Avid bicyclists often find themselves struggling with bike back pain, specifically in the lumbar spine. It's one of the most common injuries we hear from riders, particularly regarding their lower backs. Those who love bicycling don't want to give up the hobby, but they don't want to hurt themselves either. If you're looking to solve the problem, follow these tips and make sure you have the best set up to prevent bike riding back pain.
The Benefits of Biking
Cycling is excellent for your health. It keeps you in shape, tones your muscles, and keeps you moving after a long day sitting at the office. The benefits of biking include the cardio exercise you get from a good ride, the building of muscle, improved flexibility and range of motion, and stronger bones.
Bike riders often find that the exercise helps them manage stress, reduces anxiety and depression, and helps them to lose weight. With such great benefits, bike back pain can be discouraging. Some cyclists wonder if they're causing their bodies more harm than good and if they should give up the hobby to avoid the pain.
It doesn't have to be that way. Check out the information below and learn more about avoiding bike accidents and injuries.
Cyclist Pain Statistics
Unfortunately, many bikers do suffer from back pain as a result of their rides. Lumbar, or lower back pain, is the most commonly reported ailment. Other common complaints include knee pain and pain in the lower extremities.
One study showed that more than a quarter of all cyclists experience knee pain, and another reported that nearly 60% of riders stated they had back pain within the past year. Overall, approximately 94% of those who cycle regularly have suffered an injury from over-use at some point in their lifetimes.
These stats make it seem like bicycling may be dangerous. If you know the risk factors, how to properly set up your bike, and how to properly support the rest of your body for your workout, it isn't. The key is knowing what to do and how to do it.
Why Does Biking Cause Back Pain?
Several things lead to bike back pain. The most common cause is over-use, or biking too frequently for too long with an incorrect posture. Lower back pain that arises from cycling can result from the strain that is put on the lumbar spine as a cyclist holds a flexed position for an extended period.
When this flexed position is maintained for too long, the movement of the spine becomes impaired. Most of the strain becomes placed on the upper body, leading to pain. The position is known as "flexion," or forward-bending.
The natural movement our spines need to maintain a pain-free state is impeded, and increased stress is placed on the lumbar discs. The discs become compressed and overworked as they try to support the rest of the body, leading to bike lower back pain.
Fitness Tips for Preventing Bike Back Pain
If biking is your passion, and you're experiencing back pain, don't give up hope. First, you may want to see a chiropractor or doctor to ensure that your pain is not the result of a more severe injury. If the pain is severe or does not improve with time, it may be something more serious.
Most cyclists who report back pain find that the pain goes away with rest. If this isn't the case, or the pain starts to interfere with your daily life, it's time to see a doctor.
If you're struggling with minor bike riding back pain, follow the tips below to get some relief.
Improve Your Core Strength
Improving your core strength can help alleviate back pain. Your core muscles include your abs, the pelvic floor muscles, obliques, gluteus maximus, and more. Maintaining core strength is essential to preventing back pain before it occurs.
Our core muscles play a crucial role in supporting the spine, and also help to minimize strain on the hips, knees, and neck. They ensure proper, symmetrical movement so that no part of your body is overcompensating for another.
Core Muscle Exercises
The great thing about building core strength is that there are a simple series of exercises that you can do at home, no equipment necessary, to see the benefits. Basic core muscle exercises include:
- Planks and side planks
- The Superman pose
If you have a medicine ball handy, you can also plank with medicine ball taps, and do Russian twists to strengthen your obliques. A routine of just 20 minutes a day can help improve your core muscles in no time.
Work Out Your Hips
Working out your hips can also help prevent bike back pain. The hips help stabilize your core and spine, and when they're weak, your lower back may overcompensate to carry the weight, which leads to pain. In addition to building core strength, working out your hips will also help bike lower back pain significantly.
When working out your hips, focus on exercises that promote a range of motion and flexibility. The importance of hip motion and flexibility directly impacts your lower back. If your hips become stiff or limited in their scope of movement, the first area that is affected is the lower back.
Exercises that help promote hip health include stretching and yoga. If you're not already stretching before your ride, set aside ten minutes to stretch your hips.
Increase Your Cadence
A novice cyclist may not be familiar with cycling cadence. Cadence refers to the speed at which you pedal or the number of pedal revolutions per minute. The faster your cadence, the more momentum you gain, taking less strain off your lower extremities. Less stress on your body means less bike lower back pain.
Increasing your cadence enables you to bike faster and further with less impact on your body. The goal cadence to aim for is about 90 pedal revolutions per minute, though advanced bikers may go much higher, and a novice rider will start lower. Finding the right cadence for your body is an individualized process.
There are bike cadence sensors that you can purchase online or at sports stores and major retailers. They often hook up to apps on your smartphone or provide other ways to view your cadence. You will be able to see your progress over time and reach your goal.
Don't Overdo It
Since bike back pain is usually the result of overuse, or riding too far or too frequently, be careful not to overdo it. Don't push yourself further than you can go for the sake of getting a workout in. While you may feel accomplished, your body is sure to feel the pain later.
Instead, stick to shorter cycling sessions, or sessions only a few times a week. Gradually work up to longer mileage and more frequent rides. If you ease your body into an intense bicycle routine, you will have better results with less back pain and a lower risk of injury.
Tips to Make Sure Your Bike Is Right for Riding
Sometimes bicyclists are doing all the right workouts and are in great shape for riding. You stretch, you work out your core, you know your limits, but you still experience pain. When you're doing everything right fitness-wise and still experiencing bike back pain, it can be frustrating.
The problem may not be fitness-related at all. It could be the set up of your bike. Follow the tips below to make sure that your ride is in the best condition to prevent bike riding back pain.
Select the Right Bike Frame
If you're experiencing back pain from bicycling, you may not have the best bike frame for your body. Bikes frames are measured by the distance between the seat post and the crank. You can usually find the right-sized bike frame based on your height.
Shorter people require smaller frames than taller people. If you're using a friend or significant other's bike, the chances are that the frame is not the correct size for your body. This may be causing your back pain.
Select the Right Bike Geometry
It's more than just the size of the bike frame that can affect how your body responds to the positioning. There are several other factors regarding your bike geometry to take into consideration to ensure the best ride.
The Positioning of Your Bike Seat
If your bike seat is too low, it detracts from the power exerted by your lower extremities. This makes it more challenging to achieve the speed you're looking for, and you inadvertently overwork the rest of your body, which can lead to back pain.
There are many angles of bike parts that an untrained eye wouldn't be able to spot. Yet, they play a crucial role in determining whether or not your bike is the best it can be for you individually. There's the steep of the head tube, the topmost front part of your frame.
There's also the angle of your seat tube, the part of the frame that goes from your seat to the spoke. Lastly, there is the length of your top tube, the part of the frame that goes from your seat to the head tube.
Lots of angles come into play when determining the best ride to avoid bike back pain.
Chiropractic Care for Bike Riding Back Pain
ChiroCare of Florida specializes in sports chiropractic treatment, including bike back pain. Our team of expert doctors can effectively treat lower back pain, knee pain, ankle and foot pain, and many other sports-related conditions.
If you've suffered an injury, such as a dislocation or soft tissue tear, we can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.