Lower back pain after ~90minutes of riding. Any suggestions?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Trekrider4812, Jan 29, 2007.

  1. Trekrider4812

    Trekrider4812 New Member

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    Hi all--

    I have been road biking for about 2 years seriously and I'm 18. I am a little over 5' 11" and I ride a 58cm Trek Madone 5.9. After about an hour or and hour and a half of riding, the slow onset of deep, lower back pain begins. At the end of a three hour ride, I am practically miserable with pain.

    I am posting on advice for:
    1.) What is the cause of my back pain (i.e. poor core strength, wrong size frame, seat too high, etc.)
    2.) What I can do to prevent (or hopefully) eliminate my lower back pain (stretches, bike positioning suggestions, etc.).

    I got my bike fitted by a computer system and approved by a longtime old-fashioned fitter. On the hoods, my nose falls at or slightly behind the end of the handlebar stem (the end that connects stem to fork).

    An interesting thing that I've noticed is that when I am in the trainer, I have no back pain whatsoever. I can't believe this. I sat on the trainer for 2 hours and pedaled at the same intensity (and HR) as I regularly do on the road.

    Some other information I can provide:
    The pain sets in faster if I am in a long road taking me through a headwind (I think I stiffen a little bit to conserve energy and cut through better...).
    Even if I get off the bike halfway through a lengthy ride to stretch and feel better, I get back on to be in pain approx. thirty minutes later.
    After hanging the bike up and going inside, the pain dissipates in about ten minutes!
    I have had no back injuries in my entire life to provoke chronic pain.
    I am more flexible than most people.

    Question for my curiosity: I know Lance had problems with his back because he cracked something in his lumbar section right? Well I know during his career he had personal masseuses and physical therapists, but still, how did he combat pain during 4-6hour daily rides???

    Lastly, for those that post, do you deal with any lower back pain? Is it common? Do the pros have to deal with it and not whine?

    Thanks a lot!!
     
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  2. wiredued

    wiredued New Member

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    My Dad has a Trek Madone and he got sciatica from it he had to get a stem riser and do some lower back exercises but he is in his sixties. When I get lower back pain I take MSM or eat eggs (yolks included for sulfur) and stop drinking coffee to lower copper storage in the liver and build cartilage MSM is a sulfur supplement I try to get optimum amounts.
     
  3. FREDBLACK

    FREDBLACK New Member

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    I have the exact same problem. I also have Spondylolysthesis in the L5.

    My physio identified my lower back pain situation on the bike as stiffening of the back and related muscles.

    Try stretches. Once a day. Everyday. On ride days stretch after rides. on other days stretch in the evening (when you are warm, not in morning when you can get injured).
    three excercises. hold 30sec for each side. repeat once.

    Lower back stretch (go lower as you count towards the 30sec. get your knee as close as possible to the floor. always slow, and never force).
    [​IMG]
    hamstring stretch
    [​IMG]
    Hip flexor stretch
    [​IMG]
    I also do quad and calf stretches on some days... Experiment with stretching. might not work for you, but it sure has worked like magic for me.
     
  4. Trekrider4812

    Trekrider4812 New Member

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    FREDBLACK--

    Thank you very much for the stretching advice. Has stretching totally eliminated your back woes? It's good to know that they at least helped.


    wiredued--

    NO MORE COFFEE?!? I may be doomed... I'll look into sulfur and MSM though, thanks a lot.

    I went on the trainer for 90 min tonight. No back pain whatsoever. I'm happy to ride comfortably but am mad at the same time, because I can't translate the performance to the road. Do you guys think my back is stiffening on the road (like my muscles are working harder to keep the bike balanced because in the trainer you are held up?). I'm 150 lbs, so I don't think being too heavy is an issue. I ride no handed all the time to eat and sit upright for a bit, I also can ride the white line, so I don't think it's necessarily a matter of bad form or balance.

