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  1. #1
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    how to avoid back pain?

    Age 60 and have had my bouts with lower back pain. Typical causes are carrying heavy shoulder bags (asymmetrical), odd seated position for long hours at work, and pretending I'm 20 years younger and lifting too heavy items incorrectly.

    I've decided to go from occasional century rider to tourist this summer, and have bought a new bike (Trek 520) and started a weekly training routine of 40-50 miles or so and 2000-3000 feet of climbing and a daily of about 20miles and 1K of climbing.

    For the first time, I have some back pain that's pretty clearly associated with cycling. Not on every ride, but when it hits, I'm out of commission for a few days. I'm not being aggressive in my riding in any way, and take my time to do the climbs. I can't quite nail down what I'm doing that's causing the stress.

    I need some help coming up with a list of things to be mindful of as I ride, to avoid the back stress.

  2. #2
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Strength your core. Sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day (vs real manual labor) makes for a weak core. Cycling uses the core but doesn't do enough to strengthen it.

    If you have upped your climbing significantly that can make your back hurt, because you use your back more for seated climbing. The fix for that is to increase the amount of climbing mor gradually.

  3. #3
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    To quote a famous person, "I feel your pain." Or, at least, I used to. I went through nearly a decade of lower back pain that was caused exclusively by athletic endeavors. My "cure" came about totally by accident. I took a yoga class (way before these things were cool) at my local community college. All my lower body pains left me within a few short months and I really haven't had to deal with them since. The key activity for me was stretching my quads. A simple laid-back hurdlers stretch a few times a day keeps my back happy and pain free.

    A few things about stretching: If your back is already in pain, skip the stretching and just rest it. Also, always move slowly into and out of a position, never jerk. I don't think it is so important to stretch immediately before a ride, but always stretch after a ride and try to make it a habit to do it once or twice during the day, even if only for five minutes.

    One other helpful exercise other than stretching: Lay on the ground on your back with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground. Now force your back to get flat onto the ground. Hold it there for about one minute (less to start). Repeat two to five times. This odd little exercise even helps when your back is in pain.

    Definitely make a friend of aspirin. The pain is usually caused by the inflammation, so get rid of the inflammation. If you can't use aspirin, find a physician who will help you find an anti-inflammatory that you can tolerate.

    As far as on the bike, be sure to mix some pancake flat days into your weekly regimen. If you are going to strain your back, it is going to be while climbing a hill. The flat days let you work on form, build pedal speed and strength all without much risk of aggravating your back, as long as you don't smash into any potholes.

  4. #4
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    yoga will also help.

  5. #5
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    All of the above. And make sure you get a prfessional fit on you bike.

    The 520 looks like a great bike. I had a 1985 Trek 720 unil about 2 years ago, when it go stolen. The Brooks saddlw was the most comfotable saddle I've ever had.

    Have fun!
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    Kevin

  6. #6
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Bike fit and core strength.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  7. #7
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    Thanks for guidance. I will start addressing the stretch and strengthening of core. When I do get back pain, it's typically not from athletic activities are more from schlepping stuff wrong and working very long hours on a computer in odd positions. The bike should be a good fit, but still tweaking things.

    Keep the suggestions coming. I'm eager to make progress.

  8. #8
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Make thy back strong like ox.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

  9. #9
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    Often suffered from lower back issues before I got into jogging and then eventually weights as well some 44 years ago. I figure that it was due to being a couch potato to age 26 due primarily to Asthma. Now at 71, I started get bouts of lower back pain again now and then.

    The worst thing we do to our backs is sit in chairs. If we sat on the floor, we'd be better off. Can't do much about chairs though some sit at their PCs on exercise balls.

    For most, the issue is insufficient muscle development for support and alignment. I've solved my issue (so far) with a hyper extension bench that also converts to a Roman chair. I got this particular one, but not from Amazon as I got it cheaper:

    http://www.amazon.com/Powertec-Fitne.../dp/B000P7ANRI

    There are many price ranges out there. This particular one has the best pads, very stable and the most compact. Some physical therapy programs use these.

