Cycling and Low Back Pain in Glasgow & Ayrshire
Cycling is known to be a very fun and effective way to exercise. There is some doubt, though, as to how posture when riding, can affect the lower back and whether cycling is effective in healing lower back pain.
Cyclists ride either round-back, flat-back, or curved-back, depending on the degree of pelvic rotation and spinal flexion. It seems that the choice of position when riding a bike is mainly related to saddle height, saddle angle or turn, and the form of handlebar. Some handlebars offer multiple options as to where you can place your hands, e.g. on the grips (most upright), on the bar closer to the stem (medium position), or on the drops — the lowest option offered on the under / racing handlebar type curl.
One would imagine flat-back posture might be better for the lower back, precisely because it prevents the two extremes. However, this position is synonymous with greater wind resistance and is likely to be avoided by more serious riders trying to cycle as efficiently as possible. One pilot study looked at the lumbar spine angle of young adult recreational cyclists as they utilised all three postures in ten-minute intervals with different bike configurations and found that the “curve-in back” position caused by gripping the drops resulted in the greatest increase in spinal flexion over time. In individuals with a low back problem, this increased spinal flexion can lead to increased pain and associated symptoms over time.
Another study looked at how a bike is fitted, the position of the cyclist, and the perception of comfort, fatigue, and pain. Twenty bikers raced for 45 minutes in three out of nine possible places at 50 percent of their total aerobic strength performance. The three positions were defined by two parameters: knee flexion angle (20°, 30°, 40°) and trunk flexion angle (35°, 45°, 55°), in a random order. The results showed that having the trunk upright (not bent forward) and the seat height adjusted so the knee flexion angle was 30° was the most comfortable position for participants. In addition, the researchers found that tilting the seat forward reduced the low back discomfort in people with the condition.
As part of the healing process for low back pain, Osteopaths also urge patients to exercise. Due to its low-impact nature, as well as being really fun, cycling is a perfect choice. However, it’s important to make sure your bike suits in such a way that you can ride easily with a good balance and not worsen your condition.
If you are suffering from low back pain or any condition you may feel the need for treatment, please book online at www.cramosteopaths.co.uk/book-online/