Practical Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain From Riding a Bike
Back pain from cycling is often caused by weak lower back muscles. This weakness leads to the muscles in your legs and hips compensating for it, which results in overworking the lower back muscles and causing stiffness and fatigue.
Try these exercises and stretches to strengthen and stretch your back for better cycling performance.
Cycling is an excellent exercise for strengthening the back and reducing lower back pain. However, it is crucial to make sure your bike fits you well and that you are using proper posture. If you are not, then you could be causing more harm than good. Additionally, regular stretching is essential to keep your muscles healthy and strong.
Frequently, cycling-related lower back pain is due to weakness in the supporting muscles of the spine. Weak hip flexors and weak abdominal muscles can cause your trunk to shift with each pedal stroke, putting more strain on the lumbar muscles. It can also cause a “rocking” movement of the hips that can be felt in the lower back.
To strengthen your lower back and hip flexors, follow this practical exercise:
- Lie on your back and position your knees beneath your body.
- Align your arms directly under your shoulders for optimal results.
- Slowly lift one arm above your head while straightening the opposite leg.
- Hold for a few seconds and then return to the starting position.
- Repeat for ten reps each.
It is an excellent exercise when your legs are tired at the end of your workout. Following this advice can reduce the likelihood of getting hurt and lessen the risk of putting too much strain on your back. While doing this exercise, it is essential to remember that the muscles work when tired, and continuing to work them when tired will only lead to further injury.
To enhance your core muscles, minimize the likelihood of experiencing lower back pain from riding a bike, and improve the flexibility of your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, it’s recommended to incorporate trunk rotation exercises into your workout routine. These exercises can be done quickly while standing or sitting, without any special equipment, and therefore can be easily integrated into your routine.
For a standing trunk rotation exercise, you can start by lifting your arms in front of your body perpendicular to the ground. Move your left arm out to the side to open up your torso, then slowly drop it back down and repeat on the right side. If you want to make this exercise more difficult, you can extend your arms in front of you, increasing the resistance and requiring greater core muscle control.
Another variation of this exercise involves lying down. It is an excellent place to start if you are new to trunk rotation because it is less challenging on your spine. If you want a more challenging version of this exercise, try the trunk rotation while holding a medicine ball. The longer lever created by extending your arms in this exercise increases the pressure on the abdominal muscles, challenging even the strongest core muscles.
Many forces are at play regarding lower back pain during cycling. The standard cycling position – strapped in, leaned forward – innately stresses your lumbar spine, and that can be compounded by tight hamstrings, quadriceps, or hip flexors, which overwork other muscles to compensate. That, in turn, can cause those other muscles to become tired and irritated, which leads to back pain.
The key is to strengthen the core muscles and the muscles that support them to help provide a stable foundation to reduce the amount of rocking and pressure on the spinal discs. That’s why flexibility, stretching, and strength training are needed to alleviate back pain during cycling.
One of the best exercises to strengthen the core and the supporting back muscles is the Superman pose, which strengthens the spinal extensors – those long muscle fibers that run alongside the spine. Lie on the floor on your stomach and extend both arms and legs, pulling your belly button into the spine to engage the abdominal muscles. Then, slowly lower one arm before your body while straightening the opposite leg. Repeat for several sets of three to five repetitions per side.
It’s important to remember that your core is more than just your abs, so be sure to include a variety of core-strengthening exercises in your workout routine. You can try the lying leg lifts or incorporate a yoga or pilates workout into your regular exercise routine.
Cycling can help build a more muscular and fatigue-resistant back, but it can also be a source of pain if you’re not riding correctly. Taking too many miles can overwork muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs in your lower back region, leading to overuse injuries. Also, riding with poor posture can place unnecessary strain on your back muscles and lower body joints.
When you’re sitting on the bike and riding, it can be easy to fall into a hunched-forward position. This rounded posture places much pressure on the low and mid back, neck, and shoulders. Focusing on strengthening the core and back muscles is vital to prevent this.
One study found that cyclists with lower-back pain tended to have increased lumbar spine flexion, which reduced activity in the deep low-back muscles called multifidus. This loss of spinal stability may explain why you often get that feeling of instability or “crick in the back” while riding your bicycle.
In addition to traditional stretching post-ride, spending some time with a foam roller can loosen up tight muscles in your lower back and hips that can trigger back pain. The roller can be used to self-massage in areas such as your quads, hamstrings, psoas (hip flexor muscle), and IT band. By improving the flexibility in these muscles, you can reduce back-straining movements while riding your bicycle.
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