With the clocks forward and the weather looking better (mostly), more and more of us are getting out on our bikes. Whether that’s for the first time, commuting to work or preparing for a race season, it’s important to set your bike up properly to help stay injury free.
Many of the cycling pains and injuries we treat are as a result of the repetitive overuse of particular muscles and joints and these can be made worse by a poorly set up bike.
So what are the three most common problems from cycling and how can they be prevented or treated?
- Knee pain
Knee pain is not uncommon in cyclists, and it can affect the inside, outside, front or back of the knee. Biomechanics and the physical demands placed on each of the structures of the knee will dictate which area is likely to be affected, such as the knee position in relation to the pedal on the downward part of the pedal stroke.
In order to treat this correctly, a good physiotherapy assessment is required to establish the cause of pain. The symptoms will then be treated, and when these are under control underlying causes will be established and altered accordingly. These may include your position on the bike alongside any appropriate strengthening and stretching. A good starting guide on bike set-up can be viewed here.
- Lower back pain
This tends to be more of a muscle ache than a sharp pain and is often caused by holding a particular position on the bike for extended periods of time, notably on road or TT bikes.
While the exact cause of pain can only be determined by an in-depth assessment, correcting your position on the bike and carrying out some appropriate strengthening exercises (shown in the video below) for the extensor muscles of the lower back can make a difference.
- Neck pain
Neck pain is another commonly occurring problem for cyclists, again particularly for those who ride road or time trial bikes. Due to the forward-leaning position of the body we need to extend [tilt back] the head in order to see where we are going.
As most cyclists will have experienced, prolonged time spent in this position can lead to significant tightness in the neck and across the tops of the shoulders, possibly with some irritation of the joints in the neck.
Exact treatment will vary but can include deep tissue massage, mobilisations for any stiff or inflamed joints or potentially acupuncture. In this blog we looked at problems from sitting at a desk which may seem unrelated, but many of the strengthening exercises can be applied here as well.
In future blogs we’ll look in more detail at each of these areas and show how they can be treated. As always, we’d recommend getting problems looked at as soon as they occur – with longer and sunnier days on the way, getting back in the saddle as quickly as possible has never been more important!