Safety Tips for the Prevention of Cycling Injuries
This article about the prevention of cycling injuries and recommended safety tips was written by JAG-ONE Physical Therapy
As the weather gets warmer across the country and more people are able to be outside, there are many activity choices to make. Despite the prevalence of COVID-19 cases currently active in the United States, state and federal government officials are urging the public to get outdoors whenever possible – as long as they continue to practice safe social distancing techniques. One such activity that people often choose is riding a bike, since it can be done solo or with a partner, or even as a family.
Although cycling is a great form of exercise that can be enjoyed by all age groups, cycling injuries can occur if you aren’t pedaling properly or fail to pay attention to your surroundings. The more you know before you get back onto your bike for the first time in months, the better prepared you will be for the resulting outcomes, no matter what they are.
Common Cycling Injuries Seen by Physical Therapists
There are plenty of different cycling injuries that patients will experience, and they all depend on the type of bike a person chooses, their overall health, and the level of focus that they dedicate to the task at hand. While people say that it’s almost impossible to forget how to ride a bike once you’ve learned, the truth is that simply knowing how to ride a bike in one location or type of terrain doesn’t always apply to all others.
Listed below are a few of the most common injury types seen in physical therapy offices and clinics – and what causes them. It’s important to remember that while these are common injuries, they won’t always be experienced, nor will they impact a person’s life in the same manner.
Back Pain: The most common injury seen by physical therapists that is the result of cycling is lower back pain. There is a high incidence of low pain back when cycling because of the bent over (or forward leaning) posture, which is maintained for long periods of time when a person sits on their bike seat. As you pedal, you use your gluteal and hip flexor muscles repeatedly to maintain the momentum of the bicycle. This constant motion can cause these muscles to become tight, and potentially overused. Gluteal and hip flexor tightness coupled with sitting in a bent position for a prolonged period of time can cause cycling injuries like lingering low back tightness and pain.
- Stretching out your lower back, glutes and hamstrings daily
- Warming up before you get on your bike
- Increasing core strength by incorporating exercises such as planks, supermans, quadruped bird dogs, crunches, and Russian twists
- Ensuring that the seat is at an appropriate height
Knee Pain: This is one of the cycling injuries that impacts riders most often, and it’s commonly one of the most distressing. Even though this is an issue that cyclists face, knee pain also impacts other areas of a person’s life and can make daily activities very difficult, too. There are multiple types of knee pain that may be experienced, too. One of the most commonly reported injuries in cycling is knee pain. Pain or aching at the front of the knee, may mean the bike’s seat is too low, which increases the angle at the top of the stroke and creates, creating more force through the front of the knee. If the seat is too high, you can experience pain at the back of the knee, around the hamstrings or ITB. Knee pain It can also give you back pain (from movement in the saddle), and achilles pain.
- Before jumping on your bike research the proper way to fit your bike to your body.
- If you are using biking cleats, research how to properly adhere and position them on the bike.
- Listen to your body; if you are uncomfortable, make adjustments before letting pain or discomfort worsen. If you are not able to head over to the bike shop in town to be fitted there are a number of resources, to include, articles and videos that are useful.
IT Band Syndrome: The IT band, or iliotibial band, is the long, thick tissue that runs down the side of your leg from your hip to your knee. During extended periods of cycling, the IT band may continually rub up against the hip and knee bones, causing increased irritation, pain, and tightness. This injury can make it difficult to pedal, or even to walk or run when you’re not on your bicycle.
- Stretching your IT Band, quadriceps, and low back daily can increase flexibility and decrease the friction
- Ensure that your bike is properly fitted for you by speaking with a nearby bike shop or looking up an online tutorial.
Foot Numbness: Foot numbness is another common complaint that may impact a cycling enthusiast. Again, this comes down to seat and pedal height as well as the overall appropriate “fit” of a bike to the rider. Sometimes, when you are in flexion (a bent over position) for a long period of time, your sciatic nerve can be squeezed by your piriformis muscle. Ultimately, this can cause numbness and tingling that travels down into your feet. Foot numbness can also be a result of wearing bike shoes that are too tight, or don’t otherwise fit properly.
- Stretching your hamstrings, glutes, calves and low back can increase flexibility in this region.
- Proper fitting of your shoes and the seat and pedals on the bike will ensure a more comfortable ride and prevent the numbness and tingling from settling in during your ride.
Other Cycling Injuries to Watch For
Other common issues that many cyclists need to be careful of are lacerations, bruises, and abrasions caused by falls. These injuries may not seem as severe as the types of lingering pain and injury discussed above, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less impacting. After this type of injury occurs, make sure that you clean it out right away to prevent infection. If you are on the road when you are injured, use your water bottle to rinse off the affected area and to aid in the removal of dirt or gravel from the wound.
One tip for cyclists to consider when it comes to injury prevention is carrying a bike pack that includes basic first aid items like bacitracin, band aids, and gauze. Even just being able to ensure that the wound isn’t open or dirty while you’re on the go is better than waiting to take care of it until you get home. Once you get home, though, be sure to clean the wound out more thoroughly with soap and water and cover it thoroughly. Medicated bandages, sprays or even simple wraps are great choices for treating cycling injuries that break the skin.
What You Should Do After Experiencing Cycling Injuries
Prevention measures like proper fitting of all cycling equipment (shoes, helmet, bike) is only the first step, but they can help immensely. Along with common sense and being sure to listen when you feel that your body is trying to tell you that there’s an issue, cycling injuries can often be prevented – but it’s not possible in every situation.Since many people will be beginning to ride their bikes more than they have in the past as a way to cope with lack of other exercise opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding how an injury may occur, as well as what to do to heal it is essential during this time – and well after.
For those that have experienced cycling injuries and are looking for a way to get better, the next step is to contact a physical therapy clinic, such as JAG-ONE Physical Therapy in order to set up a treatment plan. To find a location that is convenient for you, use the BetterPT clinic locator or download the BetterPT app to your smartphone or tablet today. The sooner you have access to a quality physical therapy team, the sooner you will be on the road to recovery from cycling injuries and one day closer to being back on the road and enjoying the ride
JAG-ONE Physical Therapy is an outpatient physical therapy company focused on providing comprehensive care to patients in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania while they recover from orthopedic, sports and soft tissue injuries. Utilizing state of the art technology and equipment, the JAG-ONE team personalizes care for each patient no matter what type of care and recovery they need.