Cycling injuries are treated with great regularity by physiotherapy. The most common issues related to cycling are nerve-related complaints, together with neck pain and lower back pain.
Cycling Injuries can include nerve irritation
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, heavy and ‘weird’.
Nerve-related symptoms often come on slowly, i.e. after a long ride, when upping the amount of cycling, after a long work-week, long car rides or flights and even a while after replacing your bike or part of it like the saddle or different handlebars.
What are the most common complaints?
Nerve complaints resulting from cycling injuries are often diagnosed at the back of the leg into the foot and in the hands, wrists and shoulders. In addition, there is often a large spinal component together with local nerve compromise.
- Symptoms in the hand are caused by over-extending the wrist on the handlebars, staying in one position for a long time, stiffness of the neck and holding the head and neck in a ‘chin-poke’ position.
- Neck stiffness can present as referral into the arm, hand and also to the back around the shoulder blade.
- Leg and/or foot symptoms can come from pressure of the seat on the sciatic nerve, stiffness in the spine and pressure on the nerve from tight muscular structures (most cyclists have a desk job, sit in their cars in traffic and then sit on their bicycles) as well as restrictive cycling shoes or incorrect cleat position.
- Lower back pain can be due to stiffness in the lower back or can also present with leg and butt symptoms.
How can Physiotherapy help cycling injuries?
- Opening up of the nerve pathways by mobilising joints, releasing tight muscles and fascia.
- Giving specific neural mobility exercises (cyclists often focus on stretching the various muscle groups related to cycling, but forget to mobilise the nerves as well).
- Re-education of muscles required to maintain a cyclist’s position on the bike.
- Advice on what can be changed with bike setup, shoe selection and most importantly posture on the bike.
- In some instances, a physiotherapist will recommend ‘pause exercises’ that cyclists can do while out riding.
Brukner, P. Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine. 2012. Mc-Graw-Hill, Australia.