As biking becomes a viral culture among more & more people with passing time, there are people who have had bad experience of back pain due to biking. As a result, the word is spreading & hence people are doubting cycling as a fitness & adventure exercise. To be honest, all this thing depend on one major block which stands on various factors.
So, if you are thinking about getting the solution to lower back pain while cycling, here are some tips to enlighten you based on the posture.
Why Cycling Causes Lower Back Pain?
The main reason behind cycling causing lower back pain is simply the position the rider is in & the amount of time spent while cycling. In cycling, we need to bend a bit always. Be it a bit of forward upright position or the hunching position (ignore the recumbent & adult bikes here). Bending over long time-period contributes to back pain, be it on a stationary chair or out in the wild or the city cycling.
Long hours bending forward is believed to result in a condition called flexion relaxation – a situation where the muscles of the spine simply take a sabbatical for a while. Since the body will have to bear the posture somehow, it has its standby commander in the form of ligaments to keep the position maintained. This is thought to be the body’s way of conserving energy by the central nervous system (CNS),. Some experts believe that it is due to the lack of endurance in those muscles.
There’s not much we can do to maintain the control of the CNS since it works on its own. However, giving our muscles a toughness call-up is important.
The Bike Fit
It is well-known to all of us that our anatomy of bodies is different. From having long legs to having short arms, from having short legs to having long torsos, the body’s casting is done differently by mother nature. While women find it tough to reach out to their brakes on bikes due to their small hands, men ride the same bike with sublime comfort. Also, we might have injuries & issues in our body due to which the bike setup may vary distinctly from individual to individual. This varies the comfort, efficiency & power levels greatly. Since bikes can be configured & reconfigured based on the situation & every part of a bike can be adjusted based on our choices, we should always do the necessary bike fit check.. If you are wondering what bike fit is then it is simply giving the bike a configuration from the beginning to the end that fits a rider & gives him proper balance, power & control. Bike fit is necessary due to the following considerations:
- Enhancing rider’s comfort
- Make it safe & injury free
- Setting a comfortable saddle
- Reducing pain
- Enhancing efficiency to reduce rider fatigue
- Performance improvement as a whole.
Let us give you a slight thought so as to make things more relatable & understandable for you. Wrong bike fit is something that can be adjusted with for a day or two where there are only small durations of cycling. Consistent development of this habit & adjustment can gift you with many problems in the long run which will include the following problems:
- Back Pain
Posture is an important factor when it comes to biking. Riding a bike of wrong size will in the long run lead to pain in the lower back which is an increased probability case when it comes to road bike. Be it pedaling at high speeds or getting your adventure thirst quenched on a singletrack mountain bike trail, wrong bike fit will bring lower back pain inevitably.
Bicycles were made with a motive of allowing people to go longer distances with minimum efforts. Here is where pedal efficiency comes into question as it is a major reason for getting yourself a perfectly fitting bike. If the sizing goes wrong, the stance gets disturbed which ultimately changes the pedaling pressure & efforts. The legs don’t get the perfect position due to which, more force is needed to pedal. This ultimately results in increased energy & stamina usage that leads to fatigue.
- Wrist Pain
Uncomfortable grip leads to stress on the wrists when biking for longer duration. Since the biking posture is wrong, there is going to be stress everywhere where you don’t need it. Too large frames will require you to extend out beyond your body’s permissibility & this will also drain more force during controlling the bike
- Higher Crash Risks
It is very clear that wrong bike fit is going to be harmful for you. It’ll direct you towards waste of efforts & lack of control due to which your chances of bonking will increase considerably. This can be understood easily due to the lack of comfort & properness.
Choosing The Right Bike
Buying a bike that suits you is important. An improperly-sized bike leads inevitably to back pain or other physical issues one day or the other. The biggest problem is people opting for a bike solely on the price. The maths is simple here that the people don’t actually know the importance of any bike’s dimensions & ergonomics thus choosing the wrong candidate. A more economically friendly alternative is buying a bike from an actual cycle store & asking the salesperson about proper sizing.
Having chosen the frame & style of bike, the next step comes in the form of a test drive which should go for a duration of not less than 30 minutes as this period is at least needed to see how much your back is reacting to it. A big bike will cause you to hunch over too far in order to reach the handlebars. If you are somebody with lower back issues then a reclining or recumbent bike is fit for you. Ensuring the positioning & height of the saddle is also equally necessary. But again, the bike’s frame height should not be missed out upon so that you can dismount comfortably & safely. The right saddle height is determined by seeing that the knees are bent at around 15-20 degrees when the paddle is at the bottom, nearest to the ground. Perfect saddle height ensures that the hips & buttocks don’t move sideways while peddling. It also ensures full extension of the legs while peddling without making you stretch your legs at the bottom of each pedal stroke. If this is not happening currently as you pedal then lower back pain is gearing up for you. The saddle angle should be positioned horizontally.
How your bike would behave with your back with depend on the handlebar height & angle too. The bike’s handlebars should be adjusted to allow comfortable reach in an upright position with elbows slightly bent.
Fresher cyclists should keep handlebars at the same height as the saddle. Getting a bike with suspension is important too. Bikes these days have some sort of suspension or similar arrangements.Shock absorption keeps it easy on the spine & the joints. Shock absorption accessories are there as well which include thick knobby tires, heavily padded saddles & cushioned shorts.
Getting Your Body Ready For Biking
If you want to be the one who can take on hours of saddle time under your back then you need to do some training before really stepping up the gear.The muscles in the pelvis, lower back, hips & abdomen form the most important areas of concern. A strong core reduces the risk of back injuries & pain due to cycling. Cycling is good for the buddy, but, it doesn’t strengthen the core body muscles in particular. But, on the contrary, it can certainly strain them.
