As riding a bike requires you to work mainly on the lower part of your body, it can be surprising that cycling neck pain is such a common problem. This is one of the most common overuse injuries that cyclists report. Neck pain caused by bicycling is typically manifesting itself as a very stiff neck and difficulty turning the head from side to side. This pain can also affect muscles throughout the shoulders and arms.
A pain in the neck may not be as disruptive as cycling saddle sores or cycling knee pain, but it is still a source of discomfort that you do not want. Long after you get off your bike, a sore neck can keep you from enjoying many other activities.
Causes of Cycling Neck Pain
Horizontal Riding Posture
Most cyclists lean forward over the bicycle handlebars when riding, especially those on road racing bicycles. While our neck muscles are strong, they are not meant to support the head for an extended amount of time when the body is horizontal. As you extend your body further over the handlebars, your neck muscles have to create more tension and use more effort to support your head. If you hold this position for long rides, it can lead to the tightening of the muscles and cycling neck pain.
Shocks and Jolts
Especially if you enjoy mountain biking, the muscles in the neck absorb the shock of the many impacts as your bike goes over rocks and other uneven surfaces. Even when riding around town, your bike can go over enough bumps and ledges to affect your neck. When riding over, especially rough or unfamiliar surfaces, cyclists tend to grip the handlebars tensely. This causes the neck muscles to stiffen and absorb even more impact.
How to Avoid Cycling Neck Pain?
When possible, try to sit as vertically as possible. If you do need to lean over the handlebars, try to take breaks routinely and stand up on your bike occasionally to give your neck muscles a break.
Choose the Right Bike and Adjust It For Your Height
If your bike is too long, it can cause you to have poor posture, so always check your bicycle size before purchasing. If you are stuck with a bike that has a stem that is too long, you can adjust the saddle and raise the handlebars to allow for better positioning and less neck pain when cycling.
Stretch and Strengthen Your Neck
Warm up your neck muscles with a few stretches, such as rolling your head from side to side, up and down. In addition to stretching, you can also perform strength training exercises.
For example, you can perform what is known as neck sit-ups. This involves laying face down on a bed or a workout bench, or any other flat surface, with your head hanging down over the edge. In a slow and controlled motion, you lift and extend your head up above the neutral spine. You can then work on flexion by flipping over, letting your head hang over the side, and slowing pulling your chin to your chest.
Products for Neck Pain Treatment
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Do Not Ignore Cycling Neck Pain
While it is not uncommon for cyclists to experience some pain and stiffness in the neck, this does not mean that you should not take these symptoms seriously. If the pain is persistent, even after you have rested, there could be serious problems developing, such as a degenerative disk. If your cycling neck pain continues, see a chiropractor for a consultation.
Tip: See a chiropractor if you suffer persistent neck pain.
You've tried deep heat muscle rubs, agonizing sports massages and expensive spa treatments and your neck pain still refuses to go away. In this case, you should see a chiropractor. While most neck pain for cyclists is caused by sore muscles, persistent neck pain may be indicative of degenerative disks or other more severe ailments. It's best to get it checked out by a professional.
Books About Neck Pain
More information about cycling neck pain and other types of cycling related pain can be found on several informative books. Take a look at these selected books: