Back Pain – Cycling

Back pain – cycling. Research studies have shown that back pain in cycling is something that affects up to 70% of cyclists , together with neck pain. This is hardly surprising as cyclists regularly spend hours in the saddle. The cycling action involves the repetitive bending of alternating hips and knees, whilst maintaining a fixed back posture. Added stress on the back comes from vibrations from the ground which are transferred from the seat to the spine.

Neutral or near neutral position for your back on the bike is vital. Hinging forwards in the saddle from the hips rather than curling from the lower back. Studies show that cyclists who suffer from back pain tend to curl forwards more in their lower back.

Hamstrings and hip flexors need to be flexible in order to allow you to hold your spine in neutral. If they are tight your body will compensate by curling your back round.

Seat height is important. Too low and your low back will be forced to flex too much for you to pedal freely and too high will cause you to bend forwards through your back to reach the handlebars.

Neck pain is also very common in cyclists. The more you round your back, the greater the need to lift your neck upwards in order to look ahead. This compresses all the neck joints setting you up for pain and stiffness.

To prevent this you need to hold your spine straight and use your eyes to look ahead rather than always lifting your head. Every now and again, you should bring your head down to your chest whilst cycling in order to reverse the prolonged stiff posture of holding the neck in extension.

Back pain – cycling. In Summary

  • Maintain adequate spine flexibility especially in the thoracic area (between shoulder blades)
  • Develop good hamstring and hip flexor flexibility
  • Check saddle height (possible bike fit from local shop)

Learn to hold neutral spine while riding (see pic above)