Bike Rider Physiotherapy
Tour Down Under will be hitting Norwood in a few weeks. On 22nd January The Parade will be locked down and filled with riders and spectator crowds. With this event coming up I started to think about the riders that I treat in the clinic and what their most common complaints or goals are. So this has become my topic for this week.
So in no particular order these are the 5 most common problems that I see from cyclists (or riders as they seems to prefer being called) and what advice and treatments I have been delivering.
Cycling and lower back pain
The back is a weak link for many riders. Cyclists usually develop strong leg muscles, but don’t always have the core strength to support and resist the force from the legs. This can make your back work too hard and spasm, causing rapid fatigue.
To prevent or remedy lower back pain, get into the habit of keeping your back straight, whether you are standing or riding. This will ease the pain and also improve your riding. Stretch out your hip flexors with lunges or leaning backwards in standing.
Work on developing your core strength. There are many exercise styles that can assist with this but pilates in particular will help focus upon the trunk/torso.
Cycling and hand injuries
An early sign of a hand injury is tingling or numbness in the palm or fingers. To prevent or reduce hand injuries:
Observe how you are gripping the handlebars. The grip should be firm yet relaxed.
Change hand positions frequently.
Remember to keep your wrist straight.
Try padded gloves or handlebar tape to reduce the vibration.
Taping of your forearms with dynamic tape can reduce the stress on the forearm muscles while you work on reducing the strain in your hands. There are also exercises that you can learn which with floss the ulnar nerve (the root cause of the problem) and help to reduce the tingling sensation.
Cycling and shoulder pain
Injury to the shoulder usually occurs during longer rides. It is mainly caused by placing too much weight on the hands, and riding with straight elbows.
To prevent or remedy shoulder pain, keep the elbows slightly flexed to stop ‘road shock’ transferring to the arms and upper body. Massage, dry needling and ultrasound have all proven effective here. Resting the shoulder and giving it time to recover is also very important. For immediate relief a 24 hour heat patch or a short application of ice helps a lot.
Cycling and knee injuries
Knee injuries are generally due to overuse, and occur when a cyclist is riding too much or too fast. To prevent or remedy knee injuries:
Slowly build up your strength through training to minimise strain on the knees, and reduce the amount of hard training or hill work.
Pedalling in high gear for a long time will stress your knee joints. Switch to lower gears whenever you can.
If your saddle is too high or too low, stress is placed on the knees. Adjust your saddle’s height so you have almost straightened your knee with the ball of your foot over the pedal axle at its lowest position. Seek the advice of a professional bike fitter to determine the appropriate height for your saddle.
Tightness in the front or side of the thigh can be addressed with specific stretching and dry needling. Strengthening any weakness of the gluteals through also helps to address this problem.
The Achilles tendon is the large tendon in the back of your ankle which connects the calf muscles to your foot. Frequently Achilles tendonitis occurs when pedals are misaligned resulting in increased pronation or inward rolling of the foot. This causes fatigue of the calf and strain of the Achilles tendon.
Taping is a very effective approach to mitigating this problem but it is very important to seek advice on your footwear and to learn stretching exercises for the calf muscles.
All of these problems are very common for riders. I would suggest that anyone who rides regularly to be aware of them and to make sure they take the precautions required to avoid injury. If you do think that you may have be suffering from one of these issues feel free to give me a call to discuss it.