How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling? 6 Common Cycling Injuries And How To Avoid Them

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Some people are more prone to sports injuries, while others will very rarely experience any at all. If you belong to the latter group, it’s possible that you hardly ever worry about how to avoid injury.

However, if you don’t take the necessary precautions or know how to deal with pain when it occurs, you could end up putting yourself at risk.

That’s why today’s article will focus on injury prevention within cycling. We’ll be exploring these key areas:

  • The Most Common Cyclists’ Injuries
  • When Should You Seek Out Medical Advice?
  • How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling?

After we’re done, you’ll be well prepared to access all the amazing benefits of cycling while staying safe and maintaining your physical health.

Let’s get into it!

How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling: Title Image

The 6 Most Common Cyclists’ Injuries

Given the typical kinds of movement that cycling encourages, there are a few types of injury that are particularly common amongst biking enthusiasts.

You may be familiar with some of them, while others you may not have ever experienced before. Let’s take a look at the most common injuries that affect cyclists.

#1. Knee pain

When it comes to overuse injuries in cycling, the knee is the most common problem area.

Some of the main knee overuse injuries cyclists experience include:

There are a few measures that can be taken to prevent overuse injuries in the knee, including shoe implants, wedges beneath the shoes, and cleat positions.

You can check out our dedicated article on knee pain cycling injuries by following this link.

#2. Neck/Back Pain

Remaining in one riding position for too long can cause cyclists to experience pain in the neck — and no, we don’t mean your annoying cycling partner rambling into your ear!

Low handlebars can also cause cyclists to round their backs and increase strain on the neck and back, while the same risky position can also be caused by cyclists having tight hamstrings or hip flexor muscles.

Stretching those muscles can increase flexibility, while shoulder shrugs and neck stretches can also be a good way of relieving tension in these areas of the body.

Click here if you’d like to check out our dedicated article on back pain to explore the issue in more depth!

A cyclist holds his ankle after crashing in a forest.

#3. Head Injuries

Head injuries can vary in seriousness, from a simple cut on the cheek to a traumatic and permanently damaging brain injury.

Because of that danger, we all know about the importance of protecting our heads. And the best way to do that? Wearing a helmet, obviously.

Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of experiencing a head injury by 85%, and while it’s not technically illegal to go without one in most places, it’s certainly very ill-advised.

#4. Wrist/Forearm Pain or Numbness

Another common type of injury sustained by cyclists is pain in the wrist or forearm – areas that experience a degree of strain or pressure while riding.

Common injuries which fall under this bracket include Cyclist’s Palsy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

By riding with your elbows slightly bent (rather than with arms locked or straight), you can reduce the risk of experiencing this kind of pain or numbness. This is because bent elbows act as shock absorbers when you hit bumps in the road.

#5. Urogenital Problems

Athletes who spend a lot of time cycling sometimes suffer from pudendal neuropathy (numbness or pain in the genital or rectal area).

This tends to happen because of compression of the blood supply to the genital region.

There are a few remedies to this:

  • Use a seat with more padding
  • Invest in padded cycling shorts
  • Remove part of the seat
  • Adjust the tilt of the seat

#6. Foot Numbness and Tingling

When you wear shoes that aren’t the right fit, it’s very possible that you could experience this problem. Foot numbness and tingling are common complaints in the world of cycling, and usually, shoes that are too tight or narrow are the culprit.

Another cause of foot numbness could also be exertional compartment syndrome. This happens due to increased pressure in the lower leg, which compresses the nerves and can lead to pain. Usually, this condition is treated with surgical release.

A doctor holds a man in a blue shirt's wrist.

When Should You Seek Out Medical Advice?

Most of us have experienced minor niggles as a result of our sporting endeavors.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know when a physical injury is bad enough for us to need professional attention. What should we look out for?

If your injury is accompanied by bleeding, severe pain, loss of sensation, or increased weakness, you should make sure you see a physician.

A trip to the doctor will usually just reassure you that everything’s fine, but occasionally that won’t be the case, and in those instances, it’s always best to catch an injury early.

