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  1. #1
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Help with lower back pain

    I've just recently lost enough weight to ride in the drops on my bike. I really like the feel and I think it's a good idea to ride in the position as much as you can to get used to it. The problem is I tend to get a tight lower back a lot of times after rides.

    I went to a doctor today and he just gave me a shot and said stop cycling and just walk (real winner this guy). It's always the same spot (lower left section of my back) and I think my lower back is weak. Any coaches out there that can suggest ways to strengthen the back? Stretching doesn't seem to stop the muscle from seizing up.
    Last edited by garethzbarker; 08-24-10 at 08:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Perma-n00b Askel's Avatar
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    Lots and lots of core exercies. Those goofy things you do with exercise balls seem to help a little, but for me- the only really good core strengthening stuff that delivers real results for me are the classic powerlifting stuff- deadlifts and squats particularly.

    I take this stuff pretty seriously. My lower back is always the first thing to bother me in mountain bike races, and a good strong core helps prevent injury when I inevitably crash.

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    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    I don't race but sometimes even an unexpected bump can jar my back out. I injured it 15 years ago doing hard labor (for pay not in jail) and unfortunately didn't take care of it properly I think. Squats sound like a good idea. My dad made me tons of those when I was like 10 so I remember how to do them properly. They are also good b/c you can do them with odd objects.

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    Core exercises are the only way to get past this issue, IMHO - as long as your problem is not structural - no bulging discs or sciatica or anything like that. Those need medical attention. Pick up any of the cycling/coaching books (by Chris Carmichael or Joe Friel or others) and they'll have some really good exercises, including those you can do at home without the benefit of going to the gym. The pilates and yoga based ones work best for me. Those books are often in the library, btw.

    Are your hamstrings/glutes tight or sore also? If so, that's a sign that your saddle may be a touch too high. Tight hamstrings/glutes will exacerbate lower back issues. Finding the right saddle height won't eliminate the need to strengthen your core, but it will help reduce the discomfort.

    Another thing to consider is a chiropractor. I don't use one, but lots of friends who had bad backs swear by them.

    JB
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  5. #5
    Senior Member dbikingman's Avatar
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    Oh by the way, find a new doctor.

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    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Since I had a fitting saddle height has been fine. I really think it's a combo of weak lower back muscles and and extra fat on the gut. I can bend over into the drops and still breath from aerobic to the beginning of anaerobic but when my heart starts hitting 90% the hard breaths push on the gut and I have to come up a little to remain loose and comfortable. Losing the gut and strengthening my back seems like logical steps to me.

    And yeah I'm going to look for a new doctor. I think I'll try to find a sport medical specialist. I'm 34, people my age are starting to get older and will pull muscles doing sports and I think that's normal. I don't think the doctor was justified in telling me to quit cycling over a couple of light muscle injuries. I've pulled my back worse in bed, but that doesn't mean I should stop using it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by garethzbarker View Post
    I've pulled my back worse in bed

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    My lower back pain stems from tight and sore hamstrings. My hammies get used a ton during cycling and if I neglect to stretch after a long hard ride I will be paying the price the next day.

    My daily routine consists of 10 minutes of stretches and core exercises, focusing primarily on my hamstrings, right before bed and I find I am good to go.

  9. #9
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    I find it helpful to have my bars 2" higher than my saddle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanwood View Post
    My lower back pain stems from tight and sore hamstrings. My hammies get used a ton during cycling and if I neglect to stretch after a long hard ride I will be paying the price the next day.

    My daily routine consists of 10 minutes of stretches and core exercises, focusing primarily on my hamstrings, right before bed and I find I am good to go.
    Those are the classic symptoms of a saddle that's too high and/or too far back - indicating you'd be a good candidate for a professional fit. The quads are stronger and really should be the muscles used primarily in cycling.

    JB
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    Check out my cycling blog.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garethzbarker View Post
    I've just recently lost enough weight to ride in the drops on my bike. I really like the feel and I think it's a good idea to ride in the position as much as you can to get used to it. The problem is I tend to get a tight lower back a lot of times after rides.

