Resolving back pain during century cycling season | SierraSun.com

Resolving back pain during century cycling season

Julie YoungFit to be Tried

Causes of lower back pain on the bike are usually simple andamp;#8212; improper bike fit and/or poor position and posture, lack of hip and core stability and flexibility, or structural/ functional movement issues.An improper bike fit contributes to back pain when there is too much reach to the handlebars. This leads to fatigue and spasms. The first course of action is to raise the stem. Depending on the stem/headset, model fit may be altered by raising the stem out of the steerer tube, adding spacers on threadless headsets or by purchasing a new stem with an upward angle. It is advised to have the local bike shop adjust or install the stem to ensure safety.Fifty to 60 percent of low back pain can be attributed to poor posture. Reaching for the bars with a rounded back collapses the core of the torso. Rounding the back also results in sucking the diaphragm up into the rib cage, inhibiting breathing. This improper posture also results in rigid arms (wasted energy expenditure) versus softly bent, supportive elbows. When reaching for the bars, strive to rotate at the hips and focus on a neutral spine. This provides a flat back, affording a solid platform and leverage for a powerful pedal push forward, and as noted, opens the lungs facilitating efficient breathing. Proper posture is supported by hip and core stability developed and maintained via dynamic functional strength exercises. Movement, in all of our activities, is generated from the center. Flexible, stable hips and joints increase mobility and range of motion andamp;#8212; equating to biomechanically sound hip-knee-toe relationships. This is essential to improve and increase efficient transference of power to the pedals. Core workouts enforce proper movement-recruitment patterns and the ability to maintain a neutral spine, resulting in improved coordination between the shoulders and hips, and efficient translation of energy. A stable core counter balances the pedaling forces.Lack of flexibility in the hip flexors and hamstrings also tug on the lower back. Pilates and yoga are effective practices for increased strength, flexibility and body awareness. The key is consistency and then taking these practices out of the studio onto the bike.Individual body structure and functional movement may also play a role in contributing to back pain. Among others, contributing factors might include leg length inequality due to bone length discrepancies, or functional deficiencies from severe pronation that results in a collapsed arch, knee issues or a rotated pelvis. Leg length affects the force placed on the pelvis and can be resolved via shims, cleat positioning and/or orthotics.Finally, self-evaluate. Is it simply a case of over-enthusiasm, and ramping up to Tour de France-like miles in a month? A big jump in miles too soon is a sure bet for back pain. Or are you a Jan Ulrich, big-gear masher, using an uber-long crank arm with slow cadence? Because thatandamp;#8217;s certain to tweak and torque the lower back. If so, consider shorter cranks arms, and focus on lighter gearing and increasing pedal cadence by 5-10 rpms.andamp;#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes-in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at-o2fitness@sbcglobal.net.