If you’re not suffering from those key symptoms, it’s likely that the pain you’re feeling has been caused by overuse. Mild injuries can be treated by rest, ice, heat therapy, and the use of pain relievers like ibuprofen or paracetamol.

That being said, there’s no harm in getting something checked out if you feel like it’s more serious than just overuse.

A mountain biker holds her injured leg in front of a sunlit field.

How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling?

The best way to fight against these common cycling injuries is by learning how to prevent them in the first place, rather than going to the doctor when they do occur.

In this section of the article, we’ll answer the question “How can you prevent injury while cycling?”

To accompany our list of the 6 most common cycling injuries, here are 6 top tips for preventing them.

#1. Wear A Helmet

This is the most basic bit of safety advice we could give you, and it’s one you would have heard many times before. There’s a reason for that.

Wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of head injury or facial injury. Not only is it common sense, but bike helmets are also very reasonably priced, considering the benefits they bring.

Check out our guide to 2022’s best mountain bike helmets for more advice.

#2. Use Lights Properly

Lights are another crucial aspect of cycling safety. Almost all countries require powered front and rear lights to be used while cycling in the dark — this is called active lighting.

Active lighting helps minimize the chance of injury. Bike lights help illuminate the road ahead, attract attention from drivers, and communicate position and speed. This reduces the risk of crashes and helps you stay on a safe path.

If you’re a city cyclist who needs to pay particular attention to the drivers and busy roads around you, check out our article on how to navigate London safely by bike.

#3. Test And Adjust Your Brakes

Ensuring your brakes are in full working condition is another important part of bike safety that can save you from crashes and collisions.

The effectiveness of bike brakes reduces over time, so it’s important to regularly test them. If they’ve lost some of their stopping power, they’ll need to be adjusted or repaired.

It’s best to take your bike to a mechanic if you don’t feel confident fixing your brakes yourself.

A man in exercise gear stretches underneath a concrete bridge.

#4. Stretch

When it comes to any physical aches, pains, and numbness caused by cycling, one of the best remedies is some simple stretching before, during, and after your rides.

Stretching out your muscles can increase flexibility and reduce the risk of experiencing cycling injuries.

Perform some shoulder shrugs and neck stretches before a ride to relieve tension in these areas of the body.

Check out our full guide to stretching for cyclists here.

#5. Watch Your Posture

As we discussed earlier, staying in one position for a long period of time can cause strain on the body. Checking and altering your posture can provide solutions here.

Riding with your elbows slightly bent (rather than with arms locked or straight) can help reduce the risk of pain or numbness in the forearms and wrists.

Another way to counteract these pains is to alternate the pressure from the inside to the outsides of the palms and make sure your wrists don’t drop below the handlebars.

Wearing padded gloves and stretching your hands and wrists before you set off can also be a good way to steer clear of posture-related cycling injuries.

#6. Get The Right Gear

Getting the right gear can help prevent some common cycling injuries. Ensuring you’re wearing properly-fitting shoes will reduce the risk of a foot injury, while padded gloves can counteract pain in the hands, wrists, or arms.

Tilting, widening, or adding padding to your seat can also help prevent urogenital disorders and other physical issues.

If it’s knee pain that’s causing you problems, you could consider using shoe implants or wedges beneath the shoes.

How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling? 6 Common Cycling Injuries And How To Avoid Them 1

Cycle Safe!

The importance of safe cycling cannot be overstated. Following basic safety guidance by wearing a helmet, using lights at night, and testing/adjusting your brakes is crucial to anyone on the roads — but as you’ve seen today, there’s more you can do.

We’ve explored a number of techniques and tips for preventing cycling injuries and managing them if they do occur. Whether it’s knee pain, back pain, or a head injury, there are many things you can do.

Remember the suggestions we’ve set out in this article, and you’ll be able to ride more safely and more confidently!

Found this article helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Fred is a sports journalist with an extensive background as a cyclist. Fred is on a mission to explore the intersection of cycling, mental health, and mindfulness. His work dives deep into the transformative power of two-wheeled journeys, emphasizing their therapeutic effects on the mind and soul. With a unique focus on well-being, Fred's writing not only informs readers about the world of cycling but also inspires them to embark on a path of mental and emotional resilience through the sport.

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