Fifty Plus (50+) - Neck pain
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08-29-05, 11:16 AM
Whenever I ride over a couple of hours the back of my neck and the upper part of my back hurts. It comes, of course, from holding my head up so I can see where i'm going as I ride.
Does anyone know of any exercises, or stretches, I can do to help with this?
Right now I'm stuck with just trying to ignore it.
I'm sure I could solve it by getting a bike with a more upright posture, but I'd rather do it with exercises, if possible.
08-29-05, 11:36 AM
me too, neck and upper back range from good to awful, looking up to see where i was going was a clear contributor to stress on old neck joints, i finally gave up and ordered new custom frame with more upright position built in, could never get it done with stem, seat post and spacers on old orbea. hope it is worth the money!!
But, buy the book, Treat Your Own Neck, by Robin McKenzie, not cycling specific, but wth many good facts and excellent exercises that seem to help, same stuff done by Phy therapist for major bucks, minus deep massage to loosen things up, but very good place to start
08-29-05, 11:42 AM
Are you new to riding? If so, it will take time for your neck muscles to get used to holding up your head. Just keep riding, it will get better. If your helmet has a visor, try removing it to improve your forward view.
08-29-05, 11:50 AM
Exercises do help. I have chronic neck problems but I refuse to abandon drop handlebars. I ride on the hoods most of the time, just using the drops into a headwind or when I need to go fast. Occasionally I will sit up as much as possible and swing my arms about, one at a time. At home I do exercise 4 or 5 days a week, but I couldn't describe them here.
08-29-05, 11:56 AM
- alternatively, change out your stem and get a few centimeters rise... raise the handlebars a bit... make sure you're using a wide enough handlebar (big shoulders = 46 cm)...
- you should not have to experience neck pain from riding a road bike (i assume you're riding a road bike, though you don't say)...
- now if you're riding a comfort bike or hybrid and are experiencing pain, that's another thing altogether!
08-29-05, 07:05 PM
In my case the neck pain is not necessarily caused by cycling, I just seem to store a lot of my stress in my neck. I agree with the suggestion to change the stem - I got one that is a bit shorter and has a slight rise.
08-29-05, 07:46 PM
My 54cm bike came with 40cm handlebars. I had the same neck pain. My shoulder measurement indicated I should have 44cm bars, so I replaced them. Helped a lot although I still get some pain when I forget to relax my arms and shoulders. Tend to ride with arms stiff and shoulders hunched up. This causes muscle tension, try to focus on riding relaxed.
08-29-05, 08:17 PM
That was happenning to me but as I kept riding for a couple of months, it completely disappeared.
I had the same problem, switched to a stem with more rise, and had no pain since.
I tried switching stems, but the problem persisted, so I made another handlebar to add on - it angles up toward me, and allows me to sit completely upright, or to use all the other positions on my drop bars. I'm on a touring bike so speed is not the essence, comfort is.
08-29-05, 09:35 PM
I'd second the motion to raise the bars. My neck hurt for 20 years, until I bought an Atlantis and followed Rivendell's instructions on setup, which put the bars about level with the saddle. Instantly, I could ride 50 percent farther.
08-29-05, 11:20 PM
It would help to know what bike you're riding. Some bikes, my own among them, are easy to set up so that the handlebar and seat are at the same level. Others are more problematic. Other than flat-out racers, there's little need for the bars to be much below seat level. Giving up on drop bars might be worse than the disease; other than "moustache" bars, most flat bars have fewer hand positions than drop bars, and can get really uncomfortable on longer rides.
All the folks suggestions are on track and are things I've experimented with to help with similar issues. From my experience, you can greatly improve the ride experience by getting measured by a good LBS to make sure you're in the right position. Reach, saddle height, handlebar widths are all things that can contribute to discomfort. I've spent a lot of time and money experimenting and I probably could have helped myself if I'd gotten measured sooner.
One of the things that I can recommend is doing sets of what I call "ergos" while riding. Try to touch the side of your head with each shoulder (leaning your head sideways). Tilt your head backwards and forwards. The one that helps me the most is pulling your shoulders back so your back is straight (I'm rounded over when I ride), then pull your head/chin back as far as you can. (Ooops-just did it and felt my neck "pop"-feels so much better now!)
Another thing I do to help the shoulders (per my orthopedists) is to swing the arms around-move in every motion you can think of. Also take you thumbs and try and reach as far up your spine as you can. The idea is to avoid keeping yourself in any position for long a period of time.
I ride in a very agressive position-the handelbars 4 inches below the saddle-and have gotten to where I do not have any neck pain anymore. I started at a neutral position and over 3-4 years am now at this position and able to do 100 miles rides with no soreness, fatigue, etc.
Another thought is I've have friends switch to carbon handlebars/stems and it helped them immensely with aches and pains.
08-31-05, 04:55 PM
Another recumbent candidate.
09-05-05, 05:42 AM
My chiropractor is the inventor of the Nexerciser (www.nexerciser.com) which is used to rehabilitate or strengthen neck muscules without risk of injury. I use it and find it helpes a lot.
John C. Ratliff
09-07-05, 09:35 PM
I would agree with the recumbant suggestion. At least try one out. They are really nice.
I had neck pain too with my upright bicycles (a Trek 1420 and a Schwinn LeTour). I have re-engineered them with longer stems, and the ride is much better. But it is not as good as my Rans Stratus recumbant.
