The 2015 Tour De France consisted of 21 gruelling stages, amounting to 2,087 miles of cycling in just three weeks. Today, almost every team has its own chiropractor, but why? What does cycling that far do to your back?
The first thing to note is that cyclists competing at Le Tour rarely employ a chiropractor for pain relief. More commonly, chiropractors are hired to make improvements to the way the cyclists’ bodies function to optimise performance.
Nevertheless, being on the saddle for 84 hours, performing 500,000 pedal revolutions, will have some consequences for the spine.
Chiefly, as riders seek an aerodynamic position the spine is bent forwards to relatively low-set handlebars. This forward bending in the low back increases loading on intervertebral discs, and the more the spine is bent, the more pressure increases.
It is no surprise then that scientists have found a positive correlation between increasing bend forward and back pain amongst cyclists.
What is interesting is that there is no such relationship between bending forwards more and sciatic-type pain in cyclists. And there is a good reason for this.
As cyclists bend forward the pressure on the disc increases and it starts to bulge. This puts them at risk of irritating the nerves that pass close to discs in the spine. But being bent over also increases the width of the canals these nerves pass through, meaning there is space for the disc to bulge without compressing the nerve.
Approximately 30% of elite cyclists report lower back pain, which is lower than the general population. Cycling, therefore, is a relatively good activity in respect of lower back problems. But underlying disc injuries are a prevalent condition for riders, and embarking on an appropriate “Pre-habilitative” programme is essential to prevent them from interrupting your progress as a cyclist.
Common Cycling Injuries
Unquestionably cycling is very good activity that has excellent health and fitness benefits. Nevertheless, there are injuries that are more common amongst cyclists than participants in other sports.
It is our intention at Worcester Chiropractic Clinic to educate patients to be able to rehabilitate and avoid these injuries wherever possible, thereby prolonging and making more enjoyable their cycling career.
Injuries amongst cyclists can be grouped into categories dependant on where in the body the effect.
Cycling Knee Injuries
Knee injuries amongst cyclists are the most common cause of time off cycling. The strain on the knee comes not through impact or massive force, but through repetitive movement. It is, therefore, absolutely paramount that bikes are set up properly, the best person to do this being a cycling club coach or cycle shop owner. Worcester University (external link) and Worcester and Malvern CTC (external link) are the closest cycle fitting facilities to Worcester Chiropractic Clinic.
Even if you have your bike set up perfectly, knee injuries are still common amongst cyclists.
A commmon diagnosis is patellofemoral pain sysndrome (PFPS for short), which literally means pain of the part of the leg where the thigh bone and knee-cap meet.
Symptoms of PFPS include pain on the knee cap of one or both knees. This is usually made worse with activity, particularly running, cycling and descending stairs. There should be no redness or swelling present.
The reason for this pain is less easy to establish. By definition, patellofemoral pain syndrome is not caused by damage to cartillage, tendon or ligament. Typically, this type of knee pain is due to irritation, either of the membrane that surrounds the knee joint or the surface of the joint between the knee-cap and thigh bone.