Cycling injuries are treated with great regularity by physiotherapy. The most common issues related to cycling are nerve-related complaints and numbness, overuse injuries, muscle pain and stiffness, neck pain and lower back pain. Posture and riding technique play a big role in many cycling-related injuries.

Cycling injuries are varied and can be far-reaching from head to foot

Common symptoms of cycling injuries

Nerve related-issues

  1. Patients present with a variety of descriptions for nerve-irritation: from burning, stinging, stabbing, radiating, pins & needles and numbness (dead hand or foot) to the more inexplicable aching and heavy feeling.
  2. The most common places to experience nerve related problems and numbness include the forearms/hands and feet.

Preventative action:

  • Cyclists should ride with their elbows slightly bent, never with their arms locked or straight. This allows for the arms to absorb some of the shock when cycling.
  • Hand position is important and changing hand positions will help reduce pain or numbness for example by alternating the pressure from the inside to the outsides of the palms and making sure wrists do not drop below the handlebars.
  • Adequately padded gloves and a good warm up routine of stretching of the hands and wrists before riding is important.

Lower back pain is one of the common causes of injuries occurring from cyclingOveruse injuries, muscle pain and stiffness

  1. The term ‘overuse’ is used to describe damage and pain caused by repetitive movement and overuse of certain structures in the body often caused by improper technique.
  2. Symptoms can include tenderness, stiffness or tingling in and around the affected area.

Preventative action:

  • Correct cycling technique for example using shoe implants or wedges beneath the shoes and correct cleat positions.
  • Changing the grip on the handlebars may take excess stress and pressure off of over-used muscles and nerves.

Neck pain & lower back pain

Often caused by a riding in one position for too long.

Preventative action:

  • Good warm up routine, doing shoulder shrugs and neck and back stretches to improve flexibility.
  • Proper form and bike set up, for example, correct height of handle bars to prevent cyclists rounding their backs, thus putting strain on the neck and back.

Other possible injuries experienced by cyclists

  1. Ligament and tendon injuries e.g. tears. The correct cycling technique will help prevent these.
  2. Head injuries can be avoided by wearing a proper helmet and correctly-fitted cycling gear
  3. Uro-genital problems (ie. relating to the parts of the body that produce and carry urine, and also the genitals) can be avoided by
    • using a wider seat with good padding;
    • using a seat with the middle part of the seat removed;
    • changing the tilt of the seat; and
    • using properly padded cycling shorts.

Physiotherapy can assist cyclists with injuries and help prevent them.

How can Physiotherapy help cycling injuries?

  1. Opening up of the nerve pathways by mobilising joints, releasing tight muscles and fascia.
  2. Neural mobility exercises. Cyclists often focus on stretching the various muscle groups related to cycling, but forget to mobilise the nerves as well.
  3. Correct stretches and strengthening exercises.
  4. Re-education of muscles is required to maintain a cyclist’s position on the bike.
  5. Advice on what can be changed with bike setup, shoe selection and most importantly posture on the bike.
  6. In some instances, a physiotherapist will recommend ‘pause exercises’ that cyclists can do while out riding.