Man on bike holding back; a neurosurgeon talks about back pain and bike rides.

Achy back after a bike ride? Advice from a neurosurgeon

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You don’t have to be a marathon cyclist to enjoy a long bicycle ride through your city or neighborhood, and with the crisp winter air, it may be the best time to throw on your helmet and coast.

Your neck and back will thank you if you follow some basic advice from a neurosurgeon.

Find the right bike size to saddle up!

Bicycles come in all different sizes so look for the proper height, frame, and styles. An uncomfortable seat or handle bars placed too high can throw off your ride.

“If your bicycle frame doesn’t fit your body, you’re going to be reaching farther, which means you’re going to put extra stress on your back and possibly your neck which could lead to neck injuries,” says Michael Oh, MD, neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Moody Brain and Spine Institute.

If you have trouble, it’s worth asking your local bicycle store for fittings. Test out the bike a few times and see how your body feels to the new adjustments.

Position yourself like a pro

Dr. Oh is an avid cyclist and understands that warming up (stretch like your gym coach told you!) before hopping on the bike can make a difference in performance. More importantly, proper back posture is vital to prevent injuries to the spine and other areas of the body.

DO:

  • Relax your neck and keep eyes up looking up instead of your head.
  • Shift your body weight or reposition from time to time to avoid stiff muscles.
  • While your foot is on the pedal, create a slight bend of the knee so legs have fluid movement while extending.
  • While hands are on the handle bars, create a slight bend of the elbow but keep wrists straight and hands firm.

“Having that slight bend will help with vibrations and the impact coming up your joints to potentially prevent things like carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as other joint issues,” Dr. Oh says.

DON’T:

  • Stiffen your neck
  • Arch or completely straighten your back
  • Grip your handles too hard or put too much weight on them
  • Keep your legs straight

Take care of your neck and back and pedal away!

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