Top Tips For Preventing Back Pain During Bike Rides
Whether it’s a dull ache that sets in towards the end of your ride or a raging sciatic nerve that can prevent you from cycling altogether, back pain can be hard to overcome. But the good news is that many back problems seem preventable given some attention, both on and off the bike.
Wear the Right Bike Gear
Most cyclists suffer from back pain at some time. However, if this pain is intermittent and resolves after your ride, you can continue cycling safely and effectively.
If you are suffering from persistent back pain, it is worth getting an expert opinion to find the cause of your pain. This could be as simple as a lower limb discrepancy easily addressed with a professional bike fit.
Other causes of back pain could include saddle height being too high, increased spine flexion or saddle position being too low, forcing you to rock side to side during the pedal stroke (both can strain your spinal discs). The handlebar position is also important as if it is too far forward; it forces you to stretch over your neck muscles, leading to pain and headaches.
It is also worth focusing on increasing the strength of your core muscle groups before cycling, as this will help support your postural muscles and reduce back stress. A good off-bike mobility routine is also important, as tight quads and hip flexors can add to back fatigue.
Get a Bike Fit
Whether it is a dull ache that settles in towards the end of the ride or a throbbing pain that lasts long after you’ve stepped off your bike, back pain can be a major cycling roadblock for many cyclists. This is because the cycling motion puts a lot of strain on your muscles, including those in your lower back.
A poor bike fit can be a major contributor to back pain. If your saddle height, handlebar height, and reach must be set properly for your body size, this can lead to various problems.
So how to avoid back pain while riding bike? A physio-led bike fit can help identify the cause of your back pain. Tightness in the anterior hip (quads and hip flexors) is often the culprit. These muscles can be released using a foam roller or by self-massage. A core strengthening routine is also helpful as it helps to support the spine and reduce back stress. It’s important to make changes slowly when making major adjustments to your riding position. This will prevent shock to the body.
Stretch Prior to Your Ride
Back pain often results from pushing the limits on your bike and straining muscles that are not used to cycling. This can cause the muscles to develop tiny tears known as Strains and take weeks or months to heal. Keeping core strength and flexibility high is also important to help prevent back strains.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of back pain is to warm up and stretch before getting on your bike. Start by doing dynamic stretches to get your muscles moving and loosen up. Then, gradually work into more traditional stretching like the Cat Cow or Shoulder Reach.
For those with tight hip flexors, Gurney recommends working on a foam roller before riding to loosen up the psoas and other muscle groups that can be tightened during cycling. This can be a great way to improve your posture on and off the bike by lengthening the tight muscles that pull areas of the body out of their natural position.
Wear the Right Bike Shoes
More than half of all cyclists report back pain, and even pro riders with proper bike fit often experience discomfort in the saddle. Fortunately, you can do a few simple things to prevent this pain.
One of the most important things is to wear the right shoes. Bike shoes are designed to clip into the pedals and are typically stiffer than regular sneakers. This helps to optimize power transfer from the foot to the pedal, which, in turn, helps propel you forward.
In addition, bike shoes help prevent the feet from slipping during pedaling, which can overwork the quads and cause back pain. If you’re unsure which bike shoes are best, consider visiting a local cycling store and trying on a few pairs. They’ll be able to advise you on the best shoe for your needs and even provide you with cleats that are compatible with your pedals.
Make Sure Your Bike is in Good Condition
A bike not properly set up can be a huge culprit in back pain during cycling. Small tweaks like changing your seat height and stem length or switching to a new bike size can make all the difference.
Weak core muscles can also cause back pain during biking. Cycling can increase spine flexion and strain the lower back muscles, so it is important to strengthen your core with exercises like planks and bridges.
Riding in big gear is another common cause of back pain during cycling. This can cause you to rock your pelvis side to side while you pedal, which can cause back pain. Finding a gear that fits your body and avoiding pushing too hard during hill climbing is best.
Properly caring for your bike is also very important in preventing back pain. Regularly wash your bike with a mild detergent and rinse it off thoroughly afterward. It is also a good idea to have a professional check your bike for any loose parts or potential issues that may be causing problems with your posture.