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How to treat common cycling-related pain?

common cycling pain

Whether neck, back, butt, thighs, knees or hands, there is hardly any area that can not hurt when cycling. This is due to the type of exposure of those areas in cycling, which is particularly challenging. However, this uncomfortable pain is usually not the result of accidents, but of muscular imbalances, shortened ligaments, ergonomic misadjustments of the wheel or poorly fitting padded pants. This guide will show you how to correctly localize the source of annoying pain and what you can do about it.

Butt pain while cycling

In principle there are three unpleasant phenomena in the buttocks area:

  • Pressure pain
  • (Radiant) pain with a source in the lower back
  • Numbness

The latter occurs when sensitive nerve pathways in the perineal area are pinched off by a poorly fitting saddle or unsuitable padded pants. Pressure pain is usually also caused by poor ergonomics. Pain in the lower back, however, often comes from the so-called Piriformis syndrome. The piriformis muscle presses on the well-known sciatic nerve. The result is numbness and uncomfortable pain that can radiate to the legs. But the unpleasant side effects of beloved cycling can be remedied, as follows:

Select a bicycle saddle and set it up correctly

As one of the three contact points between bike and rider, the saddle is important for a comfortable seating position. Since every cyclist’s buttocks are different, you should take enough time or get professional advice. To find the right saddle, the sit bone distance is usually measured. This is usually done with a simple corrugated cardboard that you sit on. Stools at the right height simulate the sitting position on the bike. So if you sit on any chair, you may not get exact results. The saddle width is now selected depending on the seat bone distance.

In addition, the saddle should also fit your own perineum area. If the saddlecloth presses on this area, sensitive nerves can be pressed. This interrupts the blood circulation in the genital area until the genitals can “fall asleep”. If this happens very often, it can limit the functionality – and nobody really wants that. Specially shaped saddles with notches or steps help here.

Once you have found the right saddle, the right installation is important. The saddle should be mounted horizontally or slightly inclined forward. Caution should be exercised with fullys: the suspension usually drives a fully in the sag area. The saddle must therefore be tilted forward in the unloaded state in order to stand horizontally in the compressed state. If you don’t tilt it, the saddle is up.

Quick Overview

  • The saddle width should be selected based on a measurement of the seat bone distance
  • The shape of the saddle must match the area of your buttocks to prevent dangerous pressure on the nerves of the genital area
  • A saddle should be aligned horizontal
  • The saddle height must be adjusted so that when the leg is straight and the heel is on the pedal axis, you sit in the saddle without lifting

Piriformis Syndrome

With numbness in the legs and pain in the back, one quickly thinks of a herniated disc. In fact, the cause for cyclists is often much less problematic: the so-called Piriformis syndrome. The piriformis muscle is responsible for lifting and turning the thigh and is therefore of course heavily involved in cycling. Due to the one-sided movement sequences and the frequent shortening of the musculoskeletal system among cyclists, the muscle likes to press on the sciatic nerve. This causes pain and the feared numbness in the lower extremities. The pain can become extreme, especially on long trips in the same sitting position. However, since the symptoms cannot really be distinguished from a herniated disc, a doctor should be consulted in any case. As the first therapeutic method, the muscle needs some rest so that it can relax and the pressure on the sciatic nerve is reduced. In the long run, however, the piriformis muscle needs to be stretched. Many athletes now swear by yoga to maintain mobility in the back and hip joint. Those who prefer Western medicine will of course also get the best advice from a physiotherapist.

Quick Overview

  • Back pain and numbness do not have to indicate a herniated disc
  • In piriformis syndrome, the piriformis muscle presses on the sciatic nerve and causes the typical symptoms of a herniated disc
  • The cause of the pain must be clarified by a doctor
  • Rest and stretching exercises can eliminate the Piriformis syndrome

What can I do about buttocks pain during or before the trip?

Of course, there are special padded pants against the classically painful butt. These have to fit very well, not restrict freedom of movement and consist of high-quality materials. Ironically, however, the padded pants are often responsible for pain. If the upholstery does not fit your own buttocks, it can cause unpleasant wrinkles. These folds then cause pressure pain, which can become unbearable after a few kilometers. Upholstery pants whose seams have not been carefully flattened can also rub. The same applies to upholstery with a lack of moisture transport. This allows you to quickly get sore, especially in the sensitive buttocks area. High-quality padded pants are therefore essential.

