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Cycling Neck Pain

Cycling Neck Pain

In many ways, the reasons for neck pain in cyclists mirror the reasons for neck pain in office workers, namely sustained awkward neck postures. In an office environment this is easier to fix by improving workstation ergonomics and encouraging workers not to slouch.

A cyclist typically has their spine tilted forwards by about 45 degrees to reach the handlebars. Therefore, in order to look forward along the road or trail, the neck is typically extended 45 degrees. This is the cycling equivalent of walking around looking at the ceiling for the entire time!

As this basic cycling posture needs to be maintained, fixing cycling neck pain can quite complex.

Cyclists with neck pain often have more rounded shoulders and tend to hitch their shoulders when riding (a weak and lazy position for the shoulder girdle and neck muscles). This can be due to lack of awareness, poor habits and partly due to weakness/ fatigue of the neck stabilising muscles and shoulder girdle area. The good news is that this can be overcome with the appropriate retraining strategies.

One of the most common interventions, which is very effective but not always popular amongst cyclists who favour a low, aerodynamic position, is to raise the handlebars of the bike. This reduces the stressful angles on the neck and can often be enough of a change to allow cyclists to continue training while working on improving posture, muscle strength and “motor control”. When strength and control has improved, then the aerodynamic position can slowly be restored.

Other strategies that can be quite effective in the short term are reducing training loads, supporting the neck and shoulders with strapping tape, altering postures while on the bike by changing hand grip, and getting out of the saddle more frequently to alter spine angle.

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