Is Cycling Good for Lower Back Pain? Complete Guide – Updated 2021
Lower back pain is something we all experience a few times each year. Often it can pass within a few days, or it can be more serious and keep us off the bike for months.
It can be caused by many things both on and off the bike. However, is cycling good for lower back pain, and what happens if you experience back pain on the bike? What can cause it?
In this article, we discuss how back pain can be caused by seat position. And whether you should cycle with lower back pain or not.
Is Cycling Good for Lower Back Pain?
Since cycling is a low-impact sport, it is a good activity for people suffering from lower back pain. However, it is important to state that if cycling is the cause of your back pain, adjusting your cycling position or rearranging your bike setup can help limit discomfort.
Alternatively, if your lower back pain is caused by another activity, cycling can help keep your fitness level while your recovering.
It is important to know though, while your back is recovering you must keep the intensity down and make sure your position on the bike is correct. If you are cycling with the wrong saddle or handlebar position, you may end up causing more discomfort or pain.
If you aren’t a regular cyclist, then investing in or renting a hybrid bicycle can help keep you active during the recovery period. A hybrid bike has a more relaxed geometry than a road bike and can help limit the stress on the lower back while riding.
Can I Cycle With Lower Back Pain? What Should You Know?
Depending on the severity of the pain and the injury, you will have to decide whether you can cycle with lower back pain or not.
If you are experiencing pain in the lower spine, it is recommended to stay away from cycling and speak with your doctor first. Alternatively, if you are experiencing muscular pain in the lower back, cycling can usually be performed with minimal discomfort.
Of course, before asking yourself if you should cycle with lower back pain, make a trip to see your physician. They will then conduct a physical examination to accurately diagnose the cause of the pain.
Sometimes x-rays, MRI Scans, and other methods are needed to distinguish the underlying cause of pain.
Lower Back Pain Cycling Seat Position
If you are a regular cyclist you would have experienced lower back discomfort at some point on a ride. Lower back pain while cycling is commonly linked to seat position. Often riders experienced pain on one side of the back or both from incorrect saddle fore-aft and height.
If you are someone that often has a problem with your back while riding, check your saddle fore-aft, tilt and height. Many times back discomfort from saddle position is caused by:
-Incorrect Saddle height
– Incorrect Saddle fore-aft position (or Saddle Setback)
– Incorrect Saddle tilt
– Wrong saddle width
– Incorrect saddle to handlebar reach.
While other factors can cause lower back discomfort, the above are the most common causes for lower back pain caused by seat position within experienced cyclists.
Lower Back Pain Cycling One Side – What are the causes?
Often you hear about cyclists experiencing lower back pain on one side. This is the second most common injury behind knee pain while cycling. So, it is not uncommon to see a lot of cyclists dealing with pain on one side.
So what causes this?
Pain on one side of the back while riding is often caused by incorrect saddle height. If the saddle forces the rider to over-extend their leg during the downstroke, the hip connected to the shorter leg will drop. While this may only be a few centimeters, it will be happening thousands of times during a ride, forcing the opposite side of the back to work harder to stabilize the pelvis.
By lowering the saddle you will prevent overextension of the leg and reduce any movement of the pelvis.
Other cases that might put excess pressure on one side are incorrect saddle width and too much handlebar drop.
Either way, it is important to talk with a qualified bike fitter in your area that can help diagnose the cause of your back issues.
Upper Back Pain From Cycling
Although lower back pain is the most common back discomfort people suffer from on a bike, upper back pain from cycling still affects many riders.
However, upper back pain from cycling is usually caused by incorrect handlebars and reach rather than saddle position or height.
When a rider is using handlebars that are too narrow or wide for the rider they place excess stress around the upper back and shoulders.
Alternatively, neck and upper back discomfort can be caused by excess weight on the handlebars. Forcing the rider to use their upper body to stabilize the pelvis. Or lastly, having a reach from the saddle to handlebars that is too long.
Just like lower back pain, it is important to go see a qualified bike fitter. They will diagnose the issues causing the problem and help regain comfort on the bike again.