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Is Your Cycling Causing You Back Pain?

By: Pan-Mass Challenge

Jul 13, 2019 9:06:00 AM

Did you know that one in every four Americans has experienced back pain within the past three months? According to the American Physical Therapy Association, back pain is the most commonly experienced type of pain across the United States. It usually develops from a muscle strain or injury, which is common among avid cyclers.

Fortunately, physical therapy can relieve your symptoms and restore you to optimum levels of physical function, so you can get back to riding! In many cases, physical therapy treatments can also reduce or even eliminate the need for harmful pain-management drugs (such as opioids) or an invasive surgical procedure that will remove you from cycling for some time.

Common causes of back pain:

“Back pain” is an all-encompassing term used to describe a vast number of conditions that cause pain in the upper or lower back. Sports-related injuries and poor posture are among the most common causes of back pain, which frequently go hand-in-hand with cyclists.

The most common cause of back pain is from sustaining an injury. This can happen in one of two ways - from an instant, sudden trauma (such as an accidental fall off your bike) or from a repetitive-use injury that develops gradually over time (such as years of improper (or sustained) posture while cycling.) Back pain can also result from underlying conditions, such as herniated discs or degenerative disc disease. Both of these conditions can be exaggerated by cycling, especially if you have incorrect posture.

Back pain can be described as either acute or chronic. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe, typically as the result of a sudden trauma. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain, typically as the result of an overuse injury or underlying condition. The pain you experience is generally originates from your bones, muscles, nerves or discs.

No matter what the case may be, a physical therapist can set up a treatment plan based on your specific back pain, its location, and your medical history.

The effects of cycling on back pain:

In a systematic review published by the National Institutes of Health, the sport of cycling was studied to determine the effects it has on posture-related back pain. Researchers conducted a comprehensive search of several credible databases, in order to analyze “the pathomechanics and association of risk factors of lumbar spine overuse injuries in cycling.”

Results demonstrated that cycling increases your chances of sustaining mild to severe lower back pain, especially if your posture is incorrect. The conclusion states that “spinal and core muscle activation imbalances in a prolonged flexed posture associated with cycling may lead to maladaptive spinal kinematics and increased spinal stresses contributing to overuse low back pain.”

If your back pain has been limiting you from being the cyclist you want to be - A physical therapist can help. A physical therapy treatment plan will be created after your initial evaluation with a focus on your relief and recovery, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and strengthening exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist deems appropriate.

The overall goal of physical therapy for back pain is to relieve pain, strengthen the body, and improve overall function. At Bay State Physical Therapy, we understand how important your cycling is to you. Our goal is to help you get back to your optimum levels of physical function, so you can enjoy cycling without having to worry about pain or discomfort.

Contact us today or visit www.baystatept.com to schedule a free injury screen. We will help relieve your back pain as quickly as possible, so you can get back to doing the activities you love!


American Physical Therapy Association: “Physical Therapist’s Guide to Low Back Pain.”

National Institutes of Health: “Relationship Between Body Positioning, Muscle Activity, and Spinal Kinematics in Cyclists With and Without Low Back Pain.”

Guest blog post by Bay State Physical Therapy



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