Cycling - Knowledge

Cycling Injuries: How to Avoid Lower Back Pain from Cycling

847 Views - 9 mins read

When we talk about a great cardiovascular activity, it has to be cycling undoubtedly. However, one thing that stops most people from going on regular rides is the back pain. It, in fact, seems to be quite a common problem among the cyclists. A bad posture, straining of the muscles, improper fit of the bike, a poor style of riding, etc., can all lead to lower back pain. Back pain is one of those things that can ruin your chances of enjoying the ride. If you too have experienced it, you would know it can reoccur any time soon. So, what can you do about it? Are there any ways that you can adapt to alleviate the back pain? Would you be able to continue riding?

Let’s see the answer to all those questions. Listed below are a few tips that you must follow. Along with that we have also listed a few exercises and stretches that you can include in your regimen to say goodbye to the pain.

Let’s get started.

Find Out:

  • Tips on Bike Adjustments
  • Workouts to Avoid Back Pain from Cycling
  • Summing Up

Tips on Bike Adjustments

To abate lower back pain from cycling, first, make sure that your bike is the right fit for your body. Check and set it up for your current range of motion. Follow the given tips to get maximum riding experience from your bike. 

Get an Appropriately sized bike

Bike size
Proper Bike Fit is Vital for a Good Ride

You must, of course, be aware of the fact that an improperly sized bike can lead to lower back pain along with other physical issues. The ergonomics and dimensions of the bike are as important as the price and therefore must not be ignored. In an ideal situation, you should get the cycle customized according to your body but that is a pretty expensive option.

What you can do is purchase the bicycle from an actual bike store where the salesperson would be able to guide you properly regarding the sizing. Once you feel that you have found your ideal bike, go on a ride for about 30 minutes to observe how your back feels. Choosing a bike too big would mean that you would have to bend to reach the handlebars and that can gradually cause pain. Therefore, make your decisions wisely.

Saddle Height and Angle

When it comes to lower back pain, cycling saddle height is as important as the size of the bike frame. The saddle should be positioned in such a way that your knees remain slightly bent when the pedal is at the stroke’s bottom and your foot’s ball is on the pedal. This means that the height of your bike’s saddle would be dependent on how long your legs are. Your hips shouldn’t be moving sideways during the crank rotation and neither should you have to stretch towards the bottom of the pedal stroke.

You would also be required to adjust the angle of the saddle. They should always be parallel to the ground in a horizontal position as that is what suits a maximum number of people. For people suffering from chronic lower back pain due to cycling might feel comfortable by shifting the saddle a bit downwards.

saddle height and angle of handlebar
Saddle Height and Handlebar Angle are Important Factors (source)

Height and Angle of the Handlebar

The wrong height or angle of the handlebars is another factor that causes pain in lower right back. Your bike’s handlebars must be adjusted to such a height that you feel absolutely comfortable while reaching it in an upright position. The ideal position is when your elbows are slightly bent. In most cases, you would find that the height of the handlebar is approximately 4 inches below the height of the saddle depending upon the flexibility of the back muscles.

On most of the low-to-mid-range bikes, the handles usually cannot be adjusted. But, if it can be adjusted in your bike, you could experiment with different angles in order to see which position your back feels most comfortable at.

By bringing the handlebar closer to your body, you would be able to sit in a more upright position that can help you in easing back pain due to bike riding. Seasoned cyclists often like to keep the handlebars a bit below the height of the saddle so as to get faster but as an occasional cyclist; you should keep the handlebar at the same height of the saddle.

Slouching the Shoulders must be Avoided

If you want to avoid cycling upper back pain, you need to pay attention to your posture. You must always keep your back straight however it must not be completely erect as if you were sitting on a chair. It should be stable, erect but well-supported by the squared shoulders.

Some of your weight should be on your hands and arms. Keep alternating your angles and changing your positions of the upper body from time to time. Your head must also be lifted and lowered at regular intervals to ensure that they don’t feel too stiff.

Purchase a Bike that has Suspension

Most of the bikes these days have a suspension of some kind or other shock-absorbing accessories and they are in fact the best bike for lower back pain. In bikes, shock absorption is absolutely necessary so that your spine remains in a good shape. This becomes especially essential if you are riding on uneven terrain. There is a lesser chance of lower back pain due to cycling when the ride is smoother.

The bike should at a minimum have front shocks. However, if you are a regular rider and wish to avoid mid-back pain due to cycling, a suspension under the seat must also be considered. The road racing bikes are rather rigid and light but do not have any kind of suspension. A few other types of shock absorption accessories on a bike are: heavy padded saddles, thick knobby tires, and biking shorts that are cushioned.

Apply Ice or Heat

It is a known fact, that by applying heat or ice, any kind of inflammation or pain can be reduced. This applies the same for lower back pain due to cycling. Take an ice cube and begin to rub it onto the inflamed or injured are until you feel it going numb. You could also consider applying a warm towel, heat pack or a hot water bottle to the lower back. Try soaking in a hot or lukewarm bath to alleviate the pain.

