A look at the causes of neck pain for cyclists and mountain bikers and how to fix it.
Neck pain is very common for people who cycle, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Cycling should be a comfortable experience. Whether a person uses their bike for transport, recreation, or exercise, a tight or stiff neck can occur. Neck tension and pain can lead to pain in other parts of the upper body and a general feeling of discomfort. This can also lead to future injuries if not treated. It can also mean people are reluctant to use their bikes. The good news is that neck pain from cycling is treatable and preventable.
What Causes Neck Pain For Cyclists
The alignment of the spine during cycling is not great. The mid and low regions of the spine are excessively hunched or ‘flexed’. As a result of this the rider has to lift their chin away from their chest in order to see ahead. This causes an excessive ‘extension’ of the neck, which compresses the small joints in the neck called facet joints. Additionally the soft tissue at the back of the neck, the muscles, tendons and ligaments are all shortened. As a result the neck will feel uncomfortable and to the rider this can feel like stiffness, tightness or pain.
This whole situation is made worse for two reasons. Firstly, the head is heavy and weighs 12-14lbs even when it is positioned directly on top of the spine. In the cycling position it effectively weighs more than 40lbs so the supporting muscles have to work very, very hard, often for a long period. Some of these muscles weren’t designed to do that role. As a result they go into spasm. The second reason is that the arms are held in a forward position during cycling putting an even greater demand on the same muscles.
Many amateur cyclists also have long hours at work in positions that aren’t ideal either, such as driving or working at a pc, so they are already creating the same type of affect. It is essential therefore that they have a workstation assessment in order that work doesn’t get in the way of bike rides!
What To Do
STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH!!!
The best way to relieve neck pain from cycling is through stretching the muscles and ligaments. This will also open the joints and relieve pressure. It is important to do this before and after cycling but also during any natural breaks in the ride.
One product that helps with stretching is necksaviour. It is very easy and comfortable to use. It's light and portable and the user can often feel the benefit very quickly. Using this device stretches your neck and relieves tension and pain.
For more information on this device check out: https://www.necksaviour.com/.
Prevention is better than cure!
Once the pain is relieved it is important to prevent pain in the future by continuing to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the neck regularly. The muscles that need strengthening in particular are the Deep Neck Flexors. These are endurance muscles and can improve the alignment of the neck and help to stabilise it.
Improving posture can prevent and improve many spinal problems. Yoga, Pilates and The Alexander Technique are especially helpful. All of this will have added benefits besides helping you to be pain free because they can improve flexibility and health generally.
It is also vital that your bike is ‘set up’ for you personally. Again this can help to prevent cycling neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain and even nerve symptoms such as pins and needles in the hands during or after rides.
Even if you don’t have pain associated with cycling now, exercises and stretching should always be done to keep cycling fun and pain free in the future.