As supporters of an active and healthy lifestyle, Renew Physical Therapy understands the exhilaration and freedom that cycling offers to enthusiasts of all levels. While biking provides an excellent cardiovascular workout, strengthens muscles, and boosts mental well-being, it is not without its challenges. Understanding proper body mechanics is crucial for unlocking your full potential and safeguarding against injuries.
This month, we sat down with Tana Chiarelli, physical therapist at Renew Physical Therapy, to hear her thoughts on proper biking mechanics and how you can prevent injury.
Q: What are the most common biking-related injuries?
A: It’s very common for cyclists to experience anterior knee pain, foot numbness, back stiffness/soreness, neck pain, or hand numbness. All of these can be greatly improved, if not completely resolved, with a proper bike fit and a targeted exercise program to address your specific strength deficits while on the bike.
Q: How do proper body mechanics affect the likelihood of a biking injury?
A: Improper mechanics while on the bike lead to using your body in an unbalanced way, putting pressure on some areas more than others and underutilizing certain important muscle groups. Since most cyclists tend to be on their bikes for at least 20 minutes per ride, this type of repetitive and static posture can easily lead to overuse injuries, strains, and other aches and pains.
Q: When should you seek out physical therapy for a biking-related injury?
A: You should seek out physical therapy if you are experiencing a somewhat consistent or worsening pain that is limiting your ability to participate in your desired bike routine; however, a bike fit can be done without having first experienced an injury. If you have recently made a change to your bike, started riding a new bike, or are increasing your biking mileage, terrain, or speed, having the right fit will go a long way to preventing injury.
Q: How can a physical therapist help if you are injured from cycling or can’t cycle due to an injury?
A: Observing your posture and functional movements on and off the bike will help your physical therapist hone in on certain movement patterns that may be inefficient or causing pain/overuse/strain. This is how they develop your unique home exercise program and goals for physical therapy to get you back to your desired routine and activity level.
Q: What are some basic exercises or stretches to reduce your likelihood of injury while cycling?
A: Core exercises are always important so that you can maintain your posture on the bike without slouching (and developing low back or knee pain) or resting too hard on your arms/wrists (and developing hand/wrist/elbow pain or numbness). You should be able to greatly reduce or eliminate the pressure from your hands on the handlebars without losing your posture. In the right pelvic position, glutes and hamstrings help to prevent lower back or anterior knee pain. Exercises that encourage this pushing/pulling motion from the glutes and hamstrings will help increase power on the bike.