Despite cycling being a good physical workout, it often leads to excruciating back pain.
Cycling is a great low impact activity for people suffering from lower back pain. With proper posture and the right bike size and set up, cycling is a good recovery exercise that will allow you to come back strong from an injury, without undue strain to your back.
How Biking Can Cause Back Pain or Neck Pain
- Little conditioning is provided to the back muscles by bicycling
- Back posture on the bicycle can strain the lower back, a result of the lumbar spine flexing or pulling up)
- Position on the bicycle, with the neck arching back, can strain the neck and upper back, especially when the bicycle is equipped with aerodynamic bars
- Rough terrain increases jarring and compression to the spine, which can lead to back pain
Cycling Seat Positions that Cause Lower Back Pain and How to Correct Them
Yes, cycling has beneficial effects in strengthening and stabilizing back muscles and the hips, shoulders, and spine. However, it can be a cause of lower back pain too!
You can easily strain your back if you don’t maintain proper posture. Leaning over with your back too arched up or too curved down with the head fully facing forward is very bad posture.
To let your upper body absorb the impact of riding instead of your spine, try to keep your arm bent slightly when riding. Do not fully extend your leg when on the downward stroke, your seat should be just the right height, so your knees have a little bend to them.
On top of the stroke, the knees should have an angle of no less than 90 degrees. This is kinder to your lower back.
While cycling long distances, you can change up the angle and position of your torso every now and then, so the muscle does not stiffen up and become overly fatigued from maintaining one position throughout the ride.
Choosing the Best Bike to Avoid Lower Back Pain
The best bike for avoiding or relieving lower back pain is the bike that fits your individual body size and is properly set up accordingly. You must also select the right bike for your purpose. If you like riding on rough terrain, don’t buy a road racing bike.
How to Prevent Back Injuries or Neck Injuries from Biking
- Select the best bicycle for your purpose. For casual bike riders, a mountain bike with higher, straight handlebars (allow more upright posture), and bigger tires (more shock absorption) may be a better option than a racing-style bicycle
- Adjust the bicycle properly to fit one’s body. If possible, this is best achieved with the assistance of an experienced professional at a bicycle shop.
- Use proper form when biking; distribute some weight to the arms and keep the chest up; shift positions periodically.
- Periodically gently lifting and lowering the head to loosen the neck and avoid neck strain.
- Discuss and review your pedaling technique with a personal trainer or other knowledgeable professional in order to get the most out of the exercise.
- Use shock-absorbing bike accessories including seats and seat covers, handlebar covers, gloves, and shock absorbers on the front forks (front shocks or full suspension shocks depending on the type of riding you plan to do and the terrain)
When to consult a healthcare professional
If the pain is constant with nothing giving relief
If the pain wakes you from your sleep
If you get pin and needles or any neurological symptoms
If you feel you are losing power in your legs
If your balance is affected when you get off the bike