Workouts to Avoid Back Pain from Cycling

Back pain fro cycling
Stretching is a Way to Kill Back Pains From Cycling (source)

By including several exercises into your workout regimen you would be able to enhance your speed and performance as well as alleviate pain in lower right back. By doing so, your time spent while biking would be much more comfortable. Given below are a few stretches and exercises that you can perform twice or thrice in a week. If done properly, you would be able to see noticeable changes within a week.

The Cat Stretch

Cat Stretch
The Cat Stretch

Begin by kneeling down on all fours by keeping your knees apart a hip distance. Your hands must be shoulder width apart from each other. However, this stretch can also be done while you are on your bike. Now, once you have taken your position, tilt your pelvis forwards and backward for a minute or two.

You have to imagine your pelvis as a bucket that is filled completely with water and as if you were trying to tip the water out of the bucket. This workout would target your core and spine and you would be able to get rid of lower right back pain soon. Repeat this stretch 5 times at regular intervals.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges
The Walking Lunges (source)

Bend into a lunge position by bending your front ankles and knees at 90 degrees. On the back leg keep the entire weight of your body and clench your buttocks. Now, dig your front heel into the floor while your other leg must bend forward into a lunge position.

The steps that you take must be wider than the pelvis. This would help you in enhancing your stability and support. This exercise would target your core, quads and hip flexors and help in reducing lower back pain.

Crucifix Stretch

Crucifix Stretch
Crucifix Stretch

For this stretch, lie down on your back with your arms and legs completely stretched out. Your legs would be stretched out straight while your hands must be at right angles towards your sides as if you were on a crucifix. Your arms must at all times remain in contact with the floor.

Now, once you have taken your position, slowly begin to raise your left leg about 2 inches off the floor and swing it over to your right leg in such a way that the toes on your left foot are near the right hand. Remember to swing your leg only as far as you can do it without straining your body. Remain in that position for a few seconds and then return back to the starting position. Repeat the same with your other leg and perform about 2 sets wherein each has 10-15 repetitions.

This stretch would target your buttocks, back muscles, Lumbar spine, hips and the hamstrings. Slowly you would be able to notice a considerable change in your back pain due to bike riding.

Thoracic Extension Stretches

Thoracic stretches
Thoracic Extension Stretches with Exercise Ball (source)

This is great lower back pain cycling stretch to reduce lower back pain due to cycling. For this workout, you would need an exercise ball. However, if you are performing this at home and do not have an exercise ball, you could roll up a small bath towel in such a way that it has a diameter of 10-15 centimeters. Once done that, secure it with rubber bands. It might not be very comfortable but it would work.

Now, once you are ready with that, lie on the ball or if using a towel, place it on the bed in such a way that it should be lengthways down the spine, right from the neck’s base to the back’s middle. Once you are in position, raise your arms upwards and let them hang. If the stress is too much for you to bear, use pillows to rest your arms on. This would aid in alleviating the pull that you are feeling in your chest and would help you in avoiding lower right back pain.

Dynamic Hamstring Stretches

Dynamic hamstring stretches
Dynamic Hamstring Stretches (source)

For this stretch, stand absolutely straight with both your feet kept together. Now start to take three very small steps in such a way that you have one foot in front of the other. Once done that, bend forward and slide your hands towards your ankle. This bend should be coming from your hips and lower back.

Next, again take three very small steps so that the other foot is now in the front. Again, slide your hand down towards your ankle. Continue doing this for approximately 10-20 times. This was one of the stretches.

The next stretch is where you would again be required to take three small steps but this time the toes of your front foot should be turned out along with the outer side of the heel level with the back foot’s big toe. Repeat this stretch for about 10-20 times.

This is the final stretch for which you would be taking three small steps but this time the front foot would be turned in. The inside of your heel must be in level with the back foot’s big toe.

The Plank

The Plank
The Plank Workout (source)

For this exercise, come down on your toes and elbows with your feet kept apart at hip width. Your head must be upright while your eyes should be pointing towards the floor. Make sure that your hips are absolutely straight. Hold this position for about a minute and then relax. This exercise would target the core and would be quite beneficial if is done before you get on your bike. This is because it will aid in activating your muscles.

Summing Up

Happy bike rides
Proper Bike Fit, Regular Stretching, and Good Riding Posture are the Keys to Happy Riding (source)

The lower back pain is something that shouldn’t be ignored. If not taken care of, it can increase and can lead to major discomfort where you would find hard to even sit down for a long period of time. Go through all of the tips listed above and make sure that you are following them. Start exercising and stretching with regular intervals. However, if you feel that the pain is rather acute, it would be best to seek the help of a qualified professional who would be able to guide you in a much better way.

Have you also been experiencing lower back pain? What all changes did you adopt to get rid of it? Did you find this article helpful? Do let us know in the comment section below.