Preventing Injury While Cycling
Cycling is a fun activity as well as a great form of exercise, but just like any other sport it does come with some minor risks. Cycling happens to be a very repetitive activity, meaning you continually use the same muscles and body parts as you’re making the same movements again and again. This can cause undue strain on various parts of the body, potentially causing injuries and sore spots. Here are some of the most common types of injuries you might sustain due to repetitive movements while cycling, and some of the best ways to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Knee pain when cycling is typically a result of an imbalance due to the position of knees when peddling. It can also be linked to weak muscles in the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. This type of pain can also be caused by overuse and overwork.
To prevent knee pain, make sure your knees are always aligned to move over the middle of your feet. If you have flat feet or a similar foot posture problem, you can adjust the angle of your cleats or use special insoles or wedges to correct this issue.
If your glutes tend to be weak, work on strengthening them during training. Just be sure to pay attention to the other muscles as well, such as your hamstrings and quads. Don’t forget to stretch your leg muscles before every ride to avoid strain. Be sure not to overwork your muscles and be aware of your strength limits and work your way up. Using lower gears where possible while riding can also make a real difference.
You should also be aware of your seat height. If it’s too high or too low, your knees could suffer strain. The seat should be at the right position in order for your knees to be almost completely straight when the pedal is at its lowest point in rotation.
2. Lower back
This is one of the most common forms of pain you may experience while riding a bike. This is because the lower part of the back can easily be too stiff and flexed when riding if your position isn’t perfect. The
strong force from repeatedly peddling can also cause this pain as the power from the legs travels upwards to the body, in turn forcing the back to work overtime.
To prevent this, try to keep your back at a relatively straight position. This depends on the type of bicycle you are riding, of course. Focus on bending your body more at the hips, instead of driving the shock up your back. This can take some practice.
Meanwhile, try to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine, targeting the muscles in your back that are responsible for the stability of your spine. This will help strengthen those parts of the back that aren’t traditionally excercised and will improve resilience. Work on your core abdominal muscles, too.
Once again, ensure that your seat is at the correct height. A seat positioned too high can cause the pelvis to move and swing too much, resulting in back strain.
3. Shoulders and neck
When you cycle, your back occasionally curves. When curving too much, you’ll compress your shoulders and neck, straining them as a result An incorrect cycling posture with straight elbows and weight compressed over your hands can also lead to shoulder and neck strain. This is also the kind of pain you may experience when riding for too long.
To prevent this from happening, keep your elbows loose, flexed and slightly bent. This allows you to absorb shocks from the road in a more controlled mannner, preventing pressure from travelling upwards into your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Keep your back elongated, and allow your neck to do the same.
You can also try to train your neck muscles and upper back via thoracic and neck exercises. Incorporate a few moves into your everyday exercise and see how this can make a difference as your strength in these areas increases.
As a side note, if you do all this and still experience shoulder and neck pain, consider changing your helmet for a lighter one.
4. Toes and feet
While cycling, your toes and feet may experience a kind of numbness, often referred to as burning feet. It can be caused by the nerves in these extremities becoming compressed from wearing tight shoes, but can also be a result of excessive climbing during cycling or rough vibrations emanating from the road surface.
The easiest way to prevent foot numbness is to make sure you’re wearing shoes of the right size and that the straps or cleats you’re using are not overly tight. Take a look inside your shoe and remove buckles, straps or protruding seams causing unnecessary pressure and tightness.
When using cleats, clip your feet straight into the pedals, ensuring they are in a position where the balls of your feet rest on the axle. Your heels should fall into a good alignment naturally. Alternatively,
opt to invest in pedals without clips.
If you are going for a long ride, do not use soft soled sneakers as they will not provide you with the support that you need.
The hands are not that commonly injured during cycling but problems can occur when too much strain is put on them, causing numbness and pain. You may also find that your hands can be hurt as a result of the condition of the road.
Prevent hand injuries by maintaining a relaxed grip on the handlebars, with your wrists and elbows also keeping to a relaxed position. This does not mean that you should not have a firm hold on the handles; just don’t squeeze them. Keep your wrists straight while riding.
You may also choose to use handlebar tape in order to prevent shock from vibrations. Padded gloves can also help you achieve this effect.
Injuries can take all the fun out of cycling and put you out of commission for weeks. By taking steps to prevent these injuries from occurring with proper techniques and tips, you’re doing yourself a huge favour and you will ensure that you’ll be staying on the road for as long as you like.