Staying pain free while cycling | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Staying pain free while cycling

June 6, 2019

Biking is an excellent form of exercise and much easier on the joints than other forms of exercise like running.  However, despite its non impact nature, problems and pain can still arrive while cycling that can lead to pain that carries over into everyday life or worse not being able to ride for awhile.  What most people do not understand is that most likely the pains you are experiencing is treatable and the sooner you seek help, the less time you lose on the bike.  The problems and injuries from biking that result besides just from falls is through improper positioning on the bike.  And if someone lacks the proper range of motion in order to achieve the proper position, pain may arise and therefore makes riding and everyday life painful.  Even if you do not have pain reading this article to check your posture will help you in the long run.

Neck angle – The neck should be in neutral or just a slight tilt backward into extension.  If you experience numbness or tingling in your arms then your head should be in more of a neutral position.  Neutral position means that when you sit up straight your head is in neutral position, try to maintain this as you lower into position.  If you do not experience pain or numbness then you may have an increased head tilt backward.  The proper angle of your neck can be accomplished by raising the stem.  Improper positioning can also be what causes headaches.

Shoulder angle – Again start in a sitting up straight position.  Raise your arms to 90 degrees.  Lower yourself into position on the bike, your arms should not raise up any higher.  If the go lower that is okay but they should not go about 90 degrees.

Spine – The mid and low back should be flat.  There should be no curve in the spine in the upper or lower back.  Curves are naturally found in the low back but when positioned on the bike the rider needs to make sure that the back is flat otherwise this can lead to points of pain.  Understanding how the spine is aligned can help better understand this.

These are the naturally occurring curves in your spine. When you ride the middle (thoracic) and bottom (lumbar) curve should be flat.

Hip angle –  This angle is a bit tricky and may require consulting a physical therapist.  For the hip angle if you lay down and bring your hip up to your chest without applying pressure from your hand this is the angle that should not be exceeded when pedaling.  If this angle is exceeded at the top part of the pedal stroke you will be able to pedal but you will get the range of motion from your back, thus causing back pain.  This would be an unconscious maneuver on the part of your body so please do not think that you would know if you were doing it without testing it.

Elbows –  Elbows should be bent slightly but not quite to a 90 degree angle.  If your elbows are straight that means the bars are too far away.

Wrist –  Should be in a relaxed position.

Knee angle – Should have a slight bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Ankle angle –  Make sure that at the bottom of the pedal stroke that there is not a significant point in your toe.

Making sure that there is proper alignment will allow you to cycle pain free indefinitely.  If you try to get  into these positions and find that you are having a hard time then most likely there is an issue with the structure and possible tone of the muscles.  This should be a warning sign to consult a physical therapist.  If you find that you are not able to properly get into these correct positions but you are able to cycle pain free otherwise then you are compensating, or using other muscles improperly to perform the work load.  Doing this will lead to more problems down the road.  It is best to fix the problems when you discover them, waiting will only require more time in therapy.  For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

Some of the more common cycling injuries are neck, back and knee related and most of them are chronic as opposed to traumatic.  While some of you have read this and thought, “That’s not me,” most of the time it is and the difficulty is the body does it unconsciously so it hard for the rider to correct by his or herself.  Some of the more common mistakes I see being made are locked-out elbows, shoulders that are shrugged up wrists fully bent back.  It will feel unnatural to change these things but often times changing one thing will change them all.  For example by unlocking your elbows it will allow your shoulders and wrists to loosen up.  However, sometimes it takes a professional to look at things.  For instance sometimes low back pain is due to a leg length discrepancy you were unaware you had.  Most of the time these leg length discrepancies can be fixed and are often acquired from being on the bike.  It just takes a physical therapist to identify them.  Most often the origin of pain can be quickly identified and corrected leading to pain free cycling for a long time.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.