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Causes Of Back & Neck Pain When Cycling

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Causes Of Back & Neck Pain When Cycling

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December 14th, 2015

Paul Smith CyclometricsWe asked Paul Smith (Smudge) Ride25 crew chief and owner of Cyclcometics, to continue to educate us on the main causes of rider aches and pains whilst on multi-day cycling holidays.  Here is what Paul has to say about some of the main reasons back and neck pain occur whilst cycling on multi-day cycling holidays and events.

A guide to understanding Back and Neck pain whilst on Multi Day Rides.

Lower back pain is the second most common complaint after Knee Pain among cyclists. Below is a excerpt from NHS Choices:

“Back pain behind ‘more disability than any other condition’,” after a new study found that the condition may now be the leading cause of disability worldwide.

The study looked at how much disability is caused by lower back pain globally. It found that lower back pain caused more disability than any other condition, affecting nearly 1 in 10 people and becoming more common with increasing age.

There are many causes of lower back pain which range from age related wear and tear, postural problems, weak core muscles and bio-mechanical imbalances and these can affect anyone not just cyclists.

However for a cyclists the cause can be fairly straightforward and this is due to an ill fitted bike or a less than adequate riding position. If you already suffer from a bad back then if your riding position is not 100% correct it will make your back pain and issues a lot worse.

Neck pain is also common on multi day rides as the head is held in a stooped position for long periods of time which places undue loads and stresses on the cervical spine.

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The symptoms of back pain in cyclists are as follows:

A dull ache in the area above the pelvis either on one side or both. A sharp pain along the spine and a pain between the shoulder blades which is classed as upper back.

One of the most common causes of lower back pain can be attributed to a leg length inequality (LLI). Now more often than not this is a functional LLI caused by spasmed muscles around the thighbone, pelvic joint and a group of muscles in the lower back from the pelvis to the 12th rib.

Incorrect bike fit and incorrect size is a common contributor to lower back pain and this is generally too much reach to the bars which results in increased fatigue and spasms. Saddle not level can also cause the cyclist to arch the lower back also increasing fatigue over longer distances and generally hinders cyclists who are attempting milages longer than they usually attempt.

If reach on the bike is excessive a shorter stem can be fitted or raised if there is enough space on the steerer. A change to avoid is lowering the saddle as this will induce knee pain! If there is no room to move the stem upwards and a stem length shorter than 75-80mm is required then the length of the top tube must be considered and ultimately thAlpine cycling tour DTZ Ride25 112e size of the bike.

A natural hand position on the hoods goes some way to alleviate upper back and neck pain, as will having the correct handlebar width.

There are a whole host of accommodations and interventions that can be applied if a LLI is found to be a contributing factor and on all Ride 25 rides these are carried and have been used to great success on numerous occasions.

Ultimately it comes down to a proper bike fit and cleat set up. Good preparation for multi day rides is a must and good pre and post ride warm up and stretching will go along way to alleviating and reducing lower back, neck and upper back pain.

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