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

Bad bike posture can quickly lead to painful neck strains. Physio Stephen Garvey discusses causes, symptoms and prevention of cyclist's neck


How does cyclist’s neck happen?

Neck problems in cycling occur when you have to extend your neck beyond normal tolerances to achieve a typical bike position. The neck musculature in a cyclist adapts to cope with the demands of postural endurance but it, like all muscles, has its limits.


How will you know if you have cyclist’s neck?

Cyclists will typically start to notice neck pain as they start to increase their hours on the saddle and the neck muscles struggle with the demands set on them.

How do you avoid cyclist’s neck?

Some of the most common sources of neck pain are either caused by excessive handlebar drop and/or reach. The low torso angle that’s created by being in this position then has to be supplemented by excessive neck craning. A visit to your local bike fitters to explore your bike set-up is an absolute must – especially if you’re racing long distances – and they will be able to advise you on your optimum drop or reach position. Changing position on the bike is also key, so you avoid long stretches down on the drops. Sit up when you can and, if safe to do so, perform a few neck rolls to stretch it out. If you’re new to the sport, build up your cycling distance and duration gradually so you learn what you can withstand.

How do you rehab cyclist’s neck?

Some off-the-bike rehab strength and endurance exercises for your trapezius and deep neck flexors may help to build endurance against future neck pain.

Stephen Garvey is a physiotherapist with Six Physio

Found this useful? Then try…

3 common musculoskeletal problems cycling causes and how to treat them

What is a physiotherapist and what do they do?

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

The three main causes of swimming neck pain


Alexander Technique: what it is and how it can help athletes