The main exercises which can help in a strong core are as follows:
– Bridge Exercises:
These include lying on the back with bent knees, flat feet on the floor & the spine on a neutral position without tilting the hips. The hips should be raised off the floor then as the contractions are felt in the abdominal muscles by holding the position for at least 30 seconds. These should be repeated 5-10 times daily.
With hands flat on the floor, directly beneath the shoulders & the legs extended behind in a way that the body weight is bore by the hands & toes. The back should be kept dead straight without making it bend or fall towards the ground & tightening of the stomach. Starting from 30 secs, this can be increased in duration & repeated thrice daily.
Another exercise that can help the body get ready to face the music against back pain while cycling is swimming.
– Working the lower torso
Cycling strengthens the legs for sure but, research suggests that if the legs aren’t strong enough before taking up cycling, the risk for lower back pain increases considerably. Strengthening the hamstrings by doing deep leg bends, lunges & hamstring curls can help majorly. Strengthening the calves is also on the to-do list. Not to forget,special care must be taken to keep the glute in flexible & strong condition as when hamstrings & calves become too tight, the glutes can turn weak.
– A flexible back
A strong back is the one which is equally flexible as well. Strong back muscles are important for generating power while peddling & absorbing the road shocks & vibration. A flexible back, on the other hand maintains the posture required without strains in cycling. The best way apart from exercises to strengthen the back is Yoga as it improves the body’s overall posture as well
– Leg to chest stretching
While lying down on a padded surface, bending the knees & feet together on the floor & grabbing the shins, touching the chest to the thighs is what is needed. One should go as far as possible while stretching on the lower back muscles. Holding this posture for half a minute & repeat the act 8-10 time regularly.As a beginner, yoga poses might create some soreness in the muscles of your legs and back — it should fade away in a few days.
Getting The Right Posture
Since we have covered the preparations for the toughening of the body & the correct posture, there are certain points that need to be followed under to get the right posture. By now, you know almost the entire thing. But, this section will put things in some bit of shape.
The main things to be kept in mind while getting the right posture are as follows:
This is the most important factor when it comes to cycling. Pain on the bike is most often due to a poor bike fit. While getting fit by a professional is recommended, here are a few common fit issues that often cause lower back pain & are cycling relatively simple to fix:
1. A saddle that’s too high will cause your hips to rock side to side when you pedal, leading to lower back pain. To determine if this is the issue, watch yourself in a mirror while pedaling on an indoor trainer. You should have a slight bend in the knee at the bottom dead center of the pedal stroke (6 o’clock). If your leg is completely straight in this position, lower the seat so you have 25–35 degrees of knee flexion.
2. When your handlebar is a bit too far away, it can cause a stretched-out position that puts too much strain on your lumbar vertebrae. Shortening your stem & raising your handlebars with spacers to achieve a more upright position could help.
– HIGHER CADENCE
If you’re constantly pushing on big gears, you could be overworking your muscles — including those in the lower back & the hips. Once they become fatigued, stiffness & pain shall come following. While the riding style will change,a higher cadence can be a fix. Higher cadence will make the cardiovascular system get a bit busy but will allow you to keep the power output the same with lesser stress on the muscles.
– STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
During the pedaling motion, the core stabilizes the pelvis, providing a foundation for your legs to push against. The stronger your core, the faster you’ll go. On the flip side, if you have a weak core, you’ll be forced to use your lower back to compensate. This can cause pain as the lower back muscles begin to fatigue & eventually leads to injury. By strengthening your core, you’ll rely on your lower back for power less, making it easier to tolerate the forward position on the bike as the miles & hours in the saddle pile up.
– IMPROVE MOBILITY
Because of the position, tight hamstrings are a common ailment for cyclists. What you may not realize is tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain, since these muscles attach on the lower part of the pelvis. When your hamstrings are tight they can pull down on the pelvis causing a posterior pelvic tilt, resulting in increased flexion of the lumbar vertebrae. Stretching the hamstrings a few times per day, especially right after you get off the bike is needed. You’ll get a better stretch & improve your flexibility more when you’re already warmed up, so do so when possible.
– INCREASE YOUR MILEAGE SLOWLY
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cyclist ramping up for an upcoming race, increasing your mileage too fast could lead to pain or injury out on the road. Like anything else, if your muscles aren’t conditioned to handle the stress of the activity you’ll have to compensate for any areas of weakness — & most of the time your lower back will take the bulk of the punishment. Allow your body to adapt to the increased time spent riding by increasing your mileage slowly, by no more than 20% per week. It’s also a good idea to use training blocks to prevent overtraining & injury. Follow every three weeks of ramping up your weekly mileage with one week of recovery. Your recovery week should include some cross training, rest days, and a 30–40% decrease in your total weekly.
– GEAR & CHANGE
Making sure to have the gears changing as per the track is important. Also make sure you remember to shift whenever the gradient increases & change your position on the bike every so often from sitting to standing to keep your lower back muscles from getting stiff & tight.
– BIKING PASSION
When it comes to biking, we often tend to overdo out of excitement. This overdoing doesn’t interfere initially but shows its effects soon. Under such a case, one should get the patience level working. Making your way into cycling isn’t a one day thing & hence over-stressing due to excessive passion is going to trouble you only.
We are hence clear that the posture is dependent on a lot of factors which depend on us, the bike frame, the saddle, riding time,type of bikes & bike materials. It is hence very necessary to consider all the above when going for any bike as problematic posture can lead to a painful life further ahead.