It only takes one look at the standard riding posture of a road cyclist – recreational, amateur or professional – to see why back pain is common to the sport. As long as their hands are on the handlebars, cyclists are bent over. Add the constant, endurance-type stress on the body, and it makes even more sense.
In fact, a survey of more than 100 pro cyclists during training camps showed that back pain accounted for 45 percent of aches and pains. In a survey of recreational cyclists, nearly 50 percent of respondents reported lower back pain during or after cycling.
To help you avoid or reduce back pain, we’ve provided some tips.
Make sure your bike is properly fitted
A properly fitted bike can play a significant part in addressing lower back pain issues. “Very often, adjustments resolve the problem and prevent it from recurring,” said Matthew Silvis, M.D., a specialist in caring for injured endurance athletes in an interview with bicycling.com. He suggests that a bike setup that is too long can force you to stretch out as you reach for the handlebars, bending over even farther than you would ordinarily need to.
The recommended fix is to make sure your bike is the right size for you, and then to get a professional fit for a properly sized bike.
Pay attention to your posture while you’re not riding
Bending over for long periods of time has been implicated in back pain whether you do it on a bike or are just sitting slumped in a chair. If you do both, your risk of back pain will likely increase further. You want to avoid this double-up slump!
If you spend your working hours sitting, at a desk or in a car, make sure to get your setup sorted so that you maintain an upright position without slumping or rotating.
Breaking up long periods of sitting with some kind of movement can also be helpful. A sit-stand desk that lets you switch off between sitting and standing can be useful, or maybe use your lunch time to get up and take a quick walk.
Learn more about this in our article about how to avoid back and neck pain while working from home.
Work on your core strength
A study of elite cyclists showed a significant correlation between core strength and back pain. Specifically, the athletes that trained their core less were more likely to experience back pain.
The same basic principle applies to all road cyclists. At the end of the day, in order to avoid or reduce back pain, a cyclist’s body needs to be able to endure that bent over position. By strengthening your core, you can take some of the pressure off your lower back.
There are all kinds of exercises that can help you achieve this – planks, leg lifts and stability ball crunches to name just a few. The trick is to choose exercises that apply to your body’s specific weaknesses and the challenges your riding style, lifestyle and posture create.
In order to achieve this, you may be best off paying a visit to the physio.
Need help? Consider seeking a physiotherapist
If you’re worried and looking for lower back pain treatment, training advice or help with rehabilitation, a physiotherapist can help.
A good physio can provide you with the diagnosis, treatment and preventative measures you need to keep doing what you love – pain free. Here in Perth, that’s Morley Physiotherapy.