Common Cycling Injuries

Cycling is an activity that many people enjoy. Some individuals are more experienced than others, but cyclists of any level may experience injuries. Certain injuries can be avoided and some can be treated at home, while other more serious issues may require a visit to a Physical or Occupational Therapist.

Common cycling injuries include:

  • Impact injuries
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck and joint pain (hot foot)
  • Saddle sores 

Impact Injuries 
Impact injuries are the result of a heavy bicycle crash and may lead to a concussion, broken bones, muscle strains, scrapes, and road rash. A concussion may cause temporary changes in brain function and a doctor should be seen to determine whether the injury was mild or more serious. In terms of broken bones, cyclists tend to break their collarbone when they fall as the force gets sent along their arm to the shoulder, and this can take approximately six to eight weeks or more to heal. A stationary bike can be used toward the end of the recovery period though to keep the legs strong and cardiovascular system fit. 

A less obvious form of impact injury is a muscle strain. Returning to your cycling routine shortly after a heavy crash may not give strained muscles enough time to heal.

In such cases, it is often recommended to see a Physical or Occupational Therapist before you begin riding again.

Muscle strains, contusions or tears can also take 4 to 6 weeks to heal so it’s important to monitor your recovery to assess if you are returning to riding too soon or your intensity is too high.

During your recovery, you may also notice a less serious, though often frustratingly painful, impact injury known as road rash, which are scrapes and bruises acquired as your body slides along the road or track after a fall. Although road rash is the least serious injury, it is important to keep the wounds clean in order to prevent infections.

Lower Back Pain
Spending extended periods in a bent forward position while riding a bike can lead to lower back pain. This can stem from improper bike fit or type, training intensity or poor body mechanics that occur when fatigue sets in.  Prolonged lower back pain may eventually begin to radiate through the hips, the thighs, and even the lower legs. Physical or Occupational Therapy can help cyclists learn how to monitor their posture and maintain proper lower back positioning while riding, which should help with lower back pain. 

Neck and Joint Pain 
Neck and joint pain typically occur due to improper weight distribution due to the handlebar or saddle positioning or using a bike that is not the right fit for your body type. When this happens, joint discomfort may arise in the knees, arms, wrists, hands, or feet (hot foot). For instance, frontal knee pain may develop if the saddle is too low, while pain in the back of the knees may be due to the saddle being up too high. Neck and wrist pain may be due to low handle bars that force cyclists to ride at an awkward angle and over extend the neck to look forward down the road or track. Similar to back pain, ongoing neck or joint pain is an indication that it may be time to see a therapist who can help you improve your posture and ensure that you are using the right type of bike.  A great team approach is to get your bike properly assessed and fit by a reputable bike shop, then see your Physical or Occupational Therapist to work through how your body moves and works while on the bike.

Saddle Sores
Saddle sores refer to sores on the skin, especially on the buttocks, that are caused by sweating, chafing, and skin irritation that often accompanies prolonged cycling. Mild saddle sores are simply uncomfortable, while serious sores can stop you from riding. In order to prevent or reduce the chances of getting saddle sores, it is important to choose a saddle that accommodates your anatomy and to make sure the saddle is positioned at a height that prevents side to side movements.  Proper equipment such as padded cycling shorts can also reduce the friction on the skin. Check out our guide to choosing cycling equipment for more details!

If you’ve experienced a cycling injury and are experiencing pain, or you would like to avoid further injury, a Physical or Occupational Therapist can show you specific exercises and stretches that can improve how your body feels and moves. Most importantly, receiving a Physical or Occupational Therapy evaluation ensures that your recovery program will best suit your needs and help you continue to cycle safely. Your Physical or Occupational Therapist will also demonstrate techniques that can help prevent injuries in the future and will work closely with you to make sure you can restore and maintain your mobility, thereby allowing you to quickly return to the activity you enjoy.

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