Like other sports around the world cycling too has its fair share of incidents, crashes and injuries making things like the Tour de France and The Tour Down Under exciting to watch, however unlike the professionals who have a massive supporting network behind them to achieve their come backs and goals, the general population must take care of their bodies. The ability to over train, overuse, inflame and cause injuries to our bodies increases without knowing we are doing harm, but this is the challenge of riding.
As the start of the cycling season begins in spring for Australia so does the increase of musculo-skeletal injuries which can hinder your riding abilities and cause you to plateau and fall behind the peloton.
So here are four of the most common cycling injuries and how to prevent them
- Patella Tendinopathy
This is usually described as tenderness just below the knee cap. There are a few common factors which cause this but the main one is the seat being too low which decreases the use of the gluteal muscles, placing a higher amount of stress onto the quadriceps leading to a tendinopathy of the patella tendon through fatigue and overuse.
Ways to prevent this is raise your saddle height slightly. This will slowly decrease the pressure placed on the quadriceps and instead incorporate the gluteal and hamstring muscle groups into your pedalling stroke. Increasing your pedal cadence to above 90 rpm can also reduce the likelihood of grinding out in a larger gear which adds pressure onto the patella tendon.
- Neck Pain
Due to being in neck extension for long periods of time the levator scapulae, upper trapezius and erector spinae muscles fatigue, contract and develop myofascial trigger points causing pain and discomfort through the base of the neck, shoulders and head.
If the bike doesn’t fit you correctly with things like the stem being too long it can place added stress on the shoulders being in a flatter position instead of having a natural curvature of the spine. Things that can improve these can be a proper bike fit, release of myofascial trigger points, improve core strength and decreasing the weight placed through the hands and arms. If pain persists it could be referral from your neck, so best to get this assessed properly by your trusted musculoskeletal care professional.
- Lower Back Pain
Having an aggressive bike set up where the lower back is positioned into excessive flexion or a poor bike fit can increase the chances of severe back injuries ranging from nerve entrapment, sciatica and disc irritation to name a few.
To address lower back pain a core strength assessment is a good place to start. Depending on the cause of your back pain, the back may need strengthening to help hold the spinal structures in place, for others the abdominals will need strengthening to reduce the use of the quadratus lumborum, hip flexors and erector spinae muscles which will reduce fatigue by recruiting the right muscles in the right patterns. A proper bike fit can also address the issue by placing you in a neutral position.
- Achilles Tendinopathy
A saddle that is too high can cause the foot to be placed in excessive plantar flexion causing an increased use of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. This increased use places a large amount of irritation on the Achilles which becomes inflamed and sore during exercise and day to day activities. Additionally, poor cleat positioning can cause Achilles irritation from working the calf muscle incorrectly.
Adjusting the cleat position can be a simple solution however if Achilles pain persists rest from aggravating factors is highly advised with icing (water & ice cubes in a tub for about 5-10min) the Achilles at the source of the pain, releasing of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles followed by strengthening of the Achilles tendon. This protocol is best done with the advisement of your musculoskeletal practitioner.
All these common injuries are able to be avoided through regular treatment, proper bike fit and appropriate exercises addressing muscle weaknesses and fatigue.
If you have any questions regarding pain while or after cycling ask our cycling Myotherapist Daniel.
Daniel holds a Bachelor of Health Science – Clinical Myotherapy and currently practices at Waverley Myotherapy Clinic. He is a keen cyclist competing in many cycling challenges around Melbourne including various club championships, hill climbs and ‘around the bay’ to name a few. To get in touch please email [email protected] ‘ATTN: Daniel’ or call the landline on (03) 9888 3473. Daniel is available for appointments on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.