Tips To Cycle Through Nagging Back Pain

Authored by: Dr. Christopher Good

Bicycling is a great way to stay in shape and in many ways is a “low impact” exercise. If you are just taking up bicycling as your post-pandemic sport of choice, it is important to remember that bicycling can increase strain on the low back or on the neck.  Back strengthening exercises are important in conjunction with your bicycling routine in order to prevent injury. Fortunately, there are great advances that can make your new hobby more comfortable for you, especially if you suffer from chronic back pain.

If you are riding your bike over rough terrain or over long distances, increased jarring and compression can occur affecting the discs in the spine, which can also cause back pain. In order to prevent back pain or injuries when bicycling it is  important to choose the best bicycle for your purpose. When choosing a bicycle, getting the advice of an experienced rider or a professional bicycle shop can ensure that you have the best bike for your body and your riding style.

  • Consider using a mountain bike with higher, straighter handlebars to allow you to ride in a more upright posture
  • Bigger tires and shock absorbers can decrease stress on the spine while riding
  • Other biking accessories including seats, padded covers, and gloves can also decrease the amount of stress on your body
  • Sit on the seat and dangle your feet- you should not be able to have the balls of your feet touch the ground
  • Seat height should allow your legs to extends with a slight flexion at the knees
  • Position the seat at a level where you can maintain a stable position- not too forwards or too backwards
  • Your posture should have a slight flexion at the lower back with a wide chest and shoulders
  • Arms should not feel overstretched
  • Avoid low handle bars- this can cause excess lordosis (curvature) of your lumbar spine
  • Your wrists should not be over extended

Remember when riding that the pulling component with your legs is just as important as a pushing component!  Following these tips and making sure you have the proper equipment can help you get great exercise and have fun while minimizing your chance for injuries.

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