Are you that cyclist who suffers pains on different parts of your body that you can’t explain? It’s easy to think of bike injuries as only the fatal ones that occur when one engages in an accident. This makes us ignore the niggling neck pain, stiff muscles, or the body numbness we experience after cycling severally in the hope it will fade away. Unknown to us is that these pains result from cycling injuries and if not intervened in good time can eventually delimit our daily life.
Based on a report by South Africa Journal of Sports Medicine, about 88% of amateur cyclists experience non-traumatic bike injuries related to overuse and poor posture. 41% of these injuries occur on the hand or wrist, 33% on the knee, 34% on the neck and 41% on the back. Other areas common with pains and neurological symptoms include the foot/ankle, hip, and buttock. Sounds familiar?
Let’s dive into some of these common cycling injuries and see how we can avoid them;
Lower back injury
It doesn’t matter whether you are cycling, standing, or sitting; spending time in one posture for long will strain the related muscles. Normally, the back should be neutral when riding. But, this isn’t always the case, especially, if your bike frame isn’t adjusted to fit your size. Besides, the flexed position riders take to increase the power of pedal strokes exerts extra pressure on the spine. This can easily lead to lower back pain.
Fortunately, if you cycle a bike with a frame that allows you to fit properly in your saddle and reach your handlebar stem without leaning forward, these pains will go away. In the meantime, you could apply a kinesiology tape around your lower back. This decreases the aches and causes the muscles to function better.
Ever experienced those shooting and stabbing pains on your knees? You probably fasten your feet onto the pedals using cleats. That’s not the problem, though. Knee injuries have everything to do with how you position these cleats under your shoes. If you don’t fit the cleats at the right angle, you end up with knee pains that won’t go away until you fix the setup.
Use these ideas to set up the cleats properly and see the knee pain disappear as well as improve your pedaling power.
Saddle sore is the common injury occurring on the bum for most road cyclists. It’s born out of the friction between the bum, your clothes, and the saddle. Such friction will lead to sore buttocks and a thorny rash.
The best way to prevent this is to wear a well-padded cycling gear. In case you are a first timer, don’t even think of boxer shorts under your cycling gear!
The likely hand injury during cycling is damage of the ulnar nerve, the peripheral nerve running from the little finger through the elbow to the upper arm. This nerve can be easily compressed if you hold the handle too tightly or in the same position for long when cycling.
To prevent ulnar nerve injury, shift your hands around the handlebar frequently, especially, if you are taking a long ride. Fortunately, many bicycle handles are designed to enable riders to hold the handlebar in various places. You can shift your grip between the sides, drops, below or the top. In fact, your body will tell you when you are not shifting your grip position frequently enough. You are likely to feel stings and pinches, among other discomforts on your hands and fingers if you keep them in one position for long.
We recognize professional cyclists by the size of their quads, and one Robert Förstmann, the German track sprinter champion, is now equally famous for his patent thighs and cycling prowess. But, he’s an extreme case of what muscle injuries like fatigue related to cycling can lead to.
When cycling, many rely on muscles like the hamstrings and calves to pedal the bike forward. This can easily cause these muscles to overwork, accumulate acid, and develop pain. One will hardly realize it when riding because the body has adapted to the regular motion.
Professional cyclists engage a masseuse immediately after the sport to knead away the acid buildup and relieve the pain. For those who cannot afford the luxury of a masseuse after every ride, exercises that stretch such muscles before and after a ride will do. For instance, a foam roller will flex your glutes, hamstrings, and other tendons around your thigh and hip to prevent them from accumulating excess acid.
Another idea is to find a kinesiology tape which you can apply when going out for cycling to help enhance your muscle endurance and promote recovery. If possible, pedal in and off the saddle. This trick distributes the work among other muscles thus freeing your quads considerably.
Cycling is fun and gives a great boost to our health. However, it comes with its share of risks. Fortunately, some of these risks are easily preventable if we take the right measures. Ride safely, wear the right gear, choose a suitable bike and take a comfortable riding posture to minimize your risk to the common cycling injuries discussed above.
About the author
Andrew Lowen helps manage content at Moment Bicycles and has been in love with bikes ever since his mom bought him his first tricycle. He plans to compete in his first triathlon next year. Though, he did say the same thing last year.