    I think I'm going to take some side profile pics to show you guys, you wouldn't mind critiquing my form/bike fit would you??
     
  5. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

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    It sounds like your bike fit does not suit your current physical capacity. You should not have to experience such pain, particularly if you are a younger, healthy, relatively fit individual with no prior injuries/problems to speak of and have sufficient training history to be used to the time in the saddle.

    Hard to say exactly without seeing you on a bike but quite possibly your position is more "aggressive" than you can comfortably sustain at present. Too often I see guys ridings bikes set up this way but they can't ride in the drops, having to use the tops or hoods at best. It is simple "bicycle vanity", the bars are low 'cause it looks good. But they ride like crap.

    Any bike fitter worth their salt should correct the fit problems. You should speak with them again and explain your problem and they should fix it. It is in their interest not to have clients riding in highly uncomfortable positions and telling everyone.

    Otherwise seek another professional opinion. Unfortunately, many shops try to fit people to bikes, rather than the other way round.

    When I started out, my bars were higher than the saddle. I was comfortable and could ride all day, the only pain being general fatigue. Now days the drop is substantial as I have adapted and improved over the years.
     
  6. kaikane

    kaikane New Member

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    Could be any number of things as posters have related above.

    The easiest to test and fix: posture.
    On the drops make sure your back is stretched out (comfortably), long and straight and your shoulders are relaxed and lowered.
    Nothing will cramp you up faster than a bent back and hunched-up shoulders.
    Try it.
     
  7. dkrenik

    dkrenik Member

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    I agree with Alex's comment - a good fitter will fit the bike to you; not the other way around. I'd go see another reputable fitter in your area.

    I would recommend any reputable stretching program and you might want to take a look at this site: http://www.cyclefitcentre.com/index.htm

    First and foremost you should seek out a good PT who understands the demands of cycling.

    My 0.02
     
  8. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    Try lowering the pressure in your tires! I, too, have an L5 spondylolisthesis (just like Lance), and used to have chronic LBP. Then I discovered a chiropractor. Excellent! But the problem could me many things from bike fit to tire pressure to overtraining, pedaling harder than you're ready for, lack of lumbar muscle (core) stability, flexibility, lumbar Type I muscle fiber strength/ endurance, inadequate recovery time between workouts, etc. Try the tire thing first. The tire is your only real shock absorption on a road bike (besides the frame, but you're stuck with that).
     
  9. Trekrider4812

    Trekrider4812 New Member

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    The carbon frame on the Madone is pretty good at absorbing road vibration, much more than my SL aluminum Trek 1200. Thanks for the tire pressure idea, I'll try it.

    I have a question about core strength and cycling: what part of the core actually is used to support the cycling person?

    I have strong abs (6 pack), but I recently read in bicycling magazine that these front muscles are actually the least involved in core stability.

    After figuring out what muscles to strengthen, my next question would be how to strengthen these muscles. 3+ hour rides mean that these mucles will be for endurance purposes. However, non-weighted crunches usually "tone" muscle. In my opinion, the idea would be to add muscle tissue to the core, not just strengthen what I have. To me, it seems like more core muscle means more stability. Plus, with more fiders to spread the load, each one would work less, right? So, as a whole I can be stabler and go longer... right?

    These thoughts are just rationalization. What do u guys think?
     
  10. dkrenik

    dkrenik Member

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  11. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    Pilates is okay, but the problem is the exercises are done lying down. You should strengthen your core in upright and face-down (on all fours) positions as well. I have treated many Pilates instructors for low back pain. What does that tell you?

    Rectus abdominus (the "abs") is only one of the abdominal muscles you need to strengthen. If you're like most men, they're likely already strong enough. There are other primary movers of the spine that are important to strengthen, such as quadratus lumborum, the large extensors (erector spinae) and the abdominal obliques. However, it is strengthening the secondary movers, the smaller muscles, that are the first step to helping low back pain.

