Is Weekend Cycling Causing You Back Pain?

Last updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 By. Dr Tow Phak Boon Benjamin

Is Weekend Cycling Causing You Back Pain?

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As a sport, cycling is affordable, fun and an easy exercise to weave into your busy schedule. But before you hit Google Maps to plan for a ride around your neighbourhood, it is important to know your risks and take a few precautions. Hitting the road without proper knowledge and preparation is putting your safety and mobility on the line.

On this page, you will learn the different causes of lower back pain and find a doctor who will provide the treatment you need. Read on to gain a better understanding of cycling and the risks associated with it, along with the benefits it offers.

Contrary to popular perception, not all cycling-related injuries are caused by crashes. In fact, most are caused by bad posture, over-training or poor bike fit. The way you sit, move your legs, along with the type of bike you use, have something to do with the back pain symptoms and slipped discs you are experiencing right now.

One common complaint is muscle strain, especially in the neck and back region. This is largely due to bad posture while cycling, says Dr Benjamin Tow, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.

Lower back pain and shoulder aches can become more acute for those with underlying conditions. Before you take on your next journey, take the time to read and reflect on a few of the following reminders. Schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic doctor if you need more information or immediate lower back pain treatment.

Here are 5 tips from our orthopaedic specialist on how to prevent sudden back pain and a stiff neck from bad cycling habits.

Cycle with the Right Posture

“If you’ve had a slipped disc, or suffer from neck and shoulder pain, lower back ache or lower back pain, try to cycle in a more upright position rather than crouching forward on the bike,” suggests Dr Tow. Cycling in an upright position may help to alleviate muscle strain and prevent lower back pains.

Plan for a Smooth Ride

Cyclists with existing neck and lower back pain should also try to avoid rough terrains and bumpy roads. Instead, stick to well-paved cycling lanes within parks and levelled grounds.

You may expose your neck when you are bracing yourself through the bumps and the impact you may experience due to uneven ground may strain your back even further. Leisure cycling can be a low-impact sport, but a doctor for back pain would recommend that you choose your cycling route wisely.

Always Warm Up

As for new riders, it is recommended that they take some time to warm up properly.

“Cycling too much, or cycling with excessive strength, without warming up can lead to inflammation of the tendons and knee ligaments. It is better to gradually increase the cycling distance rather than try to do too much, too soon,” Dr Tow says.

When the tendons and ligaments are inflamed, they will swell and cause pain in the joints during movement. In addition, they will be weakened and have a higher tendency to tear. If conscientious care is not taken during exercise, constant stress on your ligaments may lead to a tear in your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or your knee meniscus cartilage. Surgery is the recommended solution if a tear occurs, where the impacted ligament or meniscus is reconstructed or repaired to regain mobility and an active lifestyle.

Conditioning Your Body for a New Sport

Now that you know the common lower back pain causes, it is time to learn how you can make the most of your journey without worrying about muscle and joint pain. Always have a warm up session before riding your bike. New riders can also try cycling on a stationary bike at the gym before graduating to actual road riding. An unconditioned body that is pushed to do exercise may be subject to unnecessary stress and overexertion. Conditioning will help to prime your muscles and ligaments to support your joints and build better endurance.

Seat Right

Persistent lower back aches or neck and shoulder pain may be due to incorrect seat height. Precautions aside, cyclists should get their bikes periodically tuned and their seats adjusted to the correct height in order to minimise the risk of injury and severe. Long durations of bad seating posture may cause minimal but accumulated stress on your back and neck – contributing to more injury than benefit.

Benefits of Cycling

Despite the risks, cycling can bring a host of health benefits to young and old alike. Regular cycling can improve joint mobility, which is good news for those suffering from knee problems. As a low-impact exercise, cycling is a good source of cardiovascular exercise for those people with problems in their knee and ankle joints.

It can also help build muscular strength, which would allow your muscles to better help your joints support your weight. “Cycling can actually be good for people with mild to moderate knee arthritis such as osteoarthritis, as it strengthens the quadriceps and helps to pull the knee cap away from the thigh bone,” explains Dr Tow.