One of the most common cycling complaints is knee pain. This is most likely to be patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). PFPS is often worse when walking up and down hills/stairs or sitting for long periods of time. It may include wasting of the quadriceps (thigh) muscles if the injury is an old one, and tight muscles around the knee joint. PFPS is a condition which affects the cartilage on the underside of the knee cap (patella) and the structures which support it, as it moves up and down over the groove on the femur (thigh bone) when you bend and straighten your knee. Due to the repetitive nature of cycling it’s no wonder that knee pain is the most common complaint – upwards of 45% of overuse injuries are to the knee. PFPS is also the injury that results in the most time off your bike, even in elite cyclists, and therefore the sooner you seek help, the quicker you’ll be back on your bike. Click here for a guide to knee pain and helpful tips
LOW BACK PAIN
After the knees, the back is probably one of the biggest causes of pain for recreational cyclists. Interestingly, low back pain is also the most common injury among professional cyclists Hunching forward on your bike, and probably also at work, places strain on your spine, loading structures for prolonged periods of time. Cyclists back pain is often due to mechanical factors, with a lack of flexibility and bad posture usually being the cause. And yet because cycling is a low-impact sport, it is often actually recommended for back pain sufferers. Research has shown that when cyclists start to tire, their hamstrings and calf muscles become progressively more fatigued (as expected). However, this seems to produce undesirable changes in muscle movement patterns, of the entire lower limb and pelvis, which in turn affects the back. With prolonged flexed positioning the back extensor muscles, that help maintain correct posture in the lower back, become less effective at maintaining spinal stability, alignment and posture.
Neck pain is fairly common amongst cycling, often caused by the posture that is adopted on the bike often combined with some tight and some weak muscles. Pain can also be caused by neck hyperextension looking up to see where you are going) and can be made worse by positional issues on the bike, combined with a lack of flexibility.
Just as you have core stabilisers around your lower back, you have stabiliser muscles called deep neck flexors around your neck to hold your head up. When your neck stabilisers are weak or fatigue quickly it is left to the trapezius muscle (that goes from the base of your skull to the tip of the shoulder) to support your head as you lean forward. And when these ‘stand-in’ muscles fatigue you can experience pain in the back and sides of your neck.