Nobody enjoys being forced off their bike due to an injury. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequent concerns cyclists experience and offer advice on how to manage and prevent them.
Fitness is a fickle beast. You can be in the best shape of your life one minute and then find yourself straining to rotate the pedals painlessly the next. Cycling injuries are a sad fact of life for the majority of riders. While some are more prone than others, the majority of riders will fall off their bike at some point.
Certain frequent problems encountered by cyclists can be treated and avoided with proper home care. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequent and compiled some of the tips we’ve received to assist you if you’re suffering.
It’s critical to remember that your body is a linked web – symptoms may not accurately reflect the underlying cause, and if an injury persists, you should consult a specialist such as a physiotherapist or osteopath who can assist in identifying and treating the underlying cause.
What is the most common injury in cycling? How Can They Be Prevented?
In cycling, the most prevalent location of overuse injury is the knee. Patellofemoral syndrome (cyclist’s knee), patella and quadriceps tendinitis, medial plica syndrome, and iliotibial band friction syndrome are only a few of the more frequent overuse knee problems. The first four injuries described cause discomfort around the kneecap, whereas the final ailment causes pain on the outside of the knee. Implants in the shoes, wedges beneath the shoes, and cleat locations may all assist avoid certain overuse problems.
Injuries to the head
A head injury is one of the most common injuries encountered by cyclists, and can range from a cut on the face to a severe brain damage. Helmet use has been shown to minimize the risk of head injury by 85 percent. When the majority of states do not require the usage of helmets while riding a bicycle, helmets are easily accessible and often inexpensive.
Pain in the Neck/Back
Cyclists are prone to have neck pain if they remain in one riding posture for an extended period of time. Avoiding this pain is as simple as performing shoulder shrugs and neck stretches that assist alleviate neck stress. Incorrect form might also result in injury. If the handlebars are set too low, bikers may find themselves rounding their backs, placing tension on the neck and back. Tight hamstrings and/or hip flexor muscles can also lead riders to round or arch their backs, resulting in hyperextension of the neck. Regular stretching of these muscles will increase their flexibility and make it simpler to maintain good form. Changing the grip on the handlebars relieves tension on overworked muscles and rebalances strain on various nerves.
Pain in the Wrist/Forearm
Cyclists should ride with slightly bent elbows (never with their arms locked or straight). When they come across potholes on the road, their bent elbows function as shock absorbers. Additionally, this is an area where shifting hand postures might assist alleviate discomfort or numbness. Two frequent wrist overuse ailments, Cyclist’s Palsy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, can be avoided by alternating pressure between the inside and outside of the palms and keeping wrists above the handlebars. Additionally, cushioned gloves and extending the hands and wrists before to riding will aid with the recovery process.
Pudendal neuropathy, a numbness or discomfort in the genital or rectal area, is a typical complaint among male motorcyclists who spend a lot of time riding. It is often caused by constriction of the vaginal region’s blood flow. A broader seat, one with padding, a seat with a portion of the seat removed, adjusting the seat’s inclination, or wearing cushioned cycling shorts can assist alleviate pressure.
Numbness and Tingling in the Feet
Foot numbness and tingling are typical problems, and are frequently caused by shoes that are overly tight or thin. Additionally, numbness in the feet may be caused by exertional compartment syndrome. This is caused by increased pressure in the lower leg, which compresses the nerves. Pressure measures are used to make the diagnosis, and the condition is treated surgically.
Injuries caused by impact
Crashes are an unavoidable byproduct of riding.
The obvious recommendation is to seek medical assistance if you’ve had a serious collision. Even if there are no broken bones, you may have struck your skull. Concussions may be debilitating and require extensive recuperation (including time away from screens) and should not be taken lightly.
The clavicle (collarbone) is one of the most common breaks suffered by cyclists; the good news is that it typically takes approximately six weeks to heal but you may still ride the turbo trainer throughout that period.
Strains to the muscles are less visible impact injuries. Strained muscles may drive you to compensate excessively, which may result in overuse injuries. While the temptation is to get back on the bike as soon as possible, it’s occasionally prudent to take additional rest or even consult with a physiotherapist or osteopath before returning to riding following a mishap.
