CHARLESTON, SC – Whether you’re a casual rider or have Tour de France dreams, there are a few things you can do to avoid neck soreness when cycling.
A lot of people experience neck pain from how they’re positioned on their bike.
“Appropriate adjustments of your handlebars and your seat, or saddle, to put your whole spine in a good position is the way to avoid problems with your neck,” says Michael Schaefer, MD, a spine specialist.
When cycling, your head is tipped upward, which can aggravate arthritis in the neck, pinched nerves and spinal stenosis. However, most neck pain from cycling is muscle stiffness or soreness from sitting in an awkward position for a long period of time.
A helmet that isn’t properly adjusted can also make a difference in comfort and neck stiffness.
Bicycle fit is also important. Even if you are using an older bicycle that you’ve owned for years, you should visit a local bike shop to have it properly “fit” for you. Most reputable shops are often able to make adjustments to help you accommodate to them.
For instance, patients with knee pain usually feel more comfortable with their seats in an elevated position. Neck pain can often be relieved by using raised handlebars. And a good pair of padded bicycling shorts goes a long way toward preventing skin irritation.
Soreness in the back of the neck or shoulders can be treated using heat or ice – ice is best if the area feels swollen or warm.
If your neck is sore, it’s also a good idea to take a break from your bike until you’re feeling more comfortable.
Gentle stretching can help. “Touching the chin to the chest and then the ear to each shoulder is a good way to loosen up these muscles,” says Dr. Schaefer.
If you have neck pain that radiates all the way over the top of your head, numbness or tingling that shoots down the arms, or if the pain doesn’t gradually improve in about two weeks, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.