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How to Fix the Most Common Cycling Pains

Cycling is one of the most fun ways to exercise, but it stops being fun when you start experiencing body pains while you ride. Although it’s always best to address these aches and pains with your doctor right away, you can sometimes fix the cause of common cycling ailments with minor adjustments to your bike or riding posture. If you’re experiencing one of the following cycling pains, talk with your doctor and ask them about the following fixes to get relief.

Why does my neck hurt after cycling?

Man at work holding his neck in pain.

Neck pain from cycling is often caused by craning your neck up too severely while you ride. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, a few simple adjustments to your bike and form can fix the issue.1

First, treat the soreness with heat or ice. If your neck feels swollen or warm, it’s best to use ice. Gentle stretches may also make your neck feel better. Try touching your chin to your chest and your ears to each shoulder to loosen up your neck muscles. 

Next, take a look at your cycling form. If you’re riding a road bike, pull your stomach in toward your lower back to elongate your torso. Watch your posture and keep your chest slightly lifted while tucking your chin.

And finally, if you’re purchasing a new bike and helmet, make sure they’re both well-fitted to your body. Take your time trying out different bikes and have the staff at a local bike shop help you adjust the seat height, handlebar height, and pedal alignment. These adjustments will ensure that you’re comfortable while riding your bike and prevent neck pain from cycling.

If your neck pain doesn’t gradually start to improve after making these changes, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

How do I stop my lower back from hurting after cycling?

Woman holding her lower back in pain while sitting at her desk.

More than half of cyclists report experiencing lower back pain, according to a 2016 study.2 Most often, this is due to the forward-bent position you’re in while cycling, which can result in injuries, especially if you already have poor posture. Sometimes, if your bike’s saddle is too low or too high, you could also experience back pain as a result.

To reduce lower back pain while cycling, ensure your saddle is the proper height for your body and your handlebars aren’t too far away from you. At the ideal saddle height, your heel should just graze the pedal at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Your saddle is too low if your knee is not at hip level at the top of your pedaling cycle (12 o’clock). You can also change up your hand positions on the handlebars every so often to give your back a break.

If you’re struggling to find the right height for your saddle, you can take your bike to a local bike shop and have it professionally adjusted for your body.

Why is my knee sore after cycling?

Man holding his knee in pain.

Knee pain is another common complaint among cyclists, especially pain in the kneecap. This type of pain is typically due to overuse. Many studies also suggest that the bike fit and alignment, lack of training, and inappropriate equipment are major contributing factors to knee injuries among cyclists.3 

First, to treat knee pain, it’s a good idea to rest. Use ice on the injured knee(s), elevate your legs, and get to a doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend specific stretches you can do at home to help release tension in your knees.

To prevent ongoing knee pain while biking, make sure you don’t pedal toe down. Instead, drop your heel and make sure your knee remains over your foot throughout your pedal stroke to help remove the stress from your knees while you pedal. In addition, have a professional check your saddle level to see if it’s too low. If you feel knee pain in the back of your knees, your saddle might be too high. Properly adjusting it should help!4 

How come my wrist hurts after cycling?

Man holding his wrist in pain.

After a long ride, you might experience a numb or tingly feeling in your hands. But if the numbness or tingling continues or you’re suffering from severe wrist or hand pain while cycling, that’s an indicator that something else is wrong.

These symptoms could signify a medical condition called ulnar neuropathy (also called handlebar palsy), caused by compression of the ulnar nerve. It usually happens after long rides where you’ve been keeping your hands in the same position for an extended time. You’ll want to seek professional medical advice for these symptoms, as they can be stubborn to resolve.5 

Sometimes, wrist pain can also result from the incline of your saddle. Ideally, your saddle should be parallel to the ground, but some cyclists tilt it slightly forward or back to enhance comfort while they ride. Alternatively, if your handlebars or grips are too low or too far away from your body, you may experience some hand or wrist discomfort. By adjusting the bars to shorten your reach, you may reduce hand and wrist pain. Wearing gloves with gel padding or using padded bar tape may also help cushion the contact area.

What causes my hip to hurt after cycling?

Woman holding her hip with pain.

Hip pain is often caused by overtraining and overworking the muscles in your behind. Being seated for long periods can compress your arteries or veins (typically the iliac arteries and veins located in the abdomen and pelvic area) and cause a lack of blood flow or damage to blood vessels. Sitting on your saddle incorrectly or suddenly spending a much longer time than usual in the saddle can also cause hip pain.

Although common among cyclists and other athletes, hip pain is relatively easy to fix with adjustments to your riding posture and bike, including the saddle and handlebar positions.6 If you’re just getting into cycling, one of the best things you can do is have your bike professionally fitted to your body and ask for recommendations on your riding posture. 

Making sure your saddle is straight, tilted correctly, and at the proper height can help eliminate hip pain and general discomfort while riding. Some cyclists also use cutaway saddles, which are designed to reduce pressure on your muscles and move slightly with your legs as you pedal.

You should also ensure that your saddle isn’t too close or too far away from your handlebars, as either could contribute to hip pain. A professional can help you adjust your handlebars to find a comfortable fit that’s right for your body.

Your doctor should also be able to recommend specific stretches or other treatments to help alleviate any ongoing hip pain you may be experiencing. And, of course, it’s a good idea to rest and take the time you need to recover before jumping back on the saddle again.

Key Takeaways:

Common cycling pains like neck pain, lower back pain, knee pain, wrist pain, and hip pain can prevent you from enjoying cycling if you don’t address them correctly. Fortunately, with a bit of help from a doctor and a professional bike fitting, you can avoid these aches and pains and enjoy your rides to the fullest.

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References:

  1. Team, B. A. S. (2021, December 22). 3 Top Tips to Avoid a Stiff Neck from Cycling. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-top-tips-to-avoid-a-stiff-neck-from-cycling/
  2. Streisfeld, G. M., Bartoszek, C., Creran, E., Inge, B., McShane, M. D., & Johnston, T. (2016). Relationship Between Body Positioning, Muscle Activity, and Spinal Kinematics in Cyclists With and Without Low Back Pain. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 9(1), 75–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738116676260 
  3. Althunyan, A., Darwish, M., & Abdel Wahab, M. (2017). Knee problems and its associated factors among active cyclists in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. Journal of Family and Community Medicine, 24(1), 23. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8229.197178 
  4. Mirkin, G. (2022, February 19). Knee Pain in Bicycle Riders. Dr. Gabe Mirkin on Health. https://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/dont-straighten-your-knees-when-you-ride-a-bicycle.html 
  5. British Cycling. (n.d.). Hand and wrist pain on the bike. https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/training/health-recovery/article/izn20140820-Physiotherapy-Ask-the-Experts–Hand-and-wrist-pain-on-the-bike-0 
  6. Wadsworth, D. J., & Weinrauch, P. (2019). THE ROLE of a BIKE FIT in CYCLISTS with HIP PAIN. A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 14(3), 468–486. https://doi.org/10.26603/ijspt20190468 

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