Lower Back Pain Cycling: Causes and Solutions

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Cycling has many benefits for our bodies and minds.

It’s a great cardio workout and works lots of muscles. The problem with cycling is that you can spend hours hunched over in the same position, which puts lots of stress on certain parts of your body.

Therefore, there is a good chance you have had some form of lower back pain cycling. This can range from a niggling pain to something more serious that can stop you from riding altogether.

So how can you make your cycling back pain better? 

In this article, we will cover:

  • Where Lower Back Pain Cycling Comes From
  • 5 Ways To Relive Cycling Back Pain 

Are you ready for pain-free rides?

Let’s get started!

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Where Lower Back Pain Cycling Comes From

Lower back pain cycling is usually a symptom of tightness in your muscles. The main culprits are the muscles in the anterior hips, quads, and hip flexors, and the tightness is primarily due to sitting down.

There is no doubt that riding your bike for several hours is much better than sitting at a desk all day; however, you are still sitting down for the whole time.

Your cycling posture pulls your pelvis forwards, creating tension in the muscles in your lower back. When you experience tightness in your hips, your glutes stop working ass they should.

This weakness in the back and tightness in the front causes your lower back pain.

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer, nor do you have to manage the pain to get through your day. The best thing is that you don’t have to spend time off your bike.

Lower back pain cycling is common, especially when riding uphill, but it should not keep you from riding if the pain is intermittent and disperses after your ride.

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5 Ways To Relive Cycling Back Pain 

There are some simple ways you can ease your cycling back pain. They are pretty simple and don’t take much time. Also, some of these methods will improve your performance on and off the bike.

#1: Make Sure Your Bike Fits You Properly

There is a good chance that you have bought a bike with the correct frame size. But bike fit is a little more detailed than choosing between S, M, L, and XL frames.

A lot of the time, back pain cycling is related to the discs in your back. This is because the load on your joints in your back is reduced, but the discs experience more load, especially the bottom two.

With this in mind, it is essential to ride a bike that fits you correctly. One way to do this is to fine-tune your seat height and position, which is very easy to do.

To get the perfect seat height, sit on your saddle and place your heel on the pedal. Adjust your saddle, so your leg is straight. This position means that your knee won’t be locked out when you place your foot correctly on the pedal.

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You can also change your crank arms to ones that better suit your leg length. All these can go a long way to relieving lower back pain cycling.

The height of your handlebars will also make a difference to your comfort. By adding spacers, you can raise your handlebars, which can help with lower back pain cycling.

However, the best thing you can do is book a session with a professional bike fitter. A proper bike fitting appointment will address any shortcomings in your bike’s setup.

For example, the bike fitter will look at your foot position on your pedals. They will set up your cleats to keep your feet balanced and in the prime position for power transfer.

Your bike fitter will also set your saddle height perfectly for your leg length.

But the most critical elements for fixing your lower back pain cycling are your stem length and handlebar position. The bike fitter will take measurements to determine how high your handlebars should be. They may even suggest alternative handlebars with a different rise and width.

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#2: Remember To Stretch Before and After Riding

As we mentioned earlier, cycling back pain often stems from tight muscles. It is hardly surprising when you think about what is involved with riding a bike.

Riding a bike entails a repetitive movement through a limited range of motion. Unlike walking or running, your legs are never fully extended or fully flexed, which is not a natural movement our bodies have evolved to do.

The riding posture is not natural either, as the tightness in your muscles causes an anterior pelvic tilt and an excessively arched lower back.

Therefore the first thing you should do is loosen up the tightness in the front of your body. It is best to stretch before and after your rides for the best results.

You can loosen up those muscles with regular yoga sessions. But the moves you should focus on are the child’s pose and cat-cow poses. These are great for counteracting the constant C-shape you hold while riding.

Other areas you should focus on stretching are your quad muscles and hip flexors.

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#3: Get A Foam Roller

An excellent way to compliment your stretching is with a session with a foam roller. Foam rolling hurts, but it is very effective at relieving lower back pain cycling.

Using a foam roller can help with your spine and lower body mobility, which goes a long way to fixing your lower back pain biking.

To effectively target where you need to focus your foam rolling, you can film yourself on a turbo trainer to analyze your posture. It would be best to show your video to a physical therapist, as they will be able to pinpoint the areas you need to work on.

There are some areas that all cyclists will benefit from foam rolling. Your IT band will benefit from a good foam rolling session. But you may also want to use a massage ball on your hip flexor muscles.

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#4: Focus On Improving Your Strength

You get weak glutes when your anterior muscles are tight. Therefore, these large muscles are the ones you should target in the gym to fix lower back pain cycling.

Exercises that work these muscles include hip thrusts—these fire up your glutes and hamstrings. 

To do hip thrusts, lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your body, and lift your hips, creating a straight line with your body. Lower your hips back down and repeat.

You can make the exercise more challenging by reducing stability by raising your hands to the sky. You can also place your feet on a fit ball or add weight by holding a medicine ball or weight plate on your chest.

Lower back pain biking can also result from having a weak core. This is because your core muscles need to work harder to keep you stable as you ride.

You can incorporate core exercises into your workout routine to improve your stability. Plank variations and dead bugs are excellent for this and will create an excellent platform to push the pedals from.

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If you want to take your core workouts to the next level, why not take a Pilates class? 

Pilates is a low-impact exercise that is based on core strength and control. It can help improve your posture and increase your flexibility. The advantage Pilates has for cyclists is that it allows you to maintain proper form on the bike, but it will also help you push through when your muscles start to fatigue.

#5: Know When To Stop

The thing with lower back pain is that there is a lot you can do to prevent it and fix it. But sometimes, you just need to know when to rest.

If it feels like you are doing too much, you have to listen to your body and take a step back, especially if the pain continues for a couple of days after your ride.

If your lower back pain from cycling persists, the pain spreads down your legs, or you experience weakness, you may have a more severe problem. Therefore, you should consult a doctor to get to the root of your problems.

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now You Know How To Address Lower Back Pain Cycling

As you can see, cycling back pain is not uncommon, but it doesn’t have to be part and parcel of the sport if you take the necessary action.

By just ensuring your bike is correctly set up and working on strength and flexibility, you can help yourself enjoy pain-free rides!

Found this article useful? Find more from our BikeTips experts below!

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

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