    I got to a point where I developed an ache near the end of my typical 19-mile trail-ride especially I let too many days go by between rides.

    I didn't want to raise the bars as I like them low for climbing. Though mountain biking exercises the back to some degree as you use a lot of body English, I doubt road does at all.

    The bench did the trick rather quickly. I've generally avoided exercises that isolate muscle groups preferring more total-body work-outs. In this case, I figured I needed a focused exercise.

    By the way, rest for back issues is not a good idea unless one has really bad pain. It needs to be worked. I always avoid pain killers as much as possible, much preferring the pain as feedback on how much to push it.

    Al

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    Another back pain sufferer here but the pain/discomfort is mostly under control due to exercises to strengthen core muscles. Get a book or scour the web for exercises for such strength work. I begin my day with such exercises even before getting out of bed. It's part of my startup morning routine like brushing teeth. Also, when back twinges begin to encroach on your day, laying flat on the floor, as suggested above, or any exercise that puts your back in mild traction, will help realign things. The principal thing that keeps the various joints aligned is muscle keep 'em strong.

  11. #11
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    Make thy back strong like ox.
    thank you, Uncle Tonoose

  12. #12
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    Would suggest stop shoveling the snow from the driveway but I don't think you have that issue.

  13. #13
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    No. Haven't seen a falling flake in the Bay Area since 1974. Given our politics, however, we do shovel a lot of something else.

  14. #14
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    I find that back pain from cycling occurs when pushing too big a gear. Of course, this assumes that the bike is set up properly for you to begin with. Pushing too big a gear usually occurs in seated climbing, so if you can't shift down low enough that you're not "pushing" the gear, climb out of the saddle (standing) more frequently.

    I ride a fixed gear bike, and most of my climbing is out of the saddle. I used to have low back pain, but avoiding seated climbing, as well as a morning stretch routine, and discontinuing heavy squats and leg presses in the weight room, and now my back feels relatively fine. (If it feels painful in the morning, the morning stretch cures that.)

    L.

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    As a nurse, I have had a lot of training in back injuries because most of us injure our backs once or twice and it cost the hospital a lot in workmans comp. A yearly education update is given. The main thing they talk about other than proper lifting and pulling is to strengthen your core back and waist muscles so injuries are harder to get. Personally, I do the stomach, lower/upper back and waist areas on the machines in the gym. Strengthening the core of your body is fashionable right now, so there are a lot of dvd's and such where you can do it at home. I do think it helps with the bike riding.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    I'm surprised someone has not till now mentioned that a recumbent bicycle be considered. My next bike will be an upright, but I have ridden a recumbent for a couple of years. If you find a good quality bent, you'll find they can be a pleasure to ride, especially in areas where the terrain is a bit flat. Their down side is expense, and slow speed handling IMO, but they are great for back issues, and long distance rides.

  17. #17
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Northwestrider View Post
    I'm surprised someone has not till now mentioned that a recumbent bicycle be considered. My next bike will be an upright, but I have ridden a recumbent for a couple of years. If you find a good quality bent, you'll find they can be a pleasure to ride, especially in areas where the terrain is a bit flat. Their down side is expense, and slow speed handling IMO, but they are great for back issues, and long distance rides.
    I borrowed a recumbent for a while several years ago and found it an interesting experience. I can understand that it would be ideal for a weak back, but I gave it back after failing to get up any of the rather steep hills around here.

    I'm on a Trek520

  18. #18
    Senior Member rjc100's Avatar
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    Thanks for this post and the responses posted.
    I had a hip fracture last Nov and had a very strong back without any problems at that time. During recovery I focused on my hip and legs strength, but now I have just returned to more normal activities and found my back has greatly become my weak point.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by radumas View Post
    I borrowed a recumbent for a while several years ago and found it an interesting experience. I can understand that it would be ideal for a weak back, but I gave it back after failing to get up any of the rather steep hills around here.

