Pain with cycling
Lower back pain is a common complaint in cyclists. The cause is very often not due to one factor but a combination of different aspects including the bike fit, body tightness or imbalance, and inadequate strength, stability and endurance.
Bike Fit can be complex and is very individual to the rider. Working with a Physiotherapist will help look at your set up and injury as one. Trying to make changes by yourself involves trial and error and can be a lengthy process.
Common faults are:
Saddle height – your knee should be almost but NOT completely straight on full reach.
Excessive over reach – reaching too far to the handlebars can put extra strain on your lower back.
Too aggressive position – pro riders will make changes to their position gradually and with a strengthening programme. Don’t try to mirror their cycling position/set up. Being too aggressive and too quickly can mean that your body is not conditioned to support you in this position, especially prolonged.
So if you have had a professional bike fit and /or made changes to you bike yourself but are still suffering from pain maybe your body is what needs some attention.
Tightness or imbalance
Cycling can involves prolonged static positions. Pain is often caused by being in one position for too long so it is important that you move whilst on the bike. For example stand out of the saddle, change handlebar position, and move your head and shoulders regularly.
Off the bike ensure you consider upper body mobilisation exercises within your programme to compensate for the on the bike static posture. It is easy to focus solely on the lower body as the upper body becomes more and more stiff.
If you do not have the flexibility in one area of your body other areas will need to compensate. For example if you do not have enough hip flexion for the lowest position you cycle in your lower back will need to flex more to allow movement. This is easy to test by lying on your back with one leg hanging off the end of the bed. Hug the other knee to your chest. Do you have the range you would need to cycle on your drop handlebars?
Do you have equal spinal rotation in each direction? Tightness and imbalance may be caused by muscle weakness.
Strength, stability and endurance
Fatigue can be the cause of your pain. If your legs start to fatigue your lower back will compensate. Your technique and/or position will change. It is important that you build up your miles gradually. At the same time you should also be building up your off the bike programme. This programme needs to address trunk, lower back and leg strength and stability.
A good off the bike programme can address any of these issues.