Guest post by Dr. Brent Wells
Cycling can be an outstanding form of exercise, as it builds strength and endurance. But, no exercise is perfect, as all offer plenty of opportunities for accidents and injuries. If you love cycling, but you struggle to free yourself from the pain of common injuries, then this article is for you.
No one needs to suffer from unnecessary injuries, especially while doing something they love. There are several things you can do to prevent common cycling injuries. Most require very little effort.
Before you hit the pavement or the trails, you should work closely with your health care provider. Be it a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, your health care provider can help you avoid injuries and help you recover if you are injured.
Common Cycling Injuries
Most cycling injuries come from impact from crashes, improper alignment, and overuse. While it can be difficult to avoid a crash, cyclists can avoid injuries related to alignment and overuse.
These are the most dangerous injuries, because they can result in broken bones, torn muscles, and concussions. Most impact injuries are slow to heal. For example, a broken clavicle - which is a common break for cyclists - can take several weeks to heal. Research shows that athletes often return to participating in their sport after almost 30 days post-concussion.
Muscle strains and road rash also happen with impact. Both require rest, but not as much as broken bones or concussions. Cyclists might want to get on their bikes right away, but muscle strains will only heal after rest. Muscle strains can take several weeks to heal, according to research. Road rash is important to treat because skin problems can become infected. It is important to let the abrasions heal for a few days before getting back on the saddle.
The best way to treat impact injuries is to stay on your bicycle. It is also wise to wear a helmet every time that you are on your bike. Slow down, especially when traffic is heavy.
There are several injuries that cyclists develop from overuse. One is low back pain that can also result in sciatica pain and piriformis discomfort. The piriformis a small muscle located deep in the buttock, behind the gluteus maximus, which help the hip rotate, turning the leg and foot outward. Many cyclists rely on chiropractic adjustments to help sciatic nerve pain. Low back and sciatica pain comes from leaning over the handlebars, riding for too long, and having your bike not aligned to your body.
Knee Pain and Solutions
Cyclists often suffer from knee pain, especially in the joint under the patella. This type of pain comes from having a seat that is too low. When the pain is in the back of the knee, it is from the seat being too high. If your shoe is not aligned properly in the cleat, the knee will mistrack and pain will develop quickly on the sides on the left or right side of the knee. The knee can also suffer if the IT band is too tight. When the IT band pulls on the knee, it moves the patella out of alignment, and it hurts.
To avoid overuse injuries like knee pain and low back pain, research shows you should stretch before you ride. It is also helpful to see a health care provider for massage therapy or adjustments. Make sure your bicycle is in the proper position for your body so you do not have to ride out of alignment. Many cyclists treat their overuse pain with foam rollers or with kinesiology tape to keep their muscles from tightening on the ride.
But, many people just need to rest to give their bodies a break. Knees especially need to have some rest, ice, and elevation to bring relief. Getting the bike properly aligned is a major factor in avoiding knee pain.
Wrist, Hand, and Neck Pain
The wrist, hands, shoulders, and neck can also suffer from issues due to overuse. When the body is misaligned, cyclists put too much pressure on the hands. This discomfort can radiate into the wrists, shoulders, and neck.
To avoid this problem, cyclists need to put about 40 percent of their body weight on the handlebars. The rest goes to the back of the bike. If you are reaching too far, your handlebars are in a position that puts the weight distribution out of whack. The neck also suffers if the handlebars are too far, because the rider has to lift their head too far back to look forward.
Cyclists choose compact handlebars to save their necks and shoulders, especially if they like to ride for long distances with little time between rides. They also will wear cycling gloves with padded areas to prevent the fingers and hands from becoming too tired, tingly, and numb from carpal tunnel issues.
Preparation to Avoid Overuse Injuries
If you love to ride your bike, then overuse injuries are a real issue that you have to learn to avoid. The best way to stay healthy and aligned on your bike is to position your handlebars, seat, and pedals properly.
You should also pay attention to your posture when you are not riding your bike. If you sit all day, take time to get up and pay attention to the way you sit so you do not exacerbate your problems. Finally, take time to work on your core muscles. If they are strong, your low back will not have to work as hard to keep muscles in your ideal riding position.
Setting Up Biomechanics for a Good Ride
Aligning your bike is important to prevent injuries. Research shows, having the best biomechanics can give you better control over your ride so you avoid crashes. It also helps you avoid overuse trauma, too.
When buying a bike, only buy one that fits your frame. Visit a professional bicycle shop so a bike fitter can recommend one with a frame that fits you. Then be sure the handlebars are at the proper height and tilt to fit your needs.
Many new bikes come with shocks in the fork. Having a shock-absorbing system can bring some relief into your shoulders and neck, especially if you are riding on bumpy trails. The next important need is to be sure the seat is at the right height and tilt, too. Having a properly positioned saddle will keep you from developing saddle sores and it can help prevent sciatica and low-back pain.
About Dr. Wells
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic Anchorage and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more