8 of the Most Common Cycling Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Cycling doesn't have to a sport that hurts you

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People have been riding bicycles on regular basis since the 1800’s. Cycling is now known to be one of the best ways to maintain weight and boost a person’s overall health because it’s an intense cardio exercise that works out the entire body at once.  No wonder the number of cyclists has been increase to about 80 million in the U.S.

However about half of them, according to studies, suffer from neck problem, 42 percent have injured their knees, 36 percent hurt their groin and buttocks, 31 percent damage their hands, and 31 percent their back.

Health problems related to riding a bicycle either progress with time as a result of repeated movements or are sudden such as falling off a bike which can result in various injuries. Both kinds can cause substantial morbidity.

Most injuries occur as a result or riding at high speed. Superficial soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal trauma are the most common ones. Head trauma is the cause foe the most serious problems and they are often the result of a collision with a car. (Wear helmets, please!) Men and kids between 9 and 15 are the highest risk group.

Some injuries are very hard to avoid but you can still protect yourself to minimize the damage. Many problems are linked to poor posture so preventing them is only a matter of keeping your back and shoulders straight. Other bicycle-related injuries are a little more complex.

Knee pain

This is one of the most overuse injuries in the sport. Cyclists fasten their feet to the pedals with cleats on the bottom of the shoes. However if they are not positioned the correct way, the result is sharp pain in the knees that won’t go away. There are plenty of guides online on how to properly position the cleats. Bonus: Pedal strokes will be more powerful.  Cyclist's knee and patella and quadriceps tendinitis are other common knee overuse injuries. Fixing the cleat positions help with them. Getting cycling insoles can also help.

Lower Back Pain

Spending time in the same position for a long time without a break will hurt any muscle. This is even more of a problem in cycling because the natural position of being on a bike means a lot of stress going through the spine. In order for the pedal strokes to be stronger, the body must be in a flexed position which can easily result in back pain. So set your back straight in the right position for the specific frame of your bicycle.  

Achilles Tendonitis

This is another overuse injury and is the cause of inflammation. Make sure the kind of bike you’re riding is the right for you and that your shoe cleats are positioned properly. If you feel pain, get off the bike and rest for a few days. As with any swelling, put ice on it. Check your saddle, too. Make sure it’s not too high because it will then keep your toes pointing down which means that there is a continuous contraction of your calf muscles.

Muscle Tightness

You may not even know it but your calves and hamstrings are probably too tight. You don’t feel it when you are riding because your body is too smart and has adapted to the constant motion. Try an exercise that has nothing to do with cycling and you’ll feel the pain. Tightness can lead to tearing so make sure your muscles are not “too much” of anything. Always warm up before you get on the bike and cool down when you’re done. Stretch so your muscles are flexible. Use a foam roller for extra help (if you can endure the pain).

Saddle Sores

This is a skin disorder that develops over time after many hours in the saddle. The friction between your skin, clothes and the saddle can lead to horrid rashes. Don’t have the saddle too high and wear the right kind of cycling shorts.  Using a cream can help relieve the uneasiness of the skin fiction against the saddle.

Foot Numbness

Can’t feel your feet? Don’t panic. It’s quite common. The biggest cause (other than cold weather) is improperly fit shoes. Make sure the cleats are not too far forward increasing the pressure around the ball of the foot. Too much hill riding is another cause because it has to do with a lot of pushing and that mean a lot of pressure on the foot. Make sure your shoes are not squeezing your feet too tight and that they are not too narrow.

Muscle Fatigue

Have you noticed the quats of pro cyclists? They are very impressive size-wise. That’s because they use these muscles to actually ride the bike. It’s no wonder then that the quats need a break from time to time to recover. If they get too tired as a result of long rides, lactic acid builds up in them and then they start to hurt. A massage will help.  You can also use a kinesiology tape, which you put on before the ride. Switch pedaling in an out from the saddle in order to let some muscles relax while you put pressure on others.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is caused by tightness in the muscle that starts at the base of the skull and runs along the sides of the neck all the way to the shoulders. They get too tired because they carry the entire weight of the head in extension for a long time in the same position time while riding. Make sure your bike fits well with your body. Shorten the stem so you are in a more upright position. Loosen your grip on the handlebars, too, because that will relax your shoulders. Fix your posture. Using a kinesiology tape on the lower back area may help as well.

More readings: 

25 Must-Have Bike Commuting Products

How to Recover From an Injury While Still Training

Rest Days: How Much Recovery Do You Really Need Between Workouts?