Overuse injuries in cycling: A proper bike fit is the key to prevention and treatment

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Overuse Injuries in Cycling - A Proper Bike Fit is the Key to Prevention and Treatment

Have you ever experienced back, neck, knee or leg pain during or after riding? Have you ever experienced numbness tingling or pain in your feet, hands or saddle area riding? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you probably have a poorly fitted bike. Stress and strain imposed on the body by an improper bike fit is the leading cause of cycling injuries. If your body is not properly aligned with the mechanics of your bike, overuse injuries can occur as a result of of repetitive and excessive loading of joints and soft tissues.

Common cycling injuries and possible bike fitting causes include:

Knee Pain
Knee pain is the most common cycling overuse injury. Having a seat that is too low or too far forward may cause pain in the front of the knee. Pain in the back of the knee and hamstring tendinitis may be caused by a seat that is too high or too far back. Improper cleat position for those who use clipless pedals and poor foot mechanics can cause pain on the inside or outside of the knee. With the introduction of float in clipless pedals many of these problems have diminished. Iliotibial band tendinitis may be caused by a seat that is too high, misaligned cleats or a leg length discrepancy.

Low Back Pain
Low back pain may be caused by a reach to the handlebars that is too long or too low. A reach that is too short may also cause low back pain. A seat that is too high or a leg length discrepancy which will cause excessive side-to-side rocking may also lead to low back pain.

Neck and Scapular Pain
Neck and scapular pain may be caused by a position that is too long or too low causing excessive hyperextension of the neck. A reach that is too short may also force the neck into an uncomfortable hyperextended
position. A seat tilted with the nose down will increase the weight forward on the arms causing excessive strain on the neck and shoulders.

Hand Numbness and Pain
Poor hand position, improperly rotated handle bars and  brake lever position can cause hand numbness,tingling and pain. Poor padding on the handlebars and not wearing gloves may also contribute to hand problems. Excess weight on the front of the bike caused by a downward tilted seat or an improper reach can also cause hand problems.

Foot Numbness and Pain

Possible causes of foot numbness and pain include tight shoes, cleat platforms that are too small and by excessive pronation. Achilles tendinitis and calf pain can be caused by a seat that is too high and a cleat that is too far forward.

Saddle Discomfort and Numbness

A poorly padded or tilted seat can cause saddle problems. The seat as a general rule should be level. Some riders however prefer a slight downward tilt at the front for comfort. Aseat that is too narrow for your sit bones can also cause discomfort. A seat that is too high or a leg length discrepancy may also contribute to saddle soreness due to excessive rocking.

Cycling should be an enjoyable experience, not a painful one. By making just a few changes to your bike you can eliminate most discomfort you may have on your bike. A properly fitted bike that fits your unique body will not only increase comfort and prevent injuries,it will also improve performance. With proper fit and form, cycling can be a lifelong source of enjoyment, fitness and health.

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