Road rash is the least serious, but frequently most bothersome, injury produced by an accident. This is skin grazing caused by colliding with, and frequently sliding along, the tarmac. As painful as it may be, it is critical to properly clean road rash as soon as you get home (by clean, we mean scrub), followed by the use of a good antiseptic cream. Maintain a clean and dry environment over the following three days to ensure a speedy recovery.
When it comes to collision prevention, riding within your boundaries and adhering to safe riding lines can assist, but there are occasions when nothing can be done.
Back discomfort in the lower back
Due to the hours spent hunched over the handlebars, one of the most prevalent ailments suffered by cyclists is lower back discomfort. When you factor in the fact that many of us have occupations that involve additional sitting and bending over computer displays, the situation approaches pandemic proportions.
Back discomfort does not always end there; frequently, tense lower back muscles result in changes in posture, which can affect other regions.
The piriformis muscle in particular, which originates in the lower back and attaches to the top side of the thighbone. Irritation here may manifest as hip discomfort or pain throughout the lower leg, since the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the toes, can get irritated when the piriformis is tight.
If you have lower back discomfort, relax, stretch your back and hips, and experiment with a foam roller. If the condition persists, see a health expert such as an osteopath who can help to alleviate the symptoms.
Then, seek for ways to prevent a recurrence. The following are critical points to consider:
Posture on the bike: If your riding position is really aggressive, with a long stem/top tube and low handlebars, consider lowering them to relieve pressure.
Off the bike, consider your posture if you work at a desk. Investing in a Mckenzie pillow (a spherical pillow that lies at the base of the spine and aids with posture maintenance) is a smart idea, as is ensuring that your set-up does not encourage unnatural twisting and that your chair is comfortable.
Core strength: if your core muscles are not strong enough, your lower back will collapse when riding the bike, putting your lower back under unnecessary strain. Strengthening your core also makes you a more powerful cyclist, since your legs will be pushing the pedals from a stronger base – so it’s a win-win situation.
Knee discomfort is a frequently occurring riding ailment (CW)
The knee (its cap is called the patella) is a joint that connects the upper and lower leg – and it becomes dislocated when something is not moving properly, tugging it in the incorrect way.
Knee discomfort is frequently treated with rest, massage, foam rolling, and the initial use of ice or anti-inflammatories. Then you must determine the root reason.
Knee discomfort is frequently the result of a bike fit issue. If this is the case, there are a few simple things to keep an eye out for.
Discomfort at the front of the knee, referred known as anterior knee pain, is frequently caused by a saddle that is excessively low, putting unnecessary pressure on the patella. Discomfort behind the knee – sometimes known as posterior knee pain – is frequently caused by a saddle that is too high, straining the hamstring attachments. Lateral and medial knee discomfort can be caused by an erroneous cleat set-up that causes the knee to track wrongly.
Another typical reason is a constricted IT band – the fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh. This can cause the patella to pull, resulting in improper tracking, and can be addressed extremely efficiently with massage and foam rolling. In the short term, kinesio tape can also be useful in forcing a tracking correction, but this is a classic case of treating the symptom rather than the source – the IT band must still be relaxed.
Pain in the wrist, arm, hand, and neck
Neck and wrist pain are frequently caused by excessive pressure conveyed via the upper body.
In an ideal scenario, around 60% of your body weight should be placed at the rear of the bike and 40% at the front. If you ride with too much weight passing through the handlebars, your arms and wrists will take a beating. As a result, the first thing to verify is that your reach is not too lengthy and your handlebars are not excessively low.
Neck ache can also occur if the bars are set too low, as the rider is compelled to hyperextend to see ahead.
Wrist discomfort can develop when your handlebar position forces your wrist into an awkward posture. By releasing the stem bolts, you may modify the position of your handlebars and hoods – turning the bars higher will result in a modest reduction in reach.
Additionally, choosing compact or shallow drop handlebars lowers the distance produced when riding in the drops, which can assist alleviate pressure.
