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Cycling shouldn’t be a pain in the neck!

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

Dr. Kacy Seynders PT, DPT is a runner and triathlete and belongs to the Atlanta Triathlon club. We are very excited that she will be joining our team at Precision in September! to share her knowledge and expertise in triathlon. Keep an eye out for her up coming blogs. In mid- August we will begin excepting appointments for Dr. Seynders.

Have you ever been several miles into your bike ride and noticed that your head felt

heavy? Or have you experienced cramping or a “crick” in your neck? What about

pain or difficulty turning your head to look for oncoming traffic?

Neck pain is among the three most prevalent areas of pain in cyclists, along with

knee and low back pain. Oftentimes as endurance athletes, we assume that some

level of discomfort is the price we pay for choosing to do an activity - running, biking

or swimming - for a long period of time, but there are simple fixes that can decrease

pain associated with training and prevent possible injury.

Bike fit: First and foremost, as with any pain associated with cycling, assessing your

bike fit should be a priority. The bike fitting process should be frequent and fluid,

with open communication with your bike fitter, particularly if something doesn’t

feel right. I recommend a new bike fit before each race season, or at least once a

year. A fit will be even more important if you’ve had an injury of any kind, lower

extremity or otherwise. Some common issues related to the neck, or cervical spine,

include handlebar position, aerobar position and top tube (the part of the bike

between the seat and handlebars) length. Reaching too far for your handlebars or

the pads of your aerobars can change the position of your shoulder blades and

therefore place strain on the muscles that connect the neck and shoulder. These are

the muscles most famous for that “cramping” or “crick” type feeling.

More “aggressive” bike fits are becoming popular among triathletes, with the body

placed as parallel to the bike as the athlete can tolerate. This position requires good

hip and cervicothoracic mobility, strong abdominals and endurance of the spinal


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Equipment: Your bike helmet and sunglasses may also be to blame for your neck

pain. Your helmet shouldn’t slide side to side or forward and back at any time

during your ride, and it should remain high enough on your forehead so that you

don’t have to change your neck position to be able to see. If you race with an aero

helmet, make sure you are training at race distances several times to assess for any

neck pain and build up postural endurance so that there are no surprises on race

day. Aero helmets require good upper cervical (the first few joints of your neck)

mobility and can be difficult for some athletes to wear. Helmets that have less

coverage on the back portion will generally be more comfortable.

Sunglasses should also fit snugly and remain high on the bridge of your nose. It is

ideal if the lenses are large enough so that you don’t have to peer over the top part

of the frame at any time during your ride, especially in the aero position. If you have

to extend your neck to be able to see through the lenses, that’s a good rule of thumb

that those are not the right sunglasses for you.

Cycling form: Although a proper bike fit can get you in the correct position, it’s your

job to keep yourself there! As fatigue sets in, it can be tempting to let your bike hold

you up, instead of you holding yourself up on your bike! Check in with yourself

every 15 minutes or so, and assess the position of your neck and shoulders, as well

as your weight distribution. If you are in the aero position, your shoulder blades

should be wrapped outwardly, with your elbows directly underneath your

shoulders (think of a forearm plank position). Ideally, your upper back and neck are

aligned, and you shouldn’t have to expend too much effort to keep your eyes level

with the road. The abdominals should be slightly engaged. On a road bike, the

elbows should be slightly bent, with less than 35 percent of your body weight in the


Learning to use gears appropriately while doing harder workouts and climbing can

help, too. If you are using a too-heavy gear, you are more likely to compensate with

trunk movements and pull on the handlebars, which over time can contribute to

fatigue of the stabilizing muscles of your spine and shoulder blades.

Some symptoms to look out for regarding injury to the neck and shoulder region

include: numbness/tingling of the arm or hands, headaches associated with cycling

that are not related to dehydration or poor nutrition or loss of range of motion due

to neck pain. The physical therapists at Precision Performance can assess your

specific deficits in mobility and strength and design a treatment plan to improve

your riding endurance and get you riding more comfortably!

Keep going: you got this!

Kacy Seynders PT, DPT

Dr. Kacy Seynders PT, DPT is a runner and triathlete and belongs to the Atlanta Triathlon club. As an athlete herself, Kacy has a unique understanding of the endurance athlete lifestyle and the impact that injury can have on that lifestyle. She brings this empathy and passion to every patient in her care, utilizing a comprehensive and holistic approach to improve the way they move so that they can keep doing what they love. We are very excited that she will be joining our team at Precision in September to share her knowledge and expertise in treating runners and triathletes. Keep an eye out for her up coming blogs. In mid- August we will begin excepting appointments for Dr. Seynders.

1 commentaire

24 sept. 2021

Thhank you for this

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