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Bad back and cycling.

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I've had a bad lower back for years. From years of football, basketball and weight training from high school all the way through my 20s and 30s. I'm 44 now and still in great shape but father time my be telling me to slow down some. Been cycling for over 10 years now and it never really bother me too much, but over the last few seasons it has become really bad. Sometimes it even keeps me off the bike for a few days because it's so painful. I go to the chiropractor once a week, keep my abs strong, stretch every day, apply heat and ice after every ride yet still have these episodes every so often. Wondering if anyone has experienced any similar issues or has any advice...Thanks!
post #2 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

It depends if you have seriously injured your back in the past. If you haven't and it's just normally wear and tear over the years make sure your bike is fitted properly. Then, find a trainer who understands cycling anatomy or read up on it yourself so you know what workouts to do(off the bike/gym). Training you did for other sports doesn't necessarily benefit your cycling. A muscle imbalance combined with the unnatural position of a cyclist can cause referred pain to the back. Bad posture is also a contributing factor. There are right and wrong ways to stretch. Make sure you are stretching properly as the wrong stretch can actually tighten a muscle. As a last resort, try and find a competent active release therapist. Fortunately, I had an NFL contracted ART therapist that I saw and he really loosened up my hips which eliminated most of the back pain. Although the pain is not totally gone, I can do a 6 hr. weekend ride now and feel good at the end. I have also been able to raise my seat and lower my bars from level to a 76mm difference. The more aggressive position really helps in those long rides into a strong headwind. Hope it works out for ya - cause you'll have a big smile on your face.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bike N Ski
It depends if you have seriously injured your back in the past. If you haven't and it's just normally wear and tear over the years make sure your bike is fitted properly. Then, find a trainer who understands cycling anatomy or read up on it yourself so you know what workouts to do(off the bike/gym). Training you did for other sports doesn't necessarily benefit your cycling. A muscle imbalance combined with the unnatural position of a cyclist can cause referred pain to the back. Bad posture is also a contributing factor. There are right and wrong ways to stretch. Make sure you are stretching properly as the wrong stretch can actually tighten a muscle. As a last resort, try and find a competent active release therapist. Fortunately, I had an NFL contracted ART therapist that I saw and he really loosened up my hips which eliminated most of the back pain. Although the pain is not totally gone, I can do a 6 hr. weekend ride now and feel good at the end. I have also been able to raise my seat and lower my bars from level to a 76mm difference. The more aggressive position really helps in those long rides into a strong headwind. Hope it works out for ya - cause you'll have a big smile on your face.

This is really helpful. I think we have similar issues. My chiropractor tells me the muscles around my hips become tight and cause my hips to become tight and shift slightly causing the pain...muscle and nerve. It's definitely caused by cycling because during the off season I do alot of running and light weight training with a ride once or twice a week with little to no issues. But when the season rolls around and my cycling goes from twice a week to five days a week at higher intensities is when the problems begin. As you mentioned the aggressive posture is hard on the back muscles. She also talkes about the imbalance as you mentioned. Thinks I need to strengthen my hamstrings to equal out my quads. The problem for me is...I only think about these things when I'm hurting, but when I'm feeling good, I just ride like crazy without doing whats needed to keep me on the bike. I'll definitely start getting better at that!
post #4 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Sounds like you know what your doing. I also had a huge imbalance(5-1) between my quads and hams from competitive ski racing. They're kind of expensive but look at Triggerpoint's quadballer. It's very good therapy after a ride for the upper leg, IT band, knee, and hip area. For me it helps to do therapy/stretch immediately after a ride while the muscles are still warm. This year I forced myself to do a full 12 weeks of base training combined with gym work. Maybe your going too hard(on tendons, ligaments, soft tissue, etc.) too soon without putting the miles in. In the past I was told to stay out of the gym and just ride. Big mistake. I think that only applies to elite level cyclist's and even than, maybe just climbers. Just don't do any mass building upper body exercises. It's been a hard and slow process for me to loose upper body mass but I feel that has also helped eliminate some back pain(less strain on the L5/S1 vetebrae area).
post #5 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Ive suffered pain in my back too... which is bad at the age of 14... i was helping move a dryer up a set of stairs, and when i got to the top i could barely stand... it was killing me... im pretty sure that was the initial cause of it... i just got back in about 25 minutes ago off my bike and its killing me... it doesnt bother me so much when im on the bike... either that or i just dont notice it... when i run, i often have to stop every mile or so to stretch it, it gets unbareable... i have not seen a chiropractor or anybody else about it, because i figured a doctor would just tell me its something muscular and itll get better in a few months... so i asked the doctor at a routine visit, and thats what he said, about 7 or 8 months ago... a friend of my dad had a similar problem... and apparently what he did is hang off a pull up bar... does anyone know if this will help? or have any other suggestions?
post #6 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Here's some stuff I've done that's helped.