    I went to a doctor today and he just gave me a shot and said stop cycling and just walk (real winner this guy). It's always the same spot (lower left section of my back) and I think my lower back is weak. Any coaches out there that can suggest ways to strengthen the back? Stretching doesn't seem to stop the muscle from seizing up.
    First dump the pill pusher and find yourself a real doctor. There are 2 potential issues with the back, structural and muscular, they each require different doctors, your GP's job is to coordinate the efforts of the specialists. Structural which is bone related is the domain of orthopaedics, the carpenters of the medical world, it's amazing what these guys can do with a hammer and power drill

    Muscular is the domain of the physical or occupational therapist (which in some places are not actually doctors), although you may be able to look up core and back exercises and do this yourself, it depends on what your medical insurance covers

    One issue, if your not used to riding in the drops, then you may want to use them less then you would like. I save the drops for times I need the drops, like tucking in on a downhill, or when going uphill and needing a full head of steam, if you find yourself using them a lot then it may be time to lower your bars a little, if you have a quill stem then this is easy, just loosen the top bolt and lower the bars a little, you only want to go about 5mm or so (about inch) at a time, with a threadless stem you want to remove the stem, see if you can find a 5mm spacer under there and remove it, reinstall the stem and put the spacer above the stem. before putting on the top cap.

  12. #12
    Clever Title scott kursk's Avatar
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    My back is one of the few muscle groups I've never torn or injured oddly enough due to sports. When my back started to hurt pretty good a few months ago (thanks to all the weight), I used a combination of Watkins Linament and doing deadlifts. If you do deadlifts, take a note from the otherwise crazy Mike Mentzer and OBSESS over form and doing it slowly. I used those medical tubing band looking things from a sports store to start. I'm back to using my Soloflex and doing much much higher weights. Mind you, I did used to do powerlifting so I love deadlifts since they really do work many groups, especially your back.

    Mind you, if you do your form wrong you will pay the price. Perfection is your goal, going slow and starting light is the perfect compliment for that. Oh, and +1 on getting a new doctor.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogsterca View Post
    First dump the pill pusher and find yourself a real doctor. There are 2 potential issues with the back, structural and muscular, they each require different doctors, your GP's job is to coordinate the efforts of the specialists. Structural which is bone related is the domain of orthopaedics, the carpenters of the medical world, it's amazing what these guys can do with a hammer and power drill

    Muscular is the domain of the physical or occupational therapist (which in some places are not actually doctors), although you may be able to look up core and back exercises and do this yourself, it depends on what your medical insurance covers

    One issue, if your not used to riding in the drops, then you may want to use them less then you would like. I save the drops for times I need the drops, like tucking in on a downhill, or when going uphill and needing a full head of steam, if you find yourself using them a lot then it may be time to lower your bars a little, if you have a quill stem then this is easy, just loosen the top bolt and lower the bars a little, you only want to go about 5mm or so (about inch) at a time, with a threadless stem you want to remove the stem, see if you can find a 5mm spacer under there and remove it, reinstall the stem and put the spacer above the stem. before putting on the top cap.
    This is all good information thanks. I was thinking about dropping the bars just this morning. I have ny first group ride this weekend so I don't want to make any changes to the bike until I complete that though. We have pretty good medical here it's just finding the right doctor and my Korean is a little poor so that makes it difficult, my wife (Korean) thinks I'm too sensitive about fit and muscles issues but she's the one with permanent ankle pain from ignoring a foot problem I'm actually considering an acupuncturist... I know that sounds crazy and I'm a western medicine kind of guy but I've had nothing but 100% success from these guys on muscle pains since I've moved to Asia. It's also super cheap so nothing really lost.

    I took 2 days off b/c it was raining anyway and just stretched. This morning I stretched the tightness out and went out to a brand new piece of asphalt not open to roads yet. 5 lanes of car-less heaven for about a mile. I just road that over and over. I think it might be a good a idea to practice dropping in a really relaxed environment like that for a while until I limber up and the back heals. For riding in new environments I'll stick to the hoods for a while.

  14. #14
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    I once had my saddle tilted too far back. Caused pain all day long after the ride. Felt as if the saddle was separating my hips from my lower back. Adjusted the tilt, problem solved. Maybe check the tilt. Not all fitters are 100% correct in their work.

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    My back pain (very low, right above the SI joint) was caused by tight and weak glutes. They got so tight that they started pulling on lower back structures. Daily stretching and exercising of the glutes made the difference between being able to do a climb without stopping, and having to stop every quarter mile to stretch.

  16. #16
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    I've been battling with my saddle since I got it tilt-wise Mr. Beanz so I wouldn't be surprised. I have a Brooks B-17 and I tend to slide forward on if level so it is a bit nose high. I never considered this as cause but I could see how it would slightly arch your back or even make you lean a bit to one side to avoid ball pressure. I'll take a look at that. I've almost got her level now after months of stretching and conditioning.

