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3 common musculoskeletal problems cycling causes and how to treat them

Physiotherapist Shelly Chakraborty explains the key factors that cause the most common cycling injuries and how you can treat them

There's no avoiding the fact that cycling can put strain on your body and make you more prone to certain injuries, whatever your ability and whether you cycle 10-15km a week or are intensively training for Kona. But cycling injuries are mainly due to either overuse or repetitive movements over time (biomechanical malalignment) or due to fall/accident (traumatic), and the good news is that in many cases they can be prevented and easily treated. So first of all, what causes these injuries:

Key contributing factors 

* Age: The very young and older population are particularly prone to problems.

* Gender: For example, male cyclists are more prone to puedendal nerve irritation that causes tingling in the scrotum, while females usually have more sacroiliac joint problems.

What is a trapped nerve?

  

* Medical condition/associated comorbidites: People with cardio-vascular, respiratory and circulatory problems have delayed recovery time, which causes reduced muscle efficiency. Previous history of fracture or surgery, especially for spine, hip, knee and shoulder, increases abnormal loading of the joints and soft tissues. 

* Pre-existing posture issues: Certain medical conditions like structural scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine) and kyphosis (slouching of spine) cause forward head and rounded shoulders that can lead to neck, low back, hip and shoulder strains. 

* Lifestyle: Having a completely sitting work profile (where your overall sitting duration is greater than any other activity) or only cycling usually causes neck and lower back pain.

* Level of training: New cyclists tend to experience soreness, lack of muscle strength and flexibility, while an experienced cyclist will usually encounter abnormal loading of muscles strain/ruptures, tendonitis and bursitis.

* Psychological status: Anxious, stressed and impatient personalities do not adhere to physical boundaries, and tend to frequently overtrain.

According to studies, the most common site of injury is the knee, spine and groin. These are a few examples: 

How to prevent musculoskeletal injuries

In order to avoid these problems, it's essential that we understand the cause of them and modify both extrinsic and intrinsic factors.

Strength training for cycling: 6 key exercises

   

Training specific

It's essential that you increase your training gradually, rather than increasing it overnight, and each session has a proper warm-up and cool-down. 

Musculoskeletal

Knee

Because of repetitive flexion and extension, there's an increase stress at the patella-femoral joint (knee cap). Primary focus should be on improving hamstring, calf and Iliotibial band flexibility and strengthening of quadriceps and glutes.

Why is glute strength important?

What is cyclist's knee and how do you treat it?

     

Weight-bearing strengthening exercises (squats/lunges etc) along with proprioceptive training (wobble boards/gym ball) should be undertaken on a regular basis. 

Neck

Strain of upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles are very common among cyclists, so strengthening your scapular and cervical stabilisers, as well as stretching your anterior shoulder and chest wall muscles, will help.

What is cyclist's neck and how can you prevent it?

   

Lumbar

Cycling causes the intervertebral disc pressure to increase which could lead to discogenic pain. Core, obliques and back extensor strengthening exercises, along with pelvic tilts, will help to minimise this.

Back pain after the bike leg explained

   

Groin

Strengthening of adductors, glutes, core and pelvic floor muscles should be undertaken. Follow a good skincare hygiene routine to avoid pressure sores. And wearing clothing appropriate to the weather will help overcome undue sweating.

Bike

Make sure your bike fits you properly and is suitable for the training/race you've planned. A professional bike fit will help prevent many of the aforementioned problems. 

If you have any concerns at all, seek medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner, whether that's a doctor or physiotherapist.

Shelly Chakraborty is a chartered physiotherapist with Capital Physio

   

MORE INJURY ADEVICE

   

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What muscles do you use in triathlon?

What's the difference between muscles, tendons and ligaments?

Strain versus sprain: what's the difference?

5 ways endurance sport and triathlon affects your musculoskeletal system


 
 

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