Stretching after a ride is important (don't stretch before, on a cold muscle - it just does damage). Stretching will increase blood flow to the muscle and help it recover. Hamstrings, Calves, Quads is the order I go in. I have tendonitis, and this has helped me. I strech the Hammies for 5 min each (a wall stretch, not full extension). I stretch calves for 2.5 min. I lay down and pull up ankle and tuck the knee against the ground for Quads; 4 min each. PS: If I don't stretch my Hamstrings regularly, I get terrible back pain, sciatica-like. And it helps being able to ride deep on the drops.

Climbing can cause back pain because so much stress is put on the core. Having equally strong abdominals as well as back muscles is desirable, this should reduce pain. Deadlifts, leg raises & extensions, front squats, and complete lower/upper abwork are good exercises to start with. I usually balance my butt on a flat workout bench, stabilize my self with my arms, and simultaneously raise and lower both my upper and lower body. Raise your legs to alternating sides to work obliques. You perform these sort of like crunches if you're having trouble understanding.

sorry about that, kind of a read...
post #7 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Those foam rollers you see in the gym are useful. They simulate a deep tissue massage and mobilize scar tissue that may have collected on a tendon or ligament. They also prepare a muscle for stretching if you didn't ride beforehand.

sorry for double post, I was having trouble editing for some reason.
post #8 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by graywulf View Post
Those foam rollers you see in the gym are useful. They simulate a deep tissue massage and mobilize scar tissue that may have collected on a tendon or ligament. They also prepare a muscle for stretching if you didn't ride beforehand.

sorry for double post, I was having trouble editing for some reason.
Great for working on the IT band. I tried it after someone recommended a youtube video showing how to use the foam roller. It was very discomforting while using it, but after my legs felt much better.
post #9 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

hey, thanks a lot
i just did some more heavy lifting today helping an aunt move... that didnt help at all... i havent ever noticed it hurting particularly in climbing... i have a decent core from rowing and i guess kayaking... but i will deffinately do these stretches after i ride, i almost never stretch... probably not smart... im hoping it will help, and if nothing else, maybe ill get a six pack from the ab workouts haha... i will definately try these stretches and excersises after my next ride, thank you very much, ill let you know how these work out, thank you once again
post #10 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

I too have a bad back. All kinds of good advice/ideas here. The only additional comment I would make pertains to your comment that you use ice and heat.

I used to be a big advocate of heat for my back, because it feels so good on it. In contrast, ice always seems to freeze it up and make it more stiff when I first try to move after icing.

After having my chiro, doctors, several sports trainer types and others with back problems swear that ice was the way to go and to stay away from heat, I FINALLY gave in and went against my strong conviction that heat trumped ice when I was really down and out and desperate to try anything for the pain. I learned that in the long run, ice really is the way to go. Though it stiffens you up when you initially remove it, it ultimately helps my back heal quicker (and the additional stiffness is only temporary, until I get going with standing/walking).

The current theory goes that since heat makes things swell, using heat on an injury actually inflames the already inflamed/irritated muscles even more and thus exacerbates the problem.
post #11 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

It also might be necessary to revisit your fit on the bike. Bike fit isn't a static thing but typically evolves/changes over time. It may be time to move to a position a bit more upright, with less drop, or with more reach. Those are just a few things that can effect back pain.
post #12 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

i have never been fitted on my bike... its a frame that i converted... i got the frame from my aunt who is about 5' 3" and put a longer seatpost on it... im about 5' 11"... it definately does not fit... and i should probably get something done about that... ill add it to my list, ive never had it in the shop except to build the wheel and get it put back on once... im gonna try that, thanks a lot
post #13 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fixedgear14 View Post
i have never been fitted on my bike... its a frame that i converted... i got the frame from my aunt who is about 5' 3" and put a longer seatpost on it... im about 5' 11"... it definately does not fit... and i should probably get something done about that... ill add it to my list, ive never had it in the shop except to build the wheel and get it put back on once... im gonna try that, thanks a lot
It can make a world of difference, if your fit is optimized or corrected on your bike, especially with things like back pain. Good luck.
post #14 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C'dale Girl View Post
The current theory goes that since heat makes things swell, using heat on an injury actually inflames the already inflamed/irritated muscles even more and thus exacerbates the problem.
I would agree. I had one doctor tell me to use heat on my hamstrings - at the time I was guessing he wanted to increase bloodflow? And another doctor told me using heat was silly, that ice is what would reduce inflammation and promote healing.

btw guys, I had to stretch my hamstrings for at least 3 days before I noticed a difference in the lower back pain. Just giving you a window so you don't quit early (Not that you shouldn't be stretching anyway )
post #15 of 16

Re: Bad back and cycling.

I did a 3 part series on back pain a few years back for velonews and reposted it on my blog. Any questions just ask.

www.recoverydoctor.blogspot.com

Dr. Rosa
Team Doctor for Colavita/Sutter Home Pro cycling team


Quote:
Originally Posted by graywulf View Post
I would agree. I had one doctor tell me to use heat on my hamstrings - at the time I was guessing he wanted to increase bloodflow? And another doctor told me using heat was silly, that ice is what would reduce inflammation and promote healing.

btw guys, I had to stretch my hamstrings for at least 3 days before I noticed a difference in the lower back pain. Just giving you a window so you don't quit early (Not that you shouldn't be stretching anyway )
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