This week is Bike Week, which aims to inspire more people to take to 2 wheels.
Cycling is a wonderful way to exercise, whatever your level or age. It’s great for cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, flexibility and has a host of health benefits.
It’s a safe form of exercise and is often a great way to start fit if you need to maintain your fitness with a lower impact activity. It’s also a fab way to incorporate exercise into a mode of travel!
However, like many forms of exercise, cycling can become a source of injuries. Cycling injuries tend to fall into 2 camps, either a traumatic injury or an overuse injury.
These are caused by some sort of trauma. This is normally a fall or collision and can be very minor to severe. Traumatic injuries are often accidents that can’t be avoided, but you can take precautions. These include:
- Wearing appropriate protective clothing such as a helmet
- Being up to date with bike maintenance to make sure you bike is in top working order
- Knowing and reading the weather conditions and environment to make sure they fit with your plans
- Understanding your personal limitations and being realistic with your ability. Many accidents occur when people are pushing themselves unrealistically.
Common traumatic cycling injuries include:
- Fractures – often the clavicle (collar bone) or scaphoid (wrist) as you put your arm out to protect you as you fall.
- Bruising – to the muscle and/or bone. This is as a result of falling directly onto the area, often a prominent bony area such as the outside of the hip.
As the name implies, are caused when a part of the body is being ‘overused’ and can’t cope with the physical demands being placed upon it. Cycling is a very repetitive activity, an average cyclist might perform well over 5,000 revolutions an hour. The human body has a threshold of what it will tolerate and sometimes it just can’t cope with prolonged repetitive demands being placed on it. This is when an overuse injury rears it’s head.
The problem with overuse injuries is that they often start gradually as a tiny niggle that you ignore. Before you know it that niggle is a regular occurrence but you think it will just go away just as it appeared. Then it eventually becomes really annoying and can actually becomes so severe it stops you doing the things you love and that may have caused it in the first place, which is even more of a pain!
You can take steps to avoid or minimise the impact of cycling overuse injuries. These include:
- Make sure your bike is set up correctly. This is crucial given the repetitive nature of cycling. Very small adjustments such as saddle and handlebar height can make a huge difference.
- Increase your cycling gradually. Whether its speed, distance or hills – don’t do too much all at once. You need to give your body time to adapt and adjust to the demands being placed upon it.
- Listen to your body. If you feel a little niggle, hold back a bit until it eases off to give your body chance to recover.
- Seek advice at the right time. If a niggle is becoming more than that, it’s better to come and see us sooner rather than later. Overuse injuries that are ignored can often become long term problems and then they’re much harder to resolve and take longer to recover.
Common cycling overuse injuries include:
- Back pain – which is often related to your posture on the bike and easily resolved by changing your bike set up.
- Neck pain – again, this is often posture related and being more aware of your posture and position on the bike can be really helpful.
- Knee pain – including tendonopathies, patellofemoral pain (front of knee) or ITB problems (side of knee).
- Foot or ankle problems – such as achilles tendonopathy or forefoot pain from the pressure of peddling.
As Physio’s we’re highly skilled at identifying and resolving all the injury issues that may arise from cycling. Many of our team are keen cyclists themselves, so can truly identify with what you’re experiencing. If you are suffering with an injury as a result of cycling, give us a call to see how we can help you and get you back on your bike! #BikeWeekUK
Read more about Physiotherapy for Cycling Injuries on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists website.