Does your back ache when you cycle?

Lower back pain is a common problem experienced by cyclists, with over 40% of cyclists experiencing cycling related lower back pain. The sustained flexed posture that cyclists maintain during cycling may create increased strain on the lower back contributing to the development of LBP.

This does not mean that you have to continue suffering while you cycle, or abandon cycling as a sport.  There are interventions which can reduce or totally alleviate your cycling related lower back pain……

Check your bicycle set-up

The crucial first step, before tweaking your bicycle, is to ensure that you have bought the correct size bicycle. The size of your bicycle, or frame size, must be selected relative to your leg length and upper body length. Remember some of you may have long legs and short upper bodies or vice versa. Seek out an experienced assistant in the bicycle shop who will be able to advise you regarding the correct size bicycle.

The bicycle “set-up” refers to the various adjustable parts on the bicycle, including, amongst others, seat height, reach distance from seat to handle bars, handle bar height and saddle angle. These parts of the bicycle must be adjusted relative to your individual body measurements such as upper body length, arm length and leg length. The optimal bicycle set-up should be comfortable, but also enhance power and efficiency while cycling.

A study done by Marsden through the University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute revealed that if the distance from the saddle to the handle bars is too short , the cyclist’s back, especially the lower back, becomes more rounded , and this can be associated with lower back pain during cycling. You can ensure that the reach distance from saddle to handle bars is long enough, by firstly, as mentioned, buying the correct size bicycle with a long enough top tube to match your upper body length. If you have already bought the bicycle and the reach distance is too short, you can lengthen this distance by buying a stem extension at the cycle shop.

Another study by Salai, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed that lower back pain was drastically reduced in cyclists by changing the angle of the saddle by tilting the front part of the saddle slightly downward. This placed the pelvis in a more comfortable position and reduced strain on lower back structures

Stay flexible

It is important to remember thatflexibility of your back and hamstring muscles may affect your ability to maintain a comfortable and efficient posture on the bicycle. The study by Marsden also showed that cyclists with lower back pain had reduced hamstring flexibility compared to cyclists with no back pain. It was suggested that a stretching program to increase hamstring flexibility may help to reduce lower back during cycling.  A physiotherapist, biokineticist or trainer would be able to guide you with safe and effective hamstring stretches.

When consulting someone to assist with your bicycle set up, ensure that they have experience and training in this field. Various bicycle shops and Sports Institutes have people experienced in bicycle set ups.

Recommended contacts:

Bicycle Shops

Revolution Cycles:  http://www.revolutioncycles.co.za/

Tel: 021 423 5191

John O’Connor Cycles:  http://www.joccycles.co.za/

Tel:  021 434 7741

Bicycle Setup

Craig Kluckow at Physio Active contact  us on 083 452 0242 or email craig@getafixcycles.com

Dr Jeroen Swart at Ergofit:  https://www.sciencetosport.com/

Debbie Stopforth at Trail & Tar:  http://www.dynamicbikefit.co.za/wabout.php

Tel:  021 712 1781