    The most important exercises to start with are stretches. But they are not enough. You must build endurance of the secondary movers (multifidus and other short, small, deep muscles, and transverse abdominus). Those muscles need to be trained with long, sustained exercises, and benefit from training with unstable surfaces in a progressive manner. You can build Type II muscle fiber in the primary movers all you want, and you will NEVER effectively deal with chronic LBP. You need to build Type I fiber strength, and you must do it with low weight high reps, and sutained stability exercises.

    Start with flexibility, move quickly to static stability, then dynamic stability, and then strength training (focus on endurance). Power training is for those who actually go this progression. We all want power on the bike, but it does not come easily.

    Get a good sports chiropractor or PT and get to work. Make sure you are getting enough rest, performing the correct kind of recovery (cool-down and recovery nutrition), and start periodizing your training if you have not already done so.

    To answer your questions, working abs only doesn't do anything for the frontal plane muscles (side-to-side movements) or the transverse plane muscles (twisting). In addition, you're only working one side of the lumbar spine support system. Further, you need to do stabilization exercises for all muscle groups, especially the secondary movers (smaller, deeper muscles).

    Some of the exercises you could try:
    -McKenzie press-ups
    -Williams knee-to-chest
    -spinal rotational stretches
    -front and side planks
    -horse stance (Paul Chek)
    -bridging (from two-legged support to one leg, then with increasing degrees of unstable surfaces, e.g., Swiss ball, etc.)
    -cross-crawl (slowly, with no hip hiking and focusing on keeping core still, while either using transverse abs or abdominal bracing or both)
    -dead bugs
    -abdominal contractions in a pelivic tilt, with gradually more integration of other core muscles, extremity movements and speed
    -one-legged standing with excellent posture while contracting core muscles and holding for long periods, gradually more unstable surfaces
    -body weight squats (impeccable form a must!)
    -one-legged body weight squats
    -medicine ball rotations (advanced)
    -woodchop/reverse wood-chop
    -Romanian dead lifts (RDL's)

    ...and many more.

    Good luck. Hope it's just the tires!
     
  12. Spunout

    Spunout New Member

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    How much pressure in your tires? If it doesn't hurt on the trainer, your fit is okay.

    150lbs: Try 90F 100R.
     
  13. JungleBiker

    JungleBiker New Member

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    I also suffer exactly the same symptons as Trek Rider and my tires are 100 F&R so I bet it's not the tires. I don't ride a trainer but I guess that as Trekrider suggests riding on the road requires the back to work harder - not just balancing but also the side to side movement of the bike when climbing, sprinting, etc, pulls on different muscles. Anyhow, I will try some of the exercises/stretches suggested by other posters here.
    JB
     
  14. dkrenik

    dkrenik Member

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    Very little.

    I agree that "more is better" wrt to angles/approaches to strengthening the core. In fact the Pilates work that I've done (reformer, cadillac, tower, etc) has done just what you prescribe. To imply that Pilates cause back pain without peer reviewed evidence is irresponsible. I'm not an instructor, PT, Chiro, etc - just a patient.
     
  15. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    No one has ever implied that doing Pilates causes low back pain. That's just a misinterpretation of what I wrote. Indeed, Pilates is an excellent set of exercises that may prevent low back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. My point was that even Pilates instructors get LBP, i.e., Pilates does not guarantee LBP prevention. What "it tells you" is that Pilates is no guarantee against low back pain of non-traumatic etiology, even for very fit people who are Pilates instructors. That may be a "little" point to you, but it's still important, especially to those who are or have been chronic LBP sufferers. They deserve the best information, wouldn't you agree?
     
  16. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    How much do you weigh?

    True, LBP in cyclists has numerous causes, but reducing pressure in overly inflated tires is such a simple solution for some that it's definitely worth checking out!
     
