With the commonwealth games fresh on our minds, many Britons may feel the urge to emulate the achievements of our athletes. They may even rescue their neglected two wheeler from the clutches of the cobwebbed garage and take it for a spin. Cycling is not only thoroughly enjoyable but a fantastic workout and has many positives for the British wellbeing. But before you jump on your bike, it is important to remember that improper cycling posture can cause injury.
Overstretching to reach the handlebars, incorrect height of seat, soft tyres and seats that slope backwards are all potential factors in the development of neck and back pain in cyclists. The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has found that one in five cyclists have experienced back or neck pain whilst or as a result of cycling. Tim Hutchful, a chiropractor from the BCA, says: “It’s great to see more and more people taking up cycling as it’s an excellent way to keep fit. However it’s really important to take the time to ensure you’re sitting comfortably and properly fitted to your bicycle, to avoid injuring your neck or back.”
Tim has also offered advice on what bike you should choose in order to minimise chance of injury “For beginners, a hybrid bike is regarded as a good all-rounder because whilst it is not as heavy as a mountain bike, it has thicker tyres than a road bike, making it more stable. The frame of a hybrid bike also allows for a ‘relaxed’ cycling position, which you won’t get with a racing bike, for example. A chiropractor in your local area can advise you on how to approach cycling safely and tell you what signs to look for if you’re overdoing it.”
To help budding cyclists mind their backs, here are a few top tips to consider:
- Don’t strain – make sure you can reach the handlebars comfortably without having to overreach or strain your back, neck, shoulders or wrists. Adjust the height of the handlebars so that you can sit in a more upright position.
- Change your posture – Try standing up to cycle at some stages and sitting down at others (but make sure you do this safely!). You might think that you’re limited to one position when cycling but it’s important to try and change your posture.
- Seat checker – the seat should be ideally flat or sloping slightly forwards to try and minimise strain on the lower back. Try a variety of saddle shapes to find the one most comfortable for your general, size and cycling position.
- Height test – when the pedal is at the bottom, cyclists should be able to sit on the seat with their leg almost straight with only a slight bend at the knee (this should allow maximum pedaling efficiency).
- Pump it up – keep tyres pumped up to minimise impact on the spine and consider investing in a floor standing pump.
- Keep it loose – make sure clothing isn’t too restrictive and provides cushioning and support where required.
- Warm up & cool down – warm up slowly ahead of a cycle and stretch afterwards to help loosen up tight muscles.
Are you already experiencing back problems? It is important to check with a chiropractor or healthcare professional before taking up cycling or embarking on a long distance cycle ride/race so you don’t make the problem worse. Get in touch today for a free posture assessment or to discuss any problems you have with one of our chiropractors.