    I'm on a Trek520
    Some years back I met a recumbent rider who had crossed America on one one. He commented that recumbents were not good on hills.

    Al

  20. #20
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alcanoe View Post
    Some years back I met a recumbent rider who had crossed America on one one. He commented that recumbents were not good on hills.

    Al
    "Not good" is an understatement. All bikes are unstable at low speeds, recumbents much more so, so at slow hill climbing, you're also at risk of a stall-out. For me, a 4-5% grade became as difficult as a 10+ on a regular bike. I loved the idea; just couldn't handle the realities.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by radumas View Post
    "Not good" is an understatement. All bikes are unstable at low speeds, recumbents much more so, so at slow hill climbing, you're also at risk of a stall-out. For me, a 4-5% grade became as difficult as a 10+ on a regular bike. I loved the idea; just couldn't handle the realities.
    That sounds dangerous if you start wobbling into passing traffic.

    Al

  22. #22
    Senior Member radumas's Avatar
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    Yes, I eliminated the recumbent option some time ago.

    So, I need to get the cadence up, get out of the saddle on climbs more, make sure I'm not pulling too big a gear, particularly on climbs, and get with the sit up campaign and other things that strengthen the non-leg parts. I have a "noodle" to lay flat on, which helps stretch the back comfortably. might even go back to the gym for those gerbil-like activities.

    Good counsel. Thank you all very much.

  23. #23
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    The only insight I can offer is to stay on your bike. If I'm off the bike a few days, then go ride, I notice that. If I'm riding all the time, no problem. Seems to be just a flexibility issue in my case.

    I do noice also that when I ride, even with my hands in the same position, I can bow or straighten my back to some extent- not sure if that related directly to more comfort for me or not, though.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  24. #24
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Bike set up. Check the saddle is right height and position and work from there.

    I went road 4 years ago and took the usual route of geezer configuration and set the bike up with the bars level with the saddle. New style of riding for me and it was 6 months before I was comfortable in the drop position- 20 secs there and the back was screaming.

    B3.jpg

    But the bikewas never really comfortable. some mild back ache used to come in after 3 hours riding and that was with some stretching- changing hand positions and even stopping and stretching.

    But a year later and I got another bike. Different beastie this one in a Race geometry frame. Longer top tube and the LBS set the bars up 4" below the saddle.I had my doubts but the shop told me to ride it and see. That longer stretched out position suited me and my back.

    It did seem wrong at the time and went against all that I had heard about back problems- but some of us are comfortable if vertical stress is taken off the spine.

    B2.jpg
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  25. #25
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    It seems to me that the range of responses, suggestions, etc. here is pointing to something obvious: the 'tricky' nature of "back pain" ... both causes [underlying conditions] and symptoms.

    FWIW, my suggestion would be: at your/our age, don't play around with this, or attempt to self-diagnose/treat. Go to a reputable sports physiotherapist, preferably at a reputable sports-medicine clinic, and get an assessment. This may or may not involve a consult with a doc, but should result in a proper understanding of your particular back issues, both in and of themselves and in relation to cycling.

    That is what I had to do two years ago, after a crippling (and I mean crippling) bout of 'sciatica' (which is a symptom, not a condition). I'd always had some back pain associated with cycling, and at this point thought 'well, probably no more bike for me.' Result: I found out what the problem was/is (severe degenerative osteoarthritis in the spine and elsewhere, combined with congenital scoliosis), and specifically what to do about my particular condition (exercises, posture, etc).

    That understanding, coupled with proper bike fit, has led to my having no restrictions whatever on cycling, other than avoiding 'pushing' big gears, and no pain. In fact, I got the good news that cycling was in fact one of the best things I could do 'for' my back.

    Your situation may simply be related to bike/fit, but then again the problem may be elsewhere; why not find out?

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