If you still experience pain while driving, you should get off your saddle and give your buttocks a break. A few minutes of relaxation can work real miracles here. It can also help to apply a special glue on the buttocks so that you can prevent possible wounding. Many cyclists, for example, rely on deer tallow sports creme.

Quick Overview

  • The upholstery of a pair of upholstery pants must fit your own butt perfectly and must not fold
  • The seams of the pants must be flattened so that they do not rub
  • High-quality materials ensure good moisture transport, which prevents sores
  • During the ride you should occasionally get out of the saddle or take short breaks to protect your buttocks
  • Sore buttocks can be treated with buttock cream before the tour

Knee pain while cycling

Although you can’t cycle without a knee joint, every biker has probably cursed it at least once in a lifetime. No other part of the body experiences pain as often as on the knee. But why is that? Very large forces are directed over the knee, since the strongest muscles work in the thigh. Accordingly, the tendons and cartilage in the knee are very stressed and quickly worn out in the event of a malposition. Too short bands or muscular imbalances can also increase this effect, and as we all know, cyclists are the kings of the shortened bands. Nevertheless, you should be aware that cycling is considered an absolute knee-protecting sport and can be recommended if you want to start doing sports. Because compared to running, for example, much lower forces act on the knee joint.

Foot misalignments, for example due to incorrectly set cleats, can also be the cause. Finally, environmental factors can also cause knee pain. At low temperatures, the tendons are less elastic and therefore rub more heavily on the knee. So there are many sources of problems when it comes to knees – and as if that weren’t enough, a variety of pain can occur on the knee.

The pain on the inside and outside is very common. These are often associated with an incorrect adjustment of the click system and a resulting misalignment of the foot. Pain in the lower area, however, mostly comes from an unsuitable sitting position or too short tendons. Of course, the setting of the cleats also plays a role here. Pain at the top of the kneecap often indicates muscular imbalance. If the quadriceps is very strong, the ligament and cartilage apparatus in the knee comes under too much tensile stress. Basically, most problems can be dealt with by stretching, strengthening the muscles and blackroll training.

Quick Overview

  • Knee pain can have a variety of causes, as large forces act here and many parts (tendons, muscles, bones, cartilage) are involved
  • Misalignments caused by a poorly adjusted wheel are very common
  • Muscular imbalances and shortened ligaments often occur, especially when cycling
  • Environmental factors, such as temperature, can increase pain
  • Pain on the inside, outside, bottom and top can have different causes
  • Most problems can be dealt with by stretching, strengthening the muscles and blackroll training

Pain in the inner and outer area of the knee

One of the biggest culprits in the knee is the meniscus. There are two of them in the human knee, one outside and one inside. It is a cartilage that prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. Thus, it is mechanically heavily loaded. Due to a misalignment it can happen that one of the two menisci is strengthened or punctually stressed and causes pain. One possibility is a misalignment of the foot due to incorrectly set cleats. The knee joint works like a hinge and can only rotate to a limited extent. However, if the feet are pointing inwards or outwards, the knee must be bent around an axis. This in turn places a one-sided load on the meniscus. If the hip flexion muscles are too weak, this can also be due to the same principle, since the knee also rotates here. The outer ligaments represent another source. If these are shortened on one side, the pressure on the respective meniscus can also be increased. Of course, the causal chain for knee pain can be quite complicated, which is why many other factors can play a role. A saddle that is too high or an inclined handlebar can cause pain. However, the most common causes can be found on your own body and can be eliminated by stretching exercises.

Quick Overview

  • Pain in the inner or outer area of ​​the knee often indicates an overload of the menisci
  • A misalignment of the feet, weak hip flexion muscles or a shortened outer ligament can be responsible
  • Stretching can often eliminate knee pain
  • Settings of the bike, e.g. B. the saddle or handlebar, can also cause knee pain

Pain in the lower part of the knee - the patellar tip syndrome

The patella is the kneecap. This is embedded in the tendon of the front quadriceps, which regulates the pressure of the kneecap. Excessive tension on this tendon can cause pain below the patella. The patellar tendon is usually irritated, but other parts of the body involved can also cause pain. Possible causes can be cramped thigh muscles due to overload, shortened ligaments, hip or foot misalignment as well as an incorrectly adjusted wheel (saddle height, geometry, crank length). Going to a specialist dealer with subsequent wheel measurement can help. Otherwise, as always: stretch, stretch, stretch! The very strong quadriceps, which is usually stronger than the hip flexor muscles, and shortened knee bends cause problems. Balancing muscle and blackroll training usually also improve after a short time.

