A common cyclist complaint that I hear all the time is, “The longer I ride, the worse my back feels”. Outside of simple postural changes that can correct some problems that, we at the Whiplash Center of Utah take care of, there are other problems that are more underlying. But once you have determined what the cause is, the correction becomes much easier.
Let’s Look at Simple Biomechanics of the Body
The lower back is surrounded by a group of very large muscles called the Erector Spinae muscles and the Longisimus Dorsi muscles. Their main responsibility is to keep the body upright. Depending on the cycling sport of choice, you typically are bent over to hold onto the handle bars, putting a constant pull on your low back muscles. Having the muscles attached to the hips changes the dynamics of the integrity of all the muscle balance in the hips and low back. The longer that you ride, the more pull and strain it puts into the low back and hips. Adding simple stretches to your daily regiment, won’t necessarily correct the problem either. I have three recommendations to assisting with the correction of this nagging problem:
- The first is a four letter word…YOGA! Yoga, has been proven to add a significant level of focused stretching to key muscle groups. There are specific poses that target the hip flexors, adductors, abductors, and hip extensors. Each of these muscle groups play a critical role in proper balance in the hips and low back aiding in optimal performance in your sport. And let’s face it, that’s the reason why we do it too.
- Our second recommendation for correcting this problem is to make sure that you are properly fit to your bike. I’ll draw on a comparison with construction. If you build a home that has a poor foundation, no matter what you do to the home, it will never be right. Our bodies are exactly the same. Without proper foundational establishments, we will constantly adapt to stabilize. No matter what exercises we do to strengthen an area, it will never be right, we will be in constant pain. For this reason, identifying the Functional Movements of the body is critical. In our office, we begin all plans of care with an assessment of function of the body.
- One more critical note about stabilizing the low back. One of the biggest areas of neglect as a cyclist is the abdominal muscles. I have found over the years that one of the biggest causes of low back pain, is a weak stomach. When our core muscles are weak, the rigors of daily life put too much pressure on our spine and discs. If we can simply strengthen our core muscles, many if not all of our low back problems disappear. One argument to this is with too strong of abdominal muscles, the ability to breathe is hampered. While this may be true, I will argue this point by saying, you may have a more challenging breathing capacity, but your back will not be bothering you, making it possible that you are able to still ride.
See you on the road!