try this simple but effective stretch: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, lace your fingers behind your back, and reach forward until you feel a comfortable stretch in the hamstrings and chest/front of shoulders.
Another excellent stretching exercise is the cat-cow pose, stretching the muscles of your lower and upper back and hip flexors. To perform this pose, start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and knees underneath your hips. Exhale and round your spine like a cow, then inhale as you tuck your pelvis. Repeat this movement ten times to stretch the lower back and hip flexors.
For the best results, see a physical therapist who can review your bike fit and setup and recommend a strength conditioning and stretching routine to keep you strong, healthy, and injury-free. They can also show you bike pacing strategies to minimize back fatigue.
Wear the Right Bike Gear
Adding support garments to your cycling kit may help to prevent back pain while riding. One study found that wearing a supportive brace reduced the risk of low-back pain and discomfort. Other studies suggest padded shorts can reduce the vibration transmitted from the ground to the rider’s lower body and pelvis.
A strong core and spinal muscles are essential for a stable position on the bike. You can strengthen these muscles by performing core-strengthening exercises 1-2 times per week.
Many cyclists experience back pain from muscular imbalances and an improperly fitted bike. A professional can also recommend a few tweaks to your equipment to improve your cycling performance and eliminate any niggles that you might be experiencing.
Don’t let back pain keep you from doing the things you love. Biking and other recreational activities can benefit your back health by strengthening the muscles that support your spine and helping to teach an oversensitive pain system that it’s safe to engage in these enjoyable activities.
Remember to increase your weekly biking miles over time slowly, and consult with a trained physical therapist if you develop any pain or niggles. A therapist can help you address any muscular imbalances contributing to your back pain.