Back pain in cyclists

7 March 2021
No Comments

Many cyclists suffer from back pain.

Firstly, cycling in comparison to other sports has a low rate of injury, apart from crashes or collisions from, for example, someone jumping into the cycle lane on your morning commute and your morning coffee failed to wake you up in time. 

However, cyclists do need to take care of their backs because in general, the most common thing cyclists complain of, is their back.

Being hunched over on a road bike will take an effect over time. Low back pain is reported by more than 50% of cyclists and in overuse injuries lower back pain causes the highest rates of functional impairment and medical attention amongst cyclists.

Why do cyclists get low back pain?

There are many potential reasons why cyclists can get back pain but the following are the most likely:

  • Poor bike fit: This can be from an incorrect saddle height or and uneven saddle 
  • Knee has a less than 25% bend at the end of the stroke. This will force you to rock your pelvis from side to side to get enough power at bottom of the stroke.
  • Your handlebars are too far forward causing you to overstretch which will increase tension in your lower back.
  • Flexing the lower back and causing core abdominal muscles to be in a poor position and so won’t work effectively. This means you won’t be in a stable position when you’re cycling.
  • You can also hurt your neck and upper back by bending your neck too far upwards. This will increase the strain in your neck and you could also hurt it going over unexpected bumps.
  • Using BIG gears. You should aim for a cadence of around 90 RPM. If you are getting lower than this then it will put extra stress on your back. 
  • Tight hamstrings. If you have a reduced range of motion in your hamstrings then this will pull on your pelvis and rotate your spine into a more rounded position. 
  • Poor core muscle strength.
  • If you are riding on bumpy terrain. This increases jarring and compression to the spine while you ride and can cause pain in your back.
  • Length of cycling done weekly. Cyclists who ride an average of 160 km or more per week are significantly more likely to report back pain than those who rode less km per week.

Things to check if you have back pain while cycling:

Ultimately there are 3 main things to do:

  • Check your bike fit. There is an association between bike fitting and your comfort while cycling. This can increase pain if your bike is not fitted properly. 
  • Check your cadence and see if it needs to be increased. A low cadence puts more strain on your back.
  • Strengthen your core and back muscles. The low back is not designed to take much hard work when cycling. Your core should protect it and provide support.

If you suffer from back pain when cycling and would like a full functional assessment feel free to contact the clinic today on 0578678904 or book now.

Yours in Health

Lawlor Clinic: Spine & Sport, Portlaoise, Laois

Connect on Social Media


Our Partners