Tingling in the fingers may be caused by pressure on the Ulnar nerve, which runs between the ring and little fingers; this condition is referred to as Ulnar neuropathy or handlebar palsy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve, which results in tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Cycling mitts and gloves include cushioned sections to assist minimize nerve compression – so if you’re having trouble, a decent pair of mitts would be a good place to start. However, because this might develop into a chronic ailment, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor if the numbness persists.
On the bike, your feet take a beating (CW)
Foot discomfort is frequent among bikers, which should come as no surprise. Our twinkle toes conduct the watts generated by each pedal stroke, and we insist on funneling our feet into stiff-soled shoes.
Add to that the fact that the majority of riders only own one pair of cycling shoes to accommodate summer rides when our feet swell and winter rides when our feet are packed with socks, and you can see where troubles may emerge.
‘Hot foot’ is a frequent condition characterized by a burning feeling, numbness, or discomfort on the underside of the foot. It is mostly caused by pressure on the nerves that go through the ball of the foot and into the toes. To combat it, we must reduce or disperse the pressure.
If you experience hot feet or numbness in the summer, it’s probable that your feet are swelling; the remedy is to either loosen your shoes or opt for shoes that allow for some breathing room. Shimano and Bont are recognized for making broader shoes than Specialized, Giro, and Sidi.
If the problem occurs during the winter, it is possible that you are wearing socks that are too thick to enable enough blood flow to your feet. In that scenario, either seek for thin, warm socks (merino wool is your friend here) or buy in a bigger pair of shoes.
Cleat positioning is also worth examining; it is possible that the pressure is not being distributed evenly across the ball of your foot. Certain cleats offer a bigger platform, which allows the pressure to be distributed more evenly – specifically, Speedplay pedal and cleat systems.
Finally, soreness on the outside of the foot may indicate that the insole of the shoe is not adequately supporting the foot when it shifts outwards. Custom insoles may be shaped to fit your foot precisely, frequently resolving other difficulties such as knee discomfort caused by inaccurate tracking.
Apart from overheated feet, another common foot condition that affects runners but can also affect bikers is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a broad band of tissue that runs down the underside of the foot. Its function is to tighten when we walk, allowing power to be distributed evenly across the sole of the foot.
The plantar fascia can become excessively tight or injured as a result of excessive tension. Rolling the foot over a tennis ball (or a bottle of water placed in the freezer to combine icing) will help alleviate stiffness in this scenario. In the long run, personalized insoles that support the arch of the foot might alleviate unnecessary tension.
Sores on the saddle
We all make funny jokes about the damage riding can wreak on the undercarriage, but problems may grow severe enough to drive professional riders to withdraw from stage events – so mere mortals are forgiven for being ejected.
It’s also not simply about the discomfort inflicted on the actual place. If a rider begins to sit awry on the saddle in an attempt to prevent skin contact, additional injuries may occur, which may be more difficult to heal.
Saddle sores come in a variety of forms; however, any painful, elevated region of skin around the buttocks or undercarriage produced by contact with the saddle falls into this category.
Once a saddle sore develops, the best course of action is to keep the region clean (with an unscented soap) and dry. If sitting in the saddle causes discomfort, it’s a good idea to take a few days off the bike until the irritated skin calms down.
It’s all about the saddle and cycling shorts when it comes to prevention. You need to choose a saddle that fits you properly (see our roundups of the top men’s and women’s saddles) and put it up correctly.
Cycling shorts must fit properly, have a chamois that fits your body form, and chamois cream can be used to minimize friction and eliminate bacteria.
It’s critical to change out of cycling shorts immediately following a ride and to wash them after each usage. Hair removal should be avoided or limited to ‘trimming’ to avoid ingrown hairs.
When Should I Seek Medical Attention?
Any injury that results in bleeding, intense pain, numbness, or increasing weakness should be evaluated by a physician. Other types of pain, such as those caused by overuse or minor injuries, can be addressed with rest and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Alternating cold and heat treatment can also be used to relieve swelling and discomfort.