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Cycling and spine: friends or foes?
Cycling and spine: friends or foes?

Cycling and spine: friends or foes?

Cycling has a plethora of benefits like weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, improved joint mobility, decreased stress levels, strengthened bones which are all ransacked through poor back posture while on the saddle.

Lower back pain is a common complaint amidst cyclists which could be averted by proper saddle position, proper cadence or revolutions per minute, appropriate increase of speed. Actually cycling is supposed to be a remedy for lower back pain than being a cause for the ailment.

Though cyclists do stretching and warm-ups diligently, very few of them attend to shoulders and mid back. Bad posture can cause tightness in thoracic spine.

Besides bad posture (or rather we can term it as main cause of bad posture), bike fit is an important cause of back pain. Riding a cycle which is too big results in lack of flexibility, where length inconsistency and misalignment of spine, causes back pain.

Bike fit

Adjusting the bike so that the cyclist is comfortable is known as bike fit. It also enhances the cyclist’s performance.

To avert problems such as pain in buttock, lower limb, upper limb and neck, cyclist accentuate accessories such as gel pad gloves and upright handle bars, besides adjusting foot position for pedals, saddle height, provision of stem to adjust handle bars and favourable handle bar position.

Poor saddle height which is also uneven, handle bars too far encouraging over stretch cause back pain.

Riding style and body pain

Bad posture while riding bike uphill, especially with bigger gears, plays an important role in back pain. Professional cyclists usually have core strength training along with their cycling schedules. Sometimes it is gym, yoga or Pilates or perhaps cross training.

If the knee is less than 25% bend, it compels the cyclist to rock the pelvis sideways thereby adding stress to lower back muscles.

Using big gears slowly like 90 revolutions per minute, adds stress on back muscles.

Besides these, bumpy terrain also causes compression to spine.

Cycling and lumbar spinal stenosis

It is surprising that when lumbar spinal stenosis is strictly against long walks or running, it is recommends cycling though. This is because while you lean forward during cycling, more space opens around the nerves in the spine. While put through a four month cycling in stationary cycles, most patients did not need spine surgery.

Cycling and degenerative disc disease

Due to degenerative disc disease, the spinal canal area in lower back gets narrower. As age advances, disc is deprived of nutrition and height, due to which narrowing increases.

Cycling accentuates health in elderly people, thanks to the fresh oxygen pouring in. In septuagenarians who tried this, those who had apprehensions lagged behind, while those who tried it pleasantly improved, with significant change.

Stretches for cyclist to avert back pain

To promote flexible spine and hips, cyclists must practice stretches such as hip opener and glute stretcher, supine body rotation, downward facing dog and hug stretch.

On a concluding note, cycling can aggrevate or ease back pain, depending upon how far cyclists adhere to body posture and other recommendations that were discussed above.