Neck pain will occur with almost everyone if the head is held in a static posture forward of the skeletal (vertebrae) system long enough. The people who really have this problem are the RAA (Race Across America) folks, who ride 20+ hours a day until they get across the USA. One winner had to have a head support improvised toward the end.
Conditioning will help, but so will good ergonomics, which means raising the seat. Also, the type of bicycle can influence it. My Trek is an aluminum frame, and I can feel every single vibration in the roadway. I recently rode a new Trek Pilot carbon fiber bike, and wow-what a difference. Steel is better than aluminum too for soaking up the vibrations.
09-08-05, 07:31 AM
Check out the following link to a usenet discussion of this. The relevant post is the third one. In case the LONG link doesn't work, the gist of the post is, "Regarding neck & shoulder pain, make sure your saddle's level and not pointed down at the nose. A saddle tilted down will shove you forward, and
you spend the entire ride pushing back from the bars to maintain position
(typically without even realizing it's happening). Result? Sore neck &
shoulders. If this is happening, the way to deal with it is with a
different saddle (one that allows you to be comfortable when level) and/or a
change in handlebar positioning so you can be a bit less bent over. "
usenet link (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.bicycles.tech/browse_thread/thread/4e4c992c58a33cb3/9f197fb17eabf317?lnk=st&q=%22Regarding+neck+%26+shoulder+pain,+make+sure+your+saddle%27s+level+and+not%22&rnum=1&hl=en#9f197fb17eabf317)
09-08-05, 11:14 AM
Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions.
I think I figured it out this past weekend.
When I ride I sort of hunch my shoulders and flex my trapezius muscles. Seen from in front I believe it would appear as if I had pulled my head down into my torso a bit.
I have tried to ride with my elbows held in a lower position which makes my trapezius muscles relax and reduces the pain i was feeling in my neck and upper back.
This past weekend I rode 50 miles on both Sunday and Monday and while I had some pain it was much better than it had been before. I had to keep reminding myself to relax. Even when I was thinking about what I'd write here I realized my muscles were tense. So, I'm an idiot who's doing it to himself, I guess.
Thanks again to everyone who responded. I sincerely appreciate it.
09-08-05, 11:25 AM
While riding sit as straight as you can. Then put one hand behind your back and continue to pedal. This will bring much relief to you.
Being a seasoned cyclist there is not much pain I haven't endured. The neck pain may be coming because you have a bad fit for a bike. Check it out. Are your handlebars and seat syncronized. Are your feet and knees in the right position. You can do this check with a pendulum string and weight on the end of it.
I had the same problem and did all the on-bike exercises to make it feel better as I rode. Then I read somewhere that if your bar is too narrow your upper spine and lower neck will hurt; if your bar is too wide the outside of your shoulders will hurt. I went from 42cm to 44cm to 46cm and finally to a 48cm drop bar from Rivendell. My shoulders are 44cm. No more pain so I can concentrate on the ride rather than the pain. Looks a little less than race oriented but I'm not the one rubbing my shoulders and neck after a ride.
Posture is important. Some folks collapse the areas between the shoulders which give rise to problems. It's a bad habit to collapse that area. When you see people just learning to do push-ups, for instance, they sometimes adopt a poor posture that makes the excercise inefficient and painful. So doing a good posture on the bike will become second nature as you learn to develop that area - the upper body benefits along with the leg development.
All good advice above, especially removing the helmut visor.
I developed a very painful case of tendinitis in the left bicep that the doctor treated unsuccessfully with anti-inflammatory drugs. I sought out the services of a Massage Therapist that treated it in no time on a bi-weekly visits. I was also having considerable neck pain accompanied by stiffness and I was having greater and greater difficulty looking over my left shoulder for any rear advancing automotive traffic.
After a few minutes of working the knotted muscles in the neck and upper back, the pain dissipated and my range of neck rotation and mobility increased considerably. A monthly focused massage tune-up keeps the old (51) bod limbered-up!
I feel much safer in traffic now too !
09-23-05, 08:15 AM
You realize that the neck pain also can be dangerous? If you are hyper extending your neck to see up because of your position on the bike, a large bump can cause damage to your spinal column.
This is one of the complaints I have about stupid "threadless" forks. Too many people set their bikes up to look like pro bikes ridden by 20 year olds instead of in a practical manner for REAL(tm) riders.
Needless to say, I set up my bike with a couple of inches of spacers to raise the stem and then use a road stem upside down to get the bars up to between one and two inches below the saddle WHERE THE BARS BELONG.
It is also important to note that using long stems that stretch you out on the bike also pulls your head down.
On my cross bikes I sit up like on a touring bike. On my road bikes I can actually ride on the drops without too much discomfort for long periods of time.
Now I admit that my bikes don't look like the Pro bikes but then I'm not riding at 32+ mph and require the streamlining either.
09-27-05, 05:09 PM
The solution is a long wheel base (LWB) recumbent. No kidding. bk
09-27-05, 05:23 PM
... raise the handlebars a bit... make sure you're using a wide enough handlebar (big shoulders = 46 cm)...
I agree with linux_author. I like my handlebars at the same height as the saddle, and for me, even 46cm wasn't wide enough - I went with the 48cm Nitto "noodle" bar that feels "just right." :)
09-27-05, 07:20 PM
The choice of handlebars also makes a difference. Last year my LBS recommended the Bontrager Race Lite OS in the Flat-Top version. The website says that the "Flat-Top version has shallow drop and level transition to brake lever hoods that raises rider position." It makes for a very comfortable ride. I'm lucky I found an LBS that knew about such things, because I sure didn't.
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