Banish Back Pain When Cycling
Low back pain is a common complaint amongst cyclists. One research study found that 85% of cyclists suffered from one or more overuse injuries and of those 30.3% suffered with back pain. (Cycling aside, it is believed that up to 80% of people will experience low back pain during their lifetime).
Those who have experienced low back pain will be aware of how debilitating it can be. Its effects are far reaching, having impact on your work, social life and sports performance.
Most commonly low back pain whilst riding a bike is due to prolonged flexion (leaning forward) of the lumbar spine (low back). This can lead to muscle fatigue, chronic tension of ligaments within the spine and compression of the discs. It is important to remember that although the disc may be a source of pain, this does not necessarily mean that it has herniated or ruptured. Pain arising from these structures may be localised within the spine, however it may also refer into the buttocks, groin, thigh and even down to your feet as sciatica. The longer you have back pain, the more areas become affected and can give rise to pain.
Position on your bike
Whilst cycling, you should have your spine in a neutral position, which is relatively flat. This can be achieved by rotating your pelvis forwards.
Prolonged backward rotation of the pelvis is undesirable as it flexes the spine and as mentioned previously, prolonged flexion of you spine can predispose you to injury. To maintain this position without overloading your low back, you need good core stability.
How you sit on your bike is very important and having the correct set up can’t be stressed enough. If you have not done so already, I would suggest you visit a reputable cycling shop and get this checked out or check the page on our website that gives you details of how to set up your bike correctly.
Core stability exercises
When sitting on a bike, the low back stabilising muscles not only have to tolerate prolonged flexion of the spine but they also have to provide a stable platform to absorb the massive forces generated by the legs. Each time the legs push down onto the pedals, a force is also directed up into the trunk. You may have noticed that when a cyclist becomes tired they have more uncontrolled movements occurring at their trunk and they start to ‘roll’ from side to side when they push down with their legs. This is because the trunk is not strong enough to absorb the forces from the legs to maintain a neutral spine, which then causes fatigue and back pain. With good core stability, cyclists are better able to control these movements, absorbing the huge forces from their legs more effectively and, therefore, cycle faster!
Transversus abdominus (below) is a very important muscle which provide crucial support to you lumbar spine. It is your deepest abdominal muscle and acts like a corset around your trunk. Studies have shown that people who suffer with low back pain do not have adequate transversus abdominis activation. In addition and probably more importantly, it has been shown that following spinal injuries and once back pain has subsided, this muscle does not automatically reactivate. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that transverses abdominis is retrained following a back injury to prevent recurrences. We can train you in basic core stability exercises which will start your rehabilitation.
Tranversus abdominis (red muscle)
Other things worth considering are the quality of your bed, work place set up and how often you do repetitive lifting. It must be remembered that your back pain may not only be caused by your cycling, but it may be due to other activities within your day. If you are unsure what is the cause of your back pain, these questions can be answered by the chiropractors at the Avenue Clinic.