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Cycling Shoulder Pain
Cycling Shoulder Pain
Cycling Shoulder Pain

Cycling shoulder pain is a common problem for cyclists who have just started, especially when they decide to push themselves to the limit without first knowing how to cycle correctly in the first place. So before you go ahead and try your first ten miles journey on your brand-spanking-new mountain bike, you may want to keep these tips in mind:

Signs of Cycling Shoulder Pain

There are two kinds of back pain that you can experience when you first start cycling: upper back pain and lower back pain.

As these two types of back pain are different, I would leave the subject of lower back pain for now. If you are interested in learning more about this type of back pain, you are invited to visit my article about back pain from cycling.

Right now, I will focus on upper back pain. The signs of this kind of back pain might include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A burning sensation in shoulders.
  • Localized pain near the shoulder blades.
  • “Tight” neck muscles.
  • Painful muscle spasms in the neck and shoulder region.
  • Numbness in any of the regions above.

The key point is that you feel these discomforts in the neck, shoulder, and upper back area.

Causes of Cycling Shoulder Pain

This type of upper back pain is caused primarily by three things: poor posture while cycling, overuse injuries due to repetitive motions, and plain old blunt trauma.

Did you know...?

Did you know a loose helmet may cause neck pain while cycling?

This is because loose helmets obstruct your field of vision, forcing you to tilt your neck upwards to see well. This is why achieving a great helmet fit is so important. If you realize that your bike helmet is causing you neck pain, check out our selection of bike helmets and buy a new one.

The first two problems occur when a cyclist sits up too straight forward while cycling. The last problem occurs when a cyclist rides too rigidly and lets the shock of the impact do greater damage to muscle groups.

Other causes include a saddle that does not fit your height, a loose or tilted saddle that causes you to rock about, using handlebars that don't match the reach of your arms, misaligned bicycle pedals that don't match the cycling motions of your legs, lack of stretching before cycling and weak muscle groups.

Treating Cycling Shoulder Pain

Stretches

The first thing you can do to treat the upper back pain is to stretch intensively before and after any cycling session. Reach out with your arms and pull them back with your shoulders. Do this about half a dozen times. Pull your arms to your chest, let your elbows stick out to the side, and pull your elbows back as far as you can before letting your arms bounce back forward. Do this half a dozen times. Then, "shrug" your shoulders up to your neck and pull them down to the ground behind you. Do this half a dozen times. Once you're done with the whole thing, repeat the cycle twice.

These stretches open up the blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscle groups in the upper back region, priming them for cycling or disentangling them after a long, arduous cycling session. Take a look at this video about the Cycling Stretching Routine, Flexibility Program for Cyclists:

Hot Compress

The next best thing you can do is to apply a hot compress to the areas where you feel pain or numbness. Stretching may physically loosen up the blood vessels compressed by cycling, but a hot compress uses heat to dilate the smaller vessels that cannot be opened up physically.

The heat also helps desensitize the nerves affected by the repetitive motions, reducing the uncomfortable sensation of pain and numbness. If the pain is due to blunt trauma, like when you accidentally bend your neck at an awkward angle after hitting a bump, then immediately applying a cold compress will do the trick. This prevents swelling and quickly alleviates the pain caused by direct injuries such as the one mentioned above, although you'll still need to apply a hot compress when the injury starts healing on its own.

Foam Rollers, Acupressure Mats and More

If you're experiencing back pain despite the practical measures mentioned above, consider getting a few products designed to alleviate pain caused by intensive and repetitive motions. Could you take, for example, foam rollers? These useful little devices can manually "roll out" the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves affected by repetitive cycling motions.

Acupressure mats produce the same effect but use smaller studs to apply pressure to specific points around the back. These are convenient for when you want to alleviate back pain, even while at rest. Take a look at these products:

Cycling Shoulders Pain
Cycling Shoulders Pain

Preventing Cycling Shoulder Pain

Now, as mentioned earlier, all the measures will only work if you repeatedly make the same mistakes while cycling.

The first thing you need to do is assume the proper cycling position - something that can only be done when your bike fits your body. You should be able to reach out to the handlebars comfortably (not awkwardly) even while slightly bent forward.

You should be able to bend forward with your back loose and limber while cycling, and this is only possible if the seat is steadily fixed and perfectly matches your height. You can get all this done by visiting your bike shop and having them adjust the bike to your physique.

The last thing you can do to prevent pain is stretch before cycling. This primes the muscles and gets the blood flowing, minimizing the risk of small injuries occurring inside the muscle groups. You would be surprised at how a little stretching can go a long way to preventing pain in the long run!

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