Quick Overview

  • Pain under the kneecap is usually related to excessive pressure in the knee joint and the resulting patellar tendon irritation
  • The culprit is usually a shortening of the front quadriceps and squat
  • Weak hip flexion, hip or foot misalignments often cause patellar tip syndrome
  • Stretching, blackroll training and strengthening the antagonists of the quadriceps usually eliminate the knee pain
  • Correct setting of the bike, especially the saddle height and crank length, can also help

Back pain while cycling

Cycling in principle strengthens the back muscles and stabilizes the spine. However, the back muscles in untrained athletes can quickly be overloaded by the forward leaned posture. The result is pain in the back, arms and wrists. The more stretched the position, the more the muscles are stressed. A large saddle rise improves the aerodynamics and the force transfer into the pedals, but then the trunk muscles must be trained accordingly.

So if you are struggling with back pain, you should sit in a more upright position. However, it is not just about the saddle height. The whole tuning of the bike should fit your own body. Adjustment with an experienced specialist dealer or fitter is therefore absolutely recommended. If you still suffer from a cramping back while on the go, you should always take small breaks and work on your ligaments several times a week at home.

Quick Overview

  • Cycling strengthens the back muscles, but also stresses them at the same time
  • The greater the saddle elevation, the greater the strain on the back muscles
  • Beginners should sit in an upright sitting position
  • Back pain can often be prevented by hiring from a specialist dealer
  • Stretching during breaks and at home prevents back pain

Neck & Shoulder pain while cycling

Due to the forward leaning position on the bike, there is of course some weight on the shoulders. The more stretched the position, the more strain is put on the shoulders. To relieve them, it is often enough to take a slightly more upright saddle position. Here you can experiment with saddle position and handlebar setup. Sometimes a narrower handlebar can help.

Often, the source of the pain is not the bike, but rather one’s own posture. Cyclists tend to have stretched arms, which is why blows (e.g. due to bumps on the route) are passed on to the shoulders almost completely. This can lead to severe pain, especially on road bikes and other bikes without suspension. Therefore, the elbows should always be slightly angled so that the elbow joint is not blocked and the arms can absorb blows.

Another source of pain is the so-called rounded back. Actually, a natural, light S-position of the spine should also be taken on the bike. However, many cyclists make a “cat hump”. As a result, the neck must be stretched very far back in order to be able to look forward. As a result, the neck and shoulder muscles tense at the same time. Correct posture and a suitable bike prevent these problems relatively easily.

Quick Overview

  • The shoulders are put under a lot of strain, especially in the case of bumps and extended arms
  • In the event of pain, attention should therefore be paid to a more upright sitting position, slightly bent elbows and a suitable handlebar setup
  • In the saddle, you should not take a rounded back posture, otherwise the neck and shoulder muscles can become tight

Hip pain while cycling

Many cyclists suffer from lower back pain. However, it is often not the back muscles that are responsible, but the iliopsoas muscle. This is part of the inner hip muscles and causes the hip to bend. It starts at the thigh bone and extends up to the spine. If this muscle is overloaded or shortened, for example due to an excessive hip extension, pain in the back can occur. In addition to strengthening exercises for the iliopsoas muscle, stretching exercises also help in this case. Here you should always stretch both muscle groups: Both the hip flexor and the hip extensor to prevent unfavorable imbalances.

Quick Overview

  • Back pain is not necessarily caused by the back muscles
  • Instead, the iliopsoas muscle, a hip flexor, is often guilty
  • To counteract its overload and shortening, strengthening and stretching exercises are recommended
  • The antagonists should also be stretched

Thigh pain while cycling

Thigh pain is mostly due to muscular problems. After all, very large and strong muscles work in the thigh, for example the quadriceps. Imbalances between the extensors, flexors and adductors can therefore cause pain. Here, attention should be paid to extensive training that counteracts the one-sided stress caused by cycling. In addition, and one or the other will have guessed that, you should also stretch your thigh well. Blackroll training can also help. If the pain does not go away through these measures, you have to reduce the intensity of the load.

Quick Overview

  • Pain in the thigh is usually due to muscular problems
  • Dysbalance and shortening should be corrected through targeted exercises
  • Blackroll training can also help
  • The reduction in the intensity of the workload provides an acute remedy