  17. #17
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garethzbarker View Post
    I've been battling with my saddle since I got it tilt-wise Mr. Beanz so I wouldn't be surprised. I have a Brooks B-17 and I tend to slide forward on if level so it is a bit nose high. I never considered this as cause but I could see how it would slightly arch your back or even make you lean a bit to one side to avoid ball pressure. I'll take a look at that. I've almost got her level now after months of stretching and conditioning.
    I've gotten my saddle set up perfectly in the past. Then after the saddle wears in, it seems to change a bit and "another" slight adjustment is needed at that point. Sometimes it seems the nose gives a bit, then I have to tilt back, maybe the back of the saddle flattens out , then less tilt, depends on the sadddle IME. Maybe others are different but keep it in mind, you may need to adjust later on after some saddle breakin if you find that your results are the same as mine.

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    I am 6ft and currently 230lbs. I also suffer from the lower left (and sometimes right side but not as much) back "strain".

    My good friend who has been cycling his entire life gave me an exercise to do to strengthen these muscles. I really need to remember to schedule these exercises as I am really really bad with indoor exercising. That has to change before winter btw.

    Anyway, here is what I do.

    Lie on your stomach on a pad or at least have pads under your elbows. raise your body like in a pushup but support it with your toes and your elbows. I leave my forearms on the ground and use them for support as well. Make your back straight and clench your butt cheeks, hold for a couple of seconds (I hold for as long as I can but no longer than say 5 seconds or so) and relax. Do as many reps as you can manage but do not strain yourself. I started these but not seriously and your thread just gave me the reminder I needed to do these so THANKS!!!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrj View Post
    Lie on your stomach on a pad or at least have pads under your elbows. raise your body like in a pushup but support it with your toes and your elbows. I leave my forearms on the ground and use them for support as well. Make your back straight and clench your butt cheeks, hold for a couple of seconds (I hold for as long as I can but no longer than say 5 seconds or so) and relax. Do as many reps as you can manage but do not strain yourself. I started these but not seriously and your thread just gave me the reminder I needed to do these so THANKS!!!
    These are called planks. You can also do side planks which work slightly different muscles.

    http://www.abs-exercise-advice.com/plank.html

  20. #20
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garethzbarker View Post
    This is all good information thanks. I was thinking about dropping the bars just this morning. I have ny first group ride this weekend so I don't want to make any changes to the bike until I complete that though. We have pretty good medical here it's just finding the right doctor and my Korean is a little poor so that makes it difficult, my wife (Korean) thinks I'm too sensitive about fit and muscles issues but she's the one with permanent ankle pain from ignoring a foot problem I'm actually considering an acupuncturist... I know that sounds crazy and I'm a western medicine kind of guy but I've had nothing but 100% success from these guys on muscle pains since I've moved to Asia. It's also super cheap so nothing really lost.

    I took 2 days off b/c it was raining anyway and just stretched. This morning I stretched the tightness out and went out to a brand new piece of asphalt not open to roads yet. 5 lanes of car-less heaven for about a mile. I just road that over and over. I think it might be a good a idea to practice dropping in a really relaxed environment like that for a while until I limber up and the back heals. For riding in new environments I'll stick to the hoods for a while.
    Acupuncture has been used in Asia for thousands of years, if it didn't work to a large extent it would have disappeared a long time ago. My wifes uncle is an acupuncturist, chiropractor and naturopath in one, when my back gave me trouble, he fixed it right up.

  21. #21
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    I always enjoy the Superman exercise. I will also do crunches to help strengthen the abs. Stretching is a good idea as well, everything from your neck to your calves.

    I also second the recommendation of getting a new doctor and getting a proper fit.
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  22. #22
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    I'll add on to the stretching theme. If you sit a lot (driving, desk job, etc.) then your hip muscles may be tight as well. I've had a lot of lower back pain. I do a lot of core work and even dedicate at least 1 day a week to doing nothing but core exercises. I've gotten a lot of relief by using a Foam Roller on my hip flexors, IT band, glutes and quads. It's like giving yourself a sports massage. And like a sports massage it's not a very pleasant experience when you do it but the results are really worth it.

  23. #23
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    Been doing some of these exercises after rides and at night before bed, I really like to do the planks, then hold a pose I see in yoga a lot (the one where they are arching their backs up and looking at the ceiling) while my heart lowers then do the superman and stretch out. Back feels awesome. Thanks for the tips guys. Going to lower my stem tonight as my back already feels much better and holding the drops is 100% easier.

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