Cycling gives you the freedom to move fast with the breeze in your face, without the constraints of being in a car. Unfortunately, one of the downsides for some cyclists is recurring lower back pain after taking a ride. It can quickly take the fun out of cycling.
You can take steps to alleviate or even eliminate the pain.
What Exactly Is Lower Back Pain?
When someone refers to lower back pain, they are often talking about pain coming from the lumbar area of the spine. This area of the spine supports a lot of the weight of the upper body. Spinal discs separate vertebrae, cushioning the bones as the spine flexes. Ligaments keep the vertebrae in position while tendons connect the spinal column to the muscles.
Pain radiating from the lower back can happen for a number of reasons. Here are a few of the more common ones:
- Sprains occur if the ligaments get overstretched or torn.
- Strains happen when the tendon or muscles get torn.
- Herniated discs happen when the spinal disc is compressed and starts to bulge out of its normal location.
- Radiculopathy occurs when a nerve gets compressed, inflamed or injured.
- Spondylolisthesis (Slipped disc) happens when a vertebrae moves out of place, often pinching nerves in the process.
If the underlying cause of the lower back pain can be eliminated, there should be no lasting damage to the spinal column. However, not dealing with the cause of the pain can have long-lasting consequences.
How Can Cycling Cause Lower Back Pain?
Riding a bicycle utilises your body’s ability to move, from the spine, to the legs, to the pelvis. In addition to your body moving, you also interact with the bicycle. The seat, the pedals, and the handlebars all contribute to the way you move and hold your body.
Here are a few reasons why cycling can cause lower back pain:
- The bike is not the right size for you. If you are riding a bike too large or too small, you are putting your lower back in awkward positions.
- The bike isn’t properly fitted to your body. If the seat is too high or the bars too far forward, you may be overstretching your lower back.
- Your core or pelvis muscles aren’t strong enough. If they aren’t strong enough, it can put unneeded stress on the lower back.
- You are staying in one position too long. This increases the chance of strain or tissue damage in the lower back.
How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain During and After Cycling?
There are simple ways you can prevent lower back pain before, during, and after a good ride:
- Fit your bike – Make sure you have 25 to 35 degrees of knee flexion on the bottom of the pedal stroke. Lower your seat as needed. Adjust your handlebar stem so you are in a more upright position.
- Stretch Before and After a Ride – Add abdominal and pelvic stretching to your before and after routines.
- Train Your Abdominal and Pelvis Muscles – The stronger these muscles are, the less strain you put on your lower back.
- Increase Mileage Gradually – If you are working to increase your distance, do it gradually.
What Are the Pain Relief Options Available?
Most lower back pain will go away with proper rest and treatment. However, dealing with the pain is another challenge. There are various medications available at different strengths.
- Paracetamol is a good option for mild to moderate pain. It’s readily available over the counter and comes in different strengths. It works well on its own and in conjunction with other medications.
- NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, offer relief for both pain and inflammation. They work to block prostaglandins, the body chemical which triggers pain and inflammation around wounds. NSAIDS are readily available and can often be paired with caffeine for faster relief.
- Codeine works well to alleviate moderate to severe pain. It transforms into morphine the body, blocking pain signals entering the brain. It is addictive and should be taken only under doctor’s orders.
Before you try any medication for your lower back pain, it’s important to seek the advice of a doctor before you buy pain relief online. You need to determine what is causing the pain and work to solve that problem, before dulling the pain with medication.
Cycling should be a fun experience, never marred by pain. If you are experiencing lower back pain, you can take action to alleviate it. Seek treatment and use medications as recommended by your doctor.