Cycling is a very good workout for people for all ages. It activates the joints and muscles and helps strengthen them in the right way. This article discusses about the common types of cycling pain, their causes and treatment.
5 Common Types of Cycling Pains, Its Causes & Treatments
Riding a bike does not hurt, but if it does there is actually something wrong in the cycle seat fit, your posture or the technique in which cycling is being performed.
Sometimes, pain due to cycling may also indicate underlying joint or muscle condition or injuries that may need attention. Let us look at some of the commonest types of cycling pains, their causes and treatment.
Neck pain is a one of the common types of cycling pains, which is mostly felt on the sides and the back of the neck. Some of the possible causes of neck pain in cyclist must be understood to plan appropriate treatment. Deep stabilizer muscles known as deep neck flexors are present around the neck to hold the head up. The weakness of the deep neck flexors leads to the pressure of holding the head up going to the trapezius muscle (runs from the base of the skull to the shoulder). The weakness of this muscle leads to pain in the neck on the side and the back due to cycling.
- Treatment of neck pain due to cycling focuses on restoring the balance and strength of the deep neck flexors is the solution for the neck pain due to cycling.
- Lie on the back with the head touching the floor keeping the knees bent. Fix the focus of the eyes above the knees, without moving the head. Follow the eyes with your head, pulling the chin towards Adam’s apple, without lifting the head from the floor.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds, then release to come back to the starting position. Repeat it 8-10 times in a day.
- Changing and adjusting the posture on the cycle is another treatment for the neck pain.
- Shorten the stem as it shortens the reach thus giving pain relief.
- Changing the hand position from down to up can also help in releasing the load on the neck muscles.
Many times, cyclists complain of pain and numbness in their hands. Hand pain too is one of the common causes of cycling pain and usually pain comes after long rides or keeping the hand in the same position for a long period of time. The most probable cause of hand pain can be ulnar neuropathy. This condition leads to numbness and tingling in the little or the ring finger after a long ride. Another cause can be the transmission of road buzz and the vibration through the bars.
Treatment of this common cycling pain involves the following measures:
- The first thing to be corrected if suffering from hand pain is the riding position. This will remove the pressure from the hand and distribute it evenly through the body.
- Shorten the reach, so that more pressure is put on the saddle rather than the hands
- Wearing gloves with gel padding over the ulnar region can help.
Back pain is also very common amongst cyclists, in fact, it is one of the biggest causes of cycling pain. The causes of back pain in cyclist is poor posture and lack of flexibility or strength in the back muscles. The reaching forward position during cycling for a continuous stretch of time over stresses the back muscles. The overstretching and poor posture can strain the ligaments, which can damage the fibrous outer protective disc that protects the spinal vertebrae increasing the risk of early degeneration. Hence it is important to find the exact causes and plan proper treatment of this common cycling pain – back pain.
Treatment of back pain includes:
- Reducing the stretch on the back is the first treatment that can be followed to reduce the back pain.
- Some exercises can help to treat and prevent back pain in cyclists. Lift up the hand and stretch it straight towards the ceiling. Breathe in deep and stretch as high as you can. Exhale and open the arm and bring them down to the side.
- Sit straight on a chair. Lift up the shoulder towards the ear, squeezing them as high as possible. Hold in for few seconds, and relax down. Repeat it 8-10 times.
The knee pain in a cyclist is mostly observed on the kneecap. Knee pain is yet another common cause of cycling pain and its possible causes include injuries, overuse, weak muscles and ligaments or degenerative changes. Overuse injury affects the kneecap, due to the weakness of the muscles affecting the movement of the kneecap. Due to this the patella or the kneecap becomes inflamed. The cyclist experience pain while pedaling due to it.
Sometimes the kneecap rubs the underlying bones thus irritating them. This happens due to over-tightening of the iliotibial band. An over tight iliotibial band can also weaken the posterior gluteus muscle which is a small muscle present outside the hip. Posterior gluteus muscle is important for stabilizing the hip and preventing the knee from rolling inward. This can lead to knee pain and even lower back pain. These causes of knee pain can result in common cycling pain.
Treatment of knee pain in cyclist includes the following
- The first line of treatment for the knee pain is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
- Assessing the cause of knee pain due to cycling and correcting so that it does not recur comes next.
- The iliotibial band stretch can be done by following this simple exercise. Stand straight in a doorway with the right leg crossed in front of the left leg. Reach the left arm toward the top right corner of the doorway. Place the right arm on the hip and push the hip to the left. Hold on for few seconds. Feel the stretch on the outer torso, hip, thigh and the knee of the leg. Repeat on the other side.
- If weakness is suspected in the posterior gluteus muscle exercise to strengthen it.
- Analyze the bike set-up and the pedal stroke. Ensure that the knee remains over the foot always.
Hip pain can lead to a lot of discomfort while cycling and it is one of the common types of cycling pain. The common causes of hip pain include exertion and overstrain on the muscles. Overtraining of the gluteus maximus muscle can lead to piriformis syndrome or the wallet syndrome. This is a common cause of hip pain in the cyclist. Piriformis is a small muscle that helps rotate the leg outside. Though this is not much of any importance but can lead to pressure on the sciatic nerve which can lead to numbness down the leg and hip
Treatment to relieve this common cycling pain includes strengthening the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscles can be strengthened by performing a simple exercise. Lie on the back with the knees bent. Place the left foot over the right knee. Breathe out and bring the right leg towards the chest, by bending it from the hip, stretching the piriformis. It can further be stretched by pulling the thigh with both the hands further gently. Repeat the stretch by switching the legs.
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