Cycling is a fairly low-impact form of exercise, especially when you compare it to something like running. But that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of injury! Thankfully, stretching, proper form, and a good bike can do a lot to combat the most commonplace injuries for cyclists. Here are five of the most typical cycling-related aches, pains, and strains:
About the Injury: A lot of cyclists experience low back pain due to overuse injuries. In fact, according to one study, about 45% of cyclists who say they have an overuse injury said it was lower back related. Cyclists who lean forward when they ride are more likely to experience lower back injuries, but the repetition of pedaling may also engage back muscles and cause pain.
How to Prevent and Treat It: Over the counter pain relievers can reduce a lot of the inflammation associated with this type of injury. Pill popping aside, strengthening your core by doing planks and other core-centered exercises will help. So will stretching before every ride. Finally, try to ride with your back straight up whenever possible.
About the Injury: Achilles tendonitis (not to be confused with the much more painful Achilles rupture), is an inflammation that happens because of overuse. Your Achilles tendon is located on the back of your heel, so it can be very hard to walk if you experience an injury here. In addition to overuse, sometimes poor footing on your bike can lead to Achilles inflammation.
How to Prevent and Treat It: If you have this injury, some time off from cycling is probably called for. Elevate your ankle and ice it. You should also consider an over the counter anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen for several consecutive days. Finally, lowering the seat on your bike may help you prevent this injury in the future. If your toes point all the way down when your knee is extended, you’re probably putting too much strain on your Achilles tendon.
About the Injury: Knee injuries and pain are also all too common. You might experience pain in the front, back, or sides of your knees after a long ride. Knee pain is most often caused by either overextension or overexertion.
How to Prevent and Treat It: Don’t head out on a 20-mile ride if you’ve been out of the saddle for a while. Strain in your quads can lead to knee pain. You should also check your seat placement. Lowering your seat may allow for more comfortable pedaling and less overextension. Beginning every workout with 10-15 minutes of slow-cycling before you kick it into high gear can also help. Remember to lower your gear when you’re on an incline to put less strain on your knees.
About the Injury: Casual cyclists are unlikely to encounter this particular injury. It happens when there is too much friction between your skin, clothes, and seat over a long period of time. As you up your mileage, however, you should be on the lookout for rashes on your skin.
How to Prevent and Treat It: You can avoid most saddle sores by using a seat that fits your frame and wearing high-quality, moisture-wicking shorts or pants when you ride. Alternatively, chamois creams help cut down on chafing. They also have anti-bacterial and aloe properties that protect and soothe your skin.
About the Injury: There were about 3.8 million non-fatal cycling injuries in the US between 1997 and 2013. And that’s just the ones that were reported. Impacts can happen because you were hit by a car or pedestrian, or because you simply lost balance and hit the pavement due to an unexpected pothole, etc. Scratches, bruises, and broken bones are not uncommon.
How to Prevent and Treat It: While you can’t avoid all impact injuries, you can mitigate the damage by choosing protective clothing such as long cycling pants, always wearing a helmet, and sticking to the terrain you’re comfortable on. Trying to cycle down a windy road before you’re ready could cause you to lose control.
Cycling is your happy place – so don’t let it become painful. Stretch, stay hydrated, and know the terrain before you go. You can avoid a lot of the most common injuries by preparing your bike to fit your body and keeping your muscles warm before you hop in the saddle.
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