  17. dkrenik

    dkrenik Member

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    CapeRoadster, thanks for clarifying your viewpoint and I agree with you. As a chronic LBP sufferer (going on 10 years), I've found Pilates beneficial for my LBP. I should point out that the reformer and other such exercises have been the most beneficial to me. I've found some mat exercises that actually worsen my condition. So as with many things - listen to your body.

    Not intending to hikack the thread but...What do you think of Pete Egoscue's "Pain Free"? I've been trying it for ~1 week (hell, I'll try anything) with what feels like some success. Do you any experience with his work?
     
  18. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    I don't. But by the time I post here next I likely will. I heard the name once a while ago but never followed up on it. It seems like it's the way I practice physical medicine, based on a brief glance at his website. I believe in training the six basic movement patterns and their variations, and focusing on endurance/stability/flexibility for LBP. Almost all of my patients respond favorably. I am very interested in learning more about Egoscue--it sounds great.
     
  19. n crowley

    n crowley New Member

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    What do you think of Pete Egoscue's "Pain Free"? I've been trying it for ~1 week (hell, I'll try anything)[/QUOTE]


    That's how these people make their money. Thirty mins. was my max time on a bike before the pain began and increased in intensity until I was forced to climb off for relief. This start time kept decreasing until it was down to only 15 mins. pain free riding. The root cause is the biomechanics of normal cycling and a less than perfect lower back. The lower back is under continuous strain when pedalling (upper body weight support plus pedalling resistance), shock and vibration from high pressure tyres while under this strain aggravate it further and of course the higher gears need higher resistance from the lower back. The instant and only solution is to completely remove the lower back from the biomechanics of cycling. This can be done with a special linear pedalling technique ( Anquetil's style of pedalling) in which arm muscles are part of the action, the working arms support all the upper body weight and all pedalling resistance is supplied by the hips which are stabilized and reinforced by the arm muscles. I can guarantee it is the instant cure and unlike all these books on the subject, I am not selling anything. A free demonstration which is a necessity can be made available if any researchers are seriously interested and make it worthwhile to hire a venue.
     
  20. CapeRoadster

    CapeRoadster New Member

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    Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.

    All you're really saying here is not to put too much stress on the lower back before it's ready (e.g., "the low back is under continuous strain when pedaling"..."shock and vibration from high pressure tires"..."higher gears"). Therefore, if you pedal with too high gears before you're ready, you are more vulnerable to low back pain. If you practice road biking, with high pressure tires, you may subject yourself to too much shock and vibration too soon.

    It is a myth to think and say that one can "completely remove the low back from the biomechanics of cycling" (your words). It would be more correct to state you can reduce the amount the low back is used during cycling with the "Anquetil" technique. No offense to Jacques, but his pedaling style absolutely used the low back. Simply impossible not to. That said, using arms is one way to reduce the pressure on the lower back.

    You're trying to create an either-or scenario that doesn't exist. While I think altering pedaling style and positioning may help reduce low back pain, your suggestion is not the only solution to the problem. Nor is it the only free solution to the problem. Exercising the lumbar spine muscles is also free. Low back pain when cycling does not exist without two things:

    1. a lower back
    2. a cyclist on a bike

    Therefore, just one approach is insufficient. Leaving out any techniques that have been thoroughly researched and have been found helpful for centuries (e.g., spinal manipulation, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, etc.) misses the mark. To help a cyclist with low back pain, you attack from as many angles, with as many approaches as possible, tailoring a treatment plan or solution to the cyclist's or patient's specific issues. You start with a diagnosis, devise a treatment plan, and make it as cheap and as easy and as quick as you can for the patient. For low back pain, I can tell you that hundreds of different things can go wrong.

    I don't mean to tell you that your approach isn't a good one for some, because it likely is. And I really appreciate any advice that can be given that works for free. But I seriously doubt that it is the only solution, and I also seriously doubt it will work for everyone. Show me the peer-reviewed research when it becomes available.

    If that doesn't do it for you, please remember that there are many cyclists who pedal nothing like Anquetil who have never had low back pain, and who never will. Why is that?
     
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