7 Ways to Prevent Injury in the Road Biker
Road cycling is a great, low-impact way to stay fit, but it is still not an injury risk free form of exercise. Road biking can cause a variety of different injuries, including the obvious traumatic injuries and the not so obvious overuse injuries. The traumatic injuries occur immediately upon impact when you fall off the bike, and the overuse injuries occur over time when you either do a long ride in one day or you have been riding regularly for long periods of times. The overuse injuries are easier to prevent than traumatic injuries because you have a lot more control of your bike fit and your riding technique than you do of your environment. The following is a list of areas you might feel pain and how to adjust your bike and riding form to avoid or alleviate the pain:
1. Feet: burning sensation on the bottom of your feet caused by pinching of the nerve Prevention/alleviation: *Loosen the straps on your cycling shoes *Make sure your cleats are positioned in such a way that your feet are completely straight on the pedals when you’re clipped in *Shift to a lower gear 2. Knees: pain in the front of the knee underneath the knee cap caused by irritation of the cartilage between the two bones Prevention/alleviation: *Adjust the seat height (make sure it’s not too low) *Realign your cleats on the pedals (make sure your cleats are not positioned too far back on the pedals) *Shift to a lower gear *Keep your knees in close to the frame while pedaling (don’t allow your knees to fall outward) 3. Hips: pain in the front of the hip due to overuse of the hip flexor muscles or in the side of the hip with prolonged climbing out of the saddl Prevention/alleviation: *Adjust your seat height (make sure it’s not lower than your knees at the top of your stroke) *If the pain is in the front of the hip, try to avoid pulling up on the pedal when returning to the top of your pedal stroke for a while until the pain disappears. Focus more on pushing down on the pedal during the first half of your stroke *If the pain is in the side of the hip, try to do most of your rides in the saddle until the pain subsides 4. Back: pain on either side or both sides of the lower or mid back that could radiate down one or both legs Prevention/alleviation: *Adjust your handle bars (make sure they’re not too low, too close, or too far away). If they’re not in the optimal position, they may force you to reach too far forward or round your back to comfortably rest your hands on the handlebars. *Bend forward at your hips and keep your back straight when reaching for the handle bars *Keep your core muscles contracted while riding in order to support your spine 5. Neck: pain in the neck or base of the skull that could radiate down to the upper back or down one or both arms Prevention/alleviation: *Adjust your handle bars (make sure they’re not too low or too far away). Reaching too far forward or too low forces you to over extend your neck *Keep your spine long and straight instead of rounded *When turning your head , make sure the movement is slow, controlled, and not sharp 6. Shoulders: pain in the front or top of the shoulders Prevention/alleviation: *Adjust your handle bars (make sure you’re not reaching too far down or too far forward to rest your hands on them) *Ride with your elbows slightly bent to absorb shock 7. Wrists/hands: pain in wrists or hands or numbness in hands Prevention/alleviation: *Never ride with your elbows locked *Change your hand placement on the handle bars frequently *Keep your wrists in a neutral position at all times and do not allow your wrists to drop below the handle bars These bike and riding form alterations will help to prevent injury and possibly completely alleviate pain. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you do have pain from cycling, and the suggestions listed above do not help, you may have joint stiffness or muscle weakness/tightness that can be addressed by a physical therapist. If you think you may benefit from a course of physical therapy, make an appointment with your doctor to get a PT referral/prescription.