Back pain is a normal occurrence
in cycling. Long periods of time spent in the hunched- over
cycling posture results in prolonged back flexion and muscle
pain for the untrained lower back. The lower back region houses
the main muscle group responsible for producing power and
bicycle movement control. Having an unconditioned back with
inflexible muscles will result in strain, fatigue, and eventually,
The relation between the bicycle’s
virtual top tube length and the quantity of spinal flexion
the cyclist’s back is subjected to is one of the keys
to determining how back pain develops. Excessively low handlebars
will cause too much lordosis or flexion of the back, which
in turn puts stress on the lumbar spine. On the other hand,
a very short top tube length will result in flexing of the
sacral spine, subjecting the intervertebral disks to additional
pressure. By making correct measurements of the top tube length
in relation to the height of the handlebars will lower the
incidence of back pain, as explained below.
The cyclist also has to consider the position of his pelvis.
An incorrect pelvic position can strain the back muscles and
result in pain. Without the proper conditioning, tight quadriceps
can cause the pelvis to tilt forward, while tight hamstrings
slant the pelvis backward. The amount of flexibility of the
hip flexors can be determined by the Thomas test, while looking
at the popliteal angle may correctly evaluate flexibility
of the hamstrings.
The effort expended in pedalling,
particularly uphill, is the reason for fatigue in the muscle
group of the gluts and hamstrings. This causes a backward
sloping of the pelvis, thereby straining the back muscles,
again resulting to pain. It is crucial to maintain strong
stomach muscles for a more stable pelvic bearing. To achieve
this, a combination of strength training for the core muscle
group, and stretching of the legs, calves and ankles will
not only aid in pelvic stability, but also produce a more
efficient cycling ability.
Apart from a misaligned pelvic,
the lumbosacral junction may also be a source of pain. This
is the focal area from which power is generated towards the
legs for pedalling. When there is an inappropriate measurement
of bicycle vis-à-vis the cyclist, the awkward fit between
rider and bike can narrow the front part of the intervertebral
disk while widening the posterior area. This puts pressure
on the posterior ligamentous complex, causing lower back pain.
Although this can be prevented
by tightening the stomach muscles to straighten and decrease
the pressure on the spine, the cyclist will still need to
breathe